What is Electroplating?

Electroplating is a process that uses electric current to reduce dissolved metal cations so that they form a thin coherent metal coating on an electrode. The term is also used for electrical oxidation of anions onto a solid substrate, as in the formation silver chloride on silver wire to make silver/silver-chloride electrodes. Electroplating is primarily used to change the surface properties of an object (such as abrasion and wear resistance, corrosion protection, lubricity, aesthetic qualities), but may also be used to build up thickness on undersized parts or to form objects by electroforming.

The process used in electroplating is called electrodeposition. It is analogous to a galvanic cell acting in reverse. The part to be plated is the cathode of the circuit. In one technique, the anode is made of the metal to be plated on the part. Both components are immersed in a solution called an electrolyte containing one or more dissolved metal salts as well as other ions that permit the flow of electricity. A power supply supplies a direct current to the anode, oxidizing the metal atoms that it comprises and allowing them to dissolve in the solution. At the cathode, the dissolved metal ions in the electrolyte solution are reduced at the interface between the solution and the cathode, such that they "plate out" onto the cathode. The rate at which the anode is dissolved is equal to the rate at which the cathode is plated, the current through the circuit. In this manner, the ions in the electrolyte bath are continuously replenished by the anode.

Other electroplating processes may use a non-consumable anode such as lead or carbon. In these techniques, ions of the metal to be plated must be periodically replenished in the bath as they are drawn out of the solution. The most common form of electroplating is used for creating coins, such as US pennies, which are made of zinc covered in a layer of copper

Advantages of Electroplating

Plated parts can last longer and need to be replaced less frequently, and are more likely to hold up under extreme conditions.

Manufacturers have a cost-effective way to make products more aesthetically appealing. Jewellers can sell products that look like pure gold or other precious metals at a much lower price.

Nickel plating improves performance and reduces premature wear and tear.

It is a cost-effective and efficient conductivity solution.
This can improve catalytic converter performance.

Damage caused by arcing and shorts in electrical parts and components due to whiskers breaking away from materials can be significantly reduced.

Plating with these metals protect engine parts and components from damage caused by extreme temperatures, which can increase their lifespan.

Magnetic properties make it easier for discs to be read.

Plated surfaces are less susceptible to damage when struck or dropped, which can increase their lifespan.

It provides a smooth and uniform surface finish.

It improves overall quality and increases longevity of the substrate.

Products such as silverware retain their attractiveness and hold their value over time.