What is electroplating?

Electroplating refers to a process that adds a surface layer of metal to another type of metal. It’s typically used to prevent corrosion and rust and to extend the useful life of the metal underneath the electroplated metal. Of course, it’s also used to make gold and silver plated jewelry and knickknacks and to give less expensive materials a better finish in order to enhance the product’s visual appeal.

Understanding How the Electroplating Process Works

When we talk about electroplating two metals, one of those metals is positively charged. The other is negatively charged. Once the electrical current starts flowing, molecules from the positively charged metal move to the negatively charged metal. This means that the object to be plated must be able to conduct an electrical charge. This can prove problematic if you need to plate an item that does not conduct electricity, such as plastic or wood. However, it can still be accomplished if the base material is scrupulously cleaned and coated with a thin layer of inexpensive metal that does conduct electricity. Once the layer of conducting material has been applied, the electroplating process can proceed normally.

The Electroplating Process

Electroplating involves using an electrical current to create a thin layer of metal over-top another type of metal, usually a less expensive metal. Electroplating is typically done to give cheaper metals a more luxurious finish and to add certain properties, like anti-corrosion and anti-rust. To electroplate a metal, you need two different metals, an electrolyte solution, two electrodes and a battery or other power source that will create the electrical current.

Once the power is turned on, one metal becomes negatively charged, and the other metal becomes positively charged. Over a certain period of time, the positively charged metal molecules will slowly migrate to the surface of the negatively charged metal, which creates a very thin layer.

A common example of this is electroplating brass with copper. In this instance, brass and copper would be placed into the appropriate electrolyte solution. For this scenario, you’d probably want a solution that contained copper sulfide. Then, electrodes would be attached to each piece of metal as well as to a battery. Once the power is turned on, the copper molecules will slowly attach themselves to the brass, creating a thin copper coating on the surface of the brass.

Metals That Are Great for Electroplating

There are many different types of metals that are great for the electroplating process, and the good news is that we sell electroplating metals in various forms, including wire, powder, ingot, bars and shot. Common metals used in the electroplating process include black and silver nickel, chromium, brass, cadmium, copper, gold, palladium, platinum, ruthenium, silver, tin and zinc.

We typically recommend using Grade S or N Nickel, cadmium pellets, CDA 101 OFHC Copper, brass alloys, tin anodes and zinc. If you’re looking for an electroplating metal with exceptional hardness and strength, Zadmak 5 may be the right choice. This alloy contains 95 percent zinc, 4 percent aluminum and 1 percent copper. If you have a specific electroplating need, we can recommend the right metals for you project.

To learn more about the types of metals that are great for the electroplating process, give us a call at 718-342-4900, or visit our online store for a fast and smooth ordering process.