Chrome plating technology is an underappreciated marvel of materials science—a fascinating alchemy of chemistry and metallurgy that produces the most well-known metal surface finish available. Chrome plating or chrome PVD coating, which was introduced in the 1920s, quickly gained popularity in the auto industry, consumer products, and then in the home with faucets and door hardware.
What’s Unique About Chrome Coating?
Before we get into how PVD can help chrome plating, it’s important to understand why this coating is unique. The first point to mention is that “chrome plating” is made up of two or three different metal layers, with only trace amounts of chromium present. The plating stack on most substrates, such as steel, zinc, and plastic, includes copper, nickel, and finally a top layer of chromium. When applied to brass, the copper is omitted, and the process begins with nickel and chromium.
Other materials can also be added to nickel baths to create an appealing matte or pearl-like texture.
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A Thin But Significant Layer of Chromium
Despite the fact that the chromium layer is thin, the contributions are substantial. As far as pure metals go, it’s one of the hardest (1000HV), which, when built on top of a supporting structure of thick, moderately hard nickel (600HV), will increase toughness and durability even more. Chromium also has a strong naturally forming surface oxide layer that protects it from chemical attack and tarnishing, which is why chromium is used to make stainless steel alloys “stainless.”
A Serious Drawback: Strict Regulation of Chemical Plating Process
One disadvantage of chromium plating is the stringent regulations governing the chemicals used to create the coatings—not the metal layer itself, which is safe. Chrome plating is most commonly done with the hexavalent form of chromium (Cr6+). Over the last few decades, the plating industry has made great strides in improving these aspects, and the process has been adopted by many markets. However, the hexavalent approach remains the dominant approach. Please keep in mind that PVD coatings or PVD coating companies are one option for replacing hexavalent chrome with a more aesthetically pleasing appearance—but that is a topic for another post.
Chromium in Decorative Coatings—PVD on Electroplated Parts
Regardless of the type of chromium deposit used, both are completely compatible with the wide range of decorative PVD coatings offered by Vapor Technologies (VaporTech®). Parts that have been chrome plated typically require no additional treatment and can be placed directly into a coating system for a new finish. By incorporating a PVD system into their production line, manufacturers can add different colors to products that already have a chrome finish. These decorative PVD finishes are thin and conformal to surface features, allowing the parts to retain their texture – polished will remain polished, and matte will remain matte.
Our coatings engineers are knowledgeable about surface finishing techniques other than PVD, such as electroplating, powder coating, anodizing, and mass finishing. We are eager to collaborate with our customers to determine how these technologies can be combined to create new solutions.
SurfTech INC is capable of selecting and implementing the best stainless steel product for you, and we provide Assisted PVD coating, thin film coating, and ceramic coating facility in the United States. Contact us today for a quote, to learn more about our process, you can call us on +1-440-275-3356 and email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
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