Barrel Plating Technology is Economical Substitute for Decorative Chrome
Process provides excellent corrosion resistance at significantly lower cost than rack-plated chrome
Bright decorative finishes that were formerly produced only by nickel/chromium electroplating, a rack plating method, are now obtainable in a barrel plating line that uses an environmentally acceptable chromium-replacement technology. ReplaChrome, a plating technology developed by Master Finish Company (Grand Rapids, Mich.) to apply a lustrous chrome-like finish to brass and steel components, is reported to provide superior corrosion resistance while also strengthening resistance to tarnishing. Results of salt spray testing on a steel panel that was plated with ReplaChrome (including a 0.2-mil nickel strike) showed no corrosion after 120 hours of continuous spray.
The ReplaChrome process has been approved by DaimlerChrysler for plating of steel tie-down clips used to secure cargo on the PT Cruiser. After approving the use of the nickel-alloy plating process, DaimlerChrysler Corporation issued a process standard (PS-10253) that specifies requirements for decorative, electroplated nickel-alloy finishes on ferrous parts for interior applications. The standard calls for a bright nickel plate with a nickel-tungsten-cobalt alloy topcoat for steel and brass components.
ReplaChrome is considered an environmentally acceptable alternative to hexavalent chromium plating because it uses no chromium, chloride, or strong chelators. By eliminating the use of hexavalent chromium, along with accompanying fume scrubbers, rack-maintenance requirements, and waste treatment concerns, the bulk finishing process produces significant cost savings over rack-plated chrome, according to Dale Mulder, president of Master Finish Company. "ReplaChrome gives brass and steel components a bright 'chrome-like' appearance at half the cost of rack nickel/chrome plating in certain applications," says Mulder.
Master Finish utilizes ReplaChrome to plate decorative automotive interior components, such as D-rings, power outlet housings, fasteners, and latches. The firm can also apply the process to studs, locks, door strikes, clamps, brackets, hand tools, and hose fittings, as well as sprinkler frames and deflectors for fire protection equipment.
In addition to chrome-replacement barrel plating, Master Finish offers capabilities ranging from pre-plate surface finishing to post-plate painting and PVD coating. Recently, the company installed a fully automated rack plating line for stainless steel; the line provides automatic part cleaning and surface preparation, bright electropolishing, and chrome flash (topcoat) plating.
"This automated line brings a new level of consistency and efficiency to this OEM automotive process," said Mulder. "300 series stainless steel auto exhaust tips and decorative trim parts are typical of the items processed on this line."
The firm also utilizes a traditional rack plating line for copper, nickel, and chrome plating of stainless steel, brass, steel, and zinc die-cast components. Abrasive belt polishing, automatic and manual buffing, satin (brush) finishing, and vibratory finishing are among the pre-plate services offered. Master Finish also provides a range of post-plated colors, PVD tints, and acrylic, epoxy, and urethane topcoats.
To meet customers' needs for new colors, Mulder says, Master Finish introduced its new Platinum and Black Onyx colors. The company has also developed process recipes to ensure up to 96 hours of CASS corrosion resistance when needed.
"Platinum gives a softer low-luster appearance without the added cost of manually abrading or brushing the work piece," says Mulder. "Black Onyx gives a rich dark nickel color and can be plated over our platinum to provide a variety of luster levels for this new color."
Master Finish is registered to the ISO 9001 and QS-9000 quality standards, as well as the ISO 14001 environmental standard. The firm's in-house lab is equipped with a Fischer Scope X-ray fluorescence machine for plate thickness tests; a Kocour machine for chrome thickness and step test readings; and a video microscope for examination of surface conditions and cross sections. Also on hand are a CASS corrosion test chamber and an NSS corrosion test chamber.
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