What Is Chrome Plating?



Chrome refers to the element chromium. The metal itself is not used as a solid but is always electroplated onto another surface, such as steel, aluminum, copper, brass, stainless steel or plastic, according to Finishing. People often refer to many shiny finishes as chrome; however, it is different. A chrome plating finish is much brighter and more reflective, like a mirror.

Chrome plating is an electroplating process in which chromium ions are moved by means of an electric current to coat a metal electrode. This process is normally intended to bestow various chemical and physical properties of chromium, such as rust resistance, onto the electroplated object. The basic chrome plating equipment setup involves the object to be plated that acts as the cathode in an electrical circuit, a chrome electrode as the anode, and an electrolyte consisting of a dissolved chromium salt. When an electric current is applied from an external source, chromium ions are reduced at the cathode and accumulate in a process known as electrodeposition. In this manner, as the anode gradually reduces in size the concentration of chromium ions while the electrolyte remains constant and the object at the cathode is gradually plated with chromium.

If an object is hard chrome plated, it means it has been coated heavily to resist wear. Examples include piston rings, gun bores and hydraulic cylinder rods. Hard chrome plating is measured in thousandths of an inch.

Decorative chrome plating is measured in millionths of an inch and is used for items like vehicle bumpers and trim. It is sometimes referred to as nickel-chrome plating because nickel is always electroplated onto the object before the application of chrome.

There are several different types of chrome plating equipment. Each classification of chrome plating equipment may differ depending on the manufacturer's intended purpose, be it to restore an automobile’s surface or to manufacture jewelery. The types will also differ between the hexavalent and trivalent chrome plating processes, which are methods used to reinforce metals. Examples of common chrome plating equipment could include anything from a degreasing kit to cleaning supplies, a chrome plating vat, or a rectifier.

Hexavalent and trivalent chrome plating differ in terms of the chemical composition of the equipment used. In both processes, an activation bath is used to remove any scale on the workpiece, and it usually contains chromic acid(H2CrO4, also known as Dihydroxidodioxidochromium) for hexavalent chrome plating or sulphates in trivalent chrome plating. The latter is considered safer as it prevents toxic trivalent chromium from accumulating near the anodes. Furthermore, both processes use anodes to complete the standard electroplating process. Hexavalent chrome plating uses metal electrodes while trivalent chrome plating relies on inert graphite electrodes.

There is often a bias towards trivalent chrome plating since hexavalent chrome plating releases excessive toxic chromium, which is a human carcinogen and an air pollutant.


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