Episode1:What is “plating”?

Plating and high-tech products….a marriage made in heaven!?

Many of you will think of plating as “something we used to hear about a lot, but not so much these days.”

If you are wondering “Where is plating used?” our answer to you is that it is used in the smartphones and computers that you are looking at right now.

In fact, modern plating is a technology that is widely used in cutting-edge industrial manufacturing, including electronic components, communications devices and machinery components. Although most plating is used on the inside of products and is therefore rarely seen by us, plating is nevertheless a technology that is closely interwoven with our everyday lives. That’s why we say that plating and high-tech products are truly the perfect partners: a marriage made in heaven!

Now, let’s take a look at some typical products that make use of plating.

  • Smartphones/tabletsSmartphones/tablets
    These days, smartphones and tablets have become indispensable parts of our day-to-day lives. Information terminals like these that we use every day make widespread use of plating technology. Most of the electronic components and printed circuit board (plate-shaped components in which electrical circuits are embedded, which hold various electronic components in place and connect them together) that are used inside devices are created with the use of plating technology.
  • Personal computersPersonal computers
    The PCs that are widely used not only in our workplaces but also in our homes are created using plating technology in a number of places. Plating is used in the printed circuit boards found in PCs, in hard disks that store data, in the connectors which connect the computer with external components and in the computer chassis-the “box” that forms the computer itself.
  • AutomobilesAutomobiles
    Large amounts of plating are also used in automobiles, the most popular means of transport of all.
    Modern automobiles make use of large number of electronic controls, which in turn use printed circuit boards and electronic devices. In addition, applying plating to mechanical components strengthens their surfaces and gives them increased lubricant properties. In terms of esthetics, the use of plating on elements like emblems and grilles creates a metallic luster, makes them lighter in weight and helps prevent corrosion.
  • AccessoriesAccessories
    Plating surfaces with precious metals can put accessories into a new class in terms of visual appeal.
    An item made of plastic or other materials and plated with metal is lighter in weight and easier to use than a comparable item made of metal alone.
    As accessories are worn in direct contact with the skin, the antiallergenic and antibacterial effects of metal plating can also be of service.

What is plating used for?

There are three reasons why plating is used.

There are several reasons why we use plating. The three most important of the reasons that are commonly cited are “preventing rust,” “esthetic appeal” and “improving function/performance.”

  • Preventing rustPreventing rust
    The metal most widely used in our day-to-day lives is iron. However, iron oxidizes when it is exposed to air; if no action is taken, it inevitably starts to rust. Covering the surface of iron with plating stops the oxidation process and prevents rust.
  • Esthetic appealEsthetic appeal
    Adding a film of precious metal to the surface of a product boosts its esthetic appeal and raises its value.
  • Improving function/performanceImproving function/performance
    Characteristic features of metals include the fact that metals “conduct electricity”, “create hard surfaces”, “prevent magnetic attraction” and “reflect/do not reflect light”. Adding plating allows non-metallic substances to take on these characteristics as well.

Types of plating and various information

Various methods and techniques are used for plating.

Various methods and techniques are used for plating. The type of plating used varies according to the application and the functions that are required, including the materials that are be plated and where the plating is to be applied.

These types can be divided, first and foremost, into “wet-plating processes” and “dry-plating processes.” In wet-plating processes, the item to be plated is placed in a liquid medium; in dry-plating processes, a metal layer is created under vacuum conditions.

Wet-plating processes themselves can be further subdivided into “electrolytic plating (electroplating) processes” and “electroless (chemical) plating processes.” Electrolytic plating (electroplating) processes use the power of electricity to create plating, while electroless (chemical) plating processes use the power of chemicals.

What are wet-plating processes?

In wet-plating, the item to be plated is placed into a plating solution. In this method, the metallic components in the plating solution form a metallic film on the surface of the object that is to be plated.

  • Electrolytic plating (electroplating)

    Electrolytic plating (electroplating) uses the power of electricity to create the plating. When an electric current is passed through plating solution, positively-charged metal ions are attracted to the negatively-charged electrode (the cathode), where they form a metallic film on the surface.
  • Electroless (chemical) plating

    Electroless (chemical) plating uses the power of chemicals to create the plating. In this method, a chemical reaction generates electrons on the surface of the object to be plated; metal ions are attracted to these electrons, causing a metallic film to develop.

What are dry-plating processes?

In dry-plating, a metallic film is created from metal that has been heated and vaporized; plating solutions are not used.

  • Physical vapor deposition (PVD)

    In physical vapor deposition, the plating is created under vacuum conditions. Metal is heated and vaporized under vacuum conditions, and is used to create a metallic film on the surface of the object.
  • Chemical vapor deposition (CVD)

    In chemical vapor deposition, plating is created by raising the temperature of the object and the plating space. Metal is gasified and injected under low-vacuum conditions, causing chemical reactions which cause a metallic film to form.

So, what is plating?Plating is a cutting-edge technology, yet one that has been used for a very long time!

Originally developed to prevent rusting and make objects more beautiful to look at, plating is now a technology that is essential to the cutting-edge manufacturing of today. From Episode 2 onwards, I will be telling you more about plating and how it became a key technology for modern manufacturing, together with some real-life examples. I look forward to telling you more!