Episode 12: Plating from now onwards

A review of the basics of plating

Types and applications of plating

In the episodes so far, I have examined questions such as “What can be done with plating?”, “What types of plating are there?” and “Where is plating actually used?” with consideration of the following categories:

  • Decorative plating using precious metals such as gold and silver for a beautiful appearance, such as on accessories
  • Anti-corrosion (anti-rust) plating using materials such as zinc and nickel, such as to prevent the corrosion (rusting) of metals
  • Functional plating that is performed to use various functions (such as electrical and mechanical functions)

I have also introduced specific examples for each category. I am sure that many of you will have realized that there is a lot of plating in action around us.

Also, plating can be divided into:

  • Wet plating that is performed in a liquid
  • Dry plating that is performed in a vacuum

In this “Story of Plating,” I have mainly talked about wet plating. This wet plating can be divided into:

  • Electroplating using the power of electricity to produce a metal film
  • Electroless plating using chemical reactions to produce a metal film

I also explained that the representative metals used for the plated film include gold, silver, copper, tin, nickel, chrome and zinc.

Plating in action around us

Plating is used in various places and many examples of it can be found around us. If we look back on what I have talked about so far:

  • Smartphones and tablet devices: A lot of plating is used on the circuit boards and electronic components contained inside. These items are used because plating turns them into high performance circuit boards and electronic components.
  • Computers: The contents are almost the same as those of smartphones, but one major difference is whether or not a hard disk is used. Plating is also used on hard disks, particularly electroless nickel plating.
  • Cars and motorcycles: Plating is used on the electronic components. Furthermore, plating is used for the surface treatment on mechanical components for functions such as dimensional accuracy and to make the surfaces harder or more slippery.
  • Household electrical products, watches and cameras: Almost all household electrical products contain electronic components and plating is of course used on them. In addition, plating is also used on the parts that are touched by hand and in a decorative role. On clocks, precision plating is performed for the precision machinery. On cameras, which are an optical product, black plating is performed.
  • Accessories: In addition to decorative plating to produce a beautiful appearance or a feeling of high quality, plating is used in a variety of other ways. For example, plating on substances such as resin makes it possible to produce accessories that are lighter than metal ones, which reduces the burden on the user. Also, noble metal plating can be used as a measure for allergies.
  • Semiconductors: Plating is also used in semiconductors, which are used in many electronic components. The plating is performed in extremely fine detail, so it is necessary to have special management of the environment and liquids that is not necessary for other plating.

Plating is also used for many other items and places that I have not been able to introduce here.

Measures for the environment

Many people may imagine that plating is bad for the environment. However, research has been implemented for technology that can respond to the many environmental regulations and I have explained that plating is a technology that we can continue to use into the future. Also, progress has been made in measures for the working environment and to reduce energy consumption and the technology is evolving into one that has a low impact on the environment in all aspects.

Considering the possibilities for plating

Plating has so far been used on various products and in various scenes, but what kinds of scenes will it be used in from now onwards? We implemented a questionnaire of departments involved in state-of-the-art research and technology, such as the development of the next generation of plating technologies. Let’s consider the plating of the future based on the results of that questionnaire.

This includes predictions on the functions of the future, so I hope that it will give you a feel for the possibilities of plating in the future.

What do researchers and engineers think plating will be from now onwards?

The results of the questionnaire were as follows. This was a questionnaire performed within our company, so please only consider the rankings as a reference.

1stRobot sectorThe use of robots as a labor force was once a fantastic story of the near future, but it is now close to reality. The advance from industrial robots to humanoid robots could well mean that we are now close to the day when they spread into ordinary homes and close to the day when they become the main force in nursing and hazardous work. Electronic components are used for the control of a robot and mechanical components are used on the main body of a robot, so there is surely a high possibility that plating will be used in various aspects.
1stAutomobile sectorAdvances are continuing from hybrid vehicles to electric vehicles and fuel cells and from collision avoidance and other support for safety to automatic driving. Automobiles are a most familiar object to us and they bring together many technologies, so there are expectations that in the future there will be even more plating used than at present.
3rdMedical sectorMedical technology is advancing rapidly, including with regenerative medicine and medical care that is made to order. At present, the use of plating is mostly limited to medical devices. However, advances in plating technology from now onwards may well mean that plating will be used in a wide range of areas and it may not be just a dream that plating may contribute to the birth of innovative medical care.
4thNatural energy sectorThe use of energy produced using sunlight, water, wind, waves or terrestrial heat can be described as one of the most important technologies for mankind. The day when the power of plating creates new functions and performance in this sector may not be too far into the future. For example, it may improve the energy conversion efficiency of solar cells.
5thAirplane sectorThe expectations for growth in the airplane industry from now onwards surpass those for the automobile sector and plating is already in use in many aspects. It is said that the number of components used to build an airplane is around 30 to 100 times more than the number on an automobile. If we just consider how large the range of components is, there are still many more places where plating may be able to play a role.

Other replies to the questionnaire included votes for “the development of composite materials” and “antibacterial plating specifically for antibacterial and hygiene functions.”

What do you think about these results?

The possibilities for the expansion of plating to all surfaces

I have discussed plating over 12 episodes and this is the final episode. I would like to thank you for your attention so far.

Even though you may have known the word “plating” before, I believe that many of you may have learned about the current state of plating for the first time. The plating I have discussed in these episodes is only a very small part of plating overall and it is actually a topic that goes much deeper. I would be very pleased if I have raised your interest in plating in any way.

All of the objects around us have “surfaces” and as long as there are surfaces, there are infinite possibilities for plating to play a role.
We will continue our research as specialists in plating so that plating can continue to attract attention from now onwards. Please continue to have high expectations for plating.