PHOTOS:Manufacturing Processes for Design Professionals

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Design Responses > About Materials > Processes >
Metal Plating

This is the process of coating materials with a layer of metal for both decorative and functional purposes.

There are several techniques including electroplating, galvanising, spray painting and vacuum metalising.

Electroplating is an electrolytic process used to apply a thin film of metal to another metal surface. A strong metallurgical bond is formed between the base metal and coating. Electroplating produces a functional and durable finish. It is also possible to metal plate some plastics, in particular acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), by first etching the surface to enable a strong bond to be formed between the base material and metal coating.

Galvanising is the process of coating steel and iron with zinc. Metal parts are dipped in molten zinc that alloys to it's surface metallurgically and provides electrochemical protection against the elements. It produces a bright, distinctive pattern on the surface, which over time becomes dull and grey.

Spray painting is used to apply coatings rich in metal powder, and can be used to coat almost any material. Vacuum metalising, which is also known as physical vapour deposition (PVD) and sputtering, is used to coat a wide range of materials with vapourised aluminium. It is possible to create the look and feel of anodised aluminium, chrome, gold, silver and other metals. The metal coating is locked in with a basecoat and topcoat applied by spray painting.

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