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An introduction to hard chrome plating

In the surface engineering and finishing industry there are many different processes and coatings which are applied to a substrate to change its surface properties. Amongst the many surface coatings in use across a wide range of industries to improve the substrates performances is hard chrome plating. Here we take a brief look at this plating process.

What is hard chrome plating?

Hard chrome plating is an electrolytic process in which chromium is deposited onto a metal substrate giving it enhanced properties for durability, wear and hardness. The electrolytic process is generally achieved by passing an electric current through a chromic acid solution (called an electrolyte bath) between two electrodes, one of which will be the substrate which is to be plated. When the current flows between the electrodes, a chemical reaction is induced whereby the chromium metal from the solution is deposited in a thin layer on the component to be plated.

What is hard chrome plating used for?

This is a very effective treatment for a variety of metals/alloys including steel, copper and brass which are used in many modern technical applications. It is commonly used in situations where the component needs to be resistant to corrosion such as hydraulic piston rods, gear shafts, and motorcycle forks used in the automotive sector. It is also ideal for processes that require low-friction surfaces for delicate products like textiles and paper.

Pros and cons of hard chrome plating

Hard chrome plating has a number of beneficial properties which include:

• Hardness

• Excellent wear and corrosion resistance

• Abrasion resistance

• Low-friction

Unfortunately, due to the toxicity of substances used in the production of the coating, hard chrome plating is controlled by a number of regulations in respect of the use and disposal of the chromium substances used in the electrolytic process. For more information on the regulations please visit our Environmental and Health & Safety pages on our website.

The Surface Engineering Association is a trade association representing members in the surface engineering and finishing industry. We offer advice and guidance on many topics relating to the industry, including compliance with legislation. For more information about membership or the work we do in influencing governments, please browse our website, or contact info@sea.org.

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