One of the most crucial processes in manufacturing is electroplating. No matter the industry, good plating is critical to the success of an electrical system. Yet, it can be a challenging process, and incorrect plating can impact performance, quality, and cost.
Properties of Gold Versus Silver
Across industries, gold and silver are some of the most widely used metals for plating. Gold is commonly used for plating due to its reliability and durability. It is used for many components due to its low and stable contact resistance and great protection against corrosion. Despite its rising costs, it is commonly used in manufacturing semiconductors, circuits, connectors, and contacts. According to American Electro Products (AEP), selective loose piece plating is an option that can cut costs by as much as 50%.
Silver is a metal offering its own benefits. It is a noble metal that has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all metals. It is a cheaper alternative to gold. However, it is not as preferred as it's prone to tarnish. Like gold, it is also used in manufacturing connectors.
Industries from medical to automotive to IT use devices that are subject to electroplating. The process is done for various reasons. Plating can improving wear and tear resistance, protecting against corrosion, increasing the life cycle, and more.
What all these devices have in common is the need for electroplating. While some may think it's done for aesthetic purposes, it actually serves other reasons. Some of these reasons are promoting thermal conduction, improving wear and corrosion resistance, biocompatibility, and promoting hygiene and sanitation. Similarly, other sectors such as automotive, engineering, and electronic benefit and rely heavily on electroplating for many of their devices.
Cost of Gold Versus Silver for Plating
Several factors drive the rising cost of gold — increasing global demand, the U.S. dollar value, and currency devaluation. Gold has been a precious metal for decades. During times of economic uncertainty, people invest in gold because of its enduring value. But today, it is sought after not just for investment or jewelry. Gold is used in the manufacturing of electronic devices.
The rising cost of gold can severely impact gold plated devices' production, as it's too costly for manufacturing processes running on tight budgets. While no other metal can match up to the "gold standard" in electroplating, silver falls close. As a matter of fact, silver possesses superior electrical conductivity. Silver falls short in protection against corrosion and wear.
Electroplating for DFM
Choosing the right metal for electroplating is a crucial aspect of the DFM process. The metal you choose can affect the component's life cycle, cost, performance, appearance, and quality.
As there is a long list of metals to choose from, be sure to research and choose the right metal based on the DFM. Also keep in mind the parts’ size, quantity, geometry, and budget. Click here to learn more about plating materials for your contact pins needs.
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