How do you find a high-quality plating supplier today? Doing an internet search could leave you very confused. Sourcing internationally could lead to problems when taking into account current events, like the ongoing global supply-chain crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, to start.
So where do you start your search for a high-quality plating supplier? We will answer this question and more so keep reading to learn about the ins and outs of plating.
What is Plating?
What is metal plating? Metal plating is a process where a layer of metal coats an object. This helps to protect the base metal layer from outside elements and can add other properties. The two main types of plating are electroplating and electroless plating.
What is electroplating? Electroplating involves using negative and positive ions to cover a substance with a thin layer of metal. Electroless plating involves heating the plating metal to a high temperature. Then the item for plating is placed in the heated metal and plating takes place through a chemical process.
There are many different plating metals and they all serve a range of functions. The choice of metal depends on the need of the OEM and the manufacturer and the way the item will be used.
Nickel and zinc-nickel are the most common electroplated material. They help strengthen base metals and fight corrosion due to outside elements.
Copper is the second most popular electroplated material. Copper performs well as an electrical conductor and also has antimicrobial properties. Gold is popular as an electroplating material because it adds corrosion and wear resistance. It also adds higher levels of conductivity.
Common Plated Parts
The most common reason for plating is for adding strength and longevity to parts. One of the most common areas of plating these days is for computer and telecommunications parts. With computers being a part of every industry, the metal pins and contacts inside the connectors are all electroplated for strength.
How Is Plating Used?
The automotive industry uses metal plating for many of its parts throughout the car. The pins for motherboards, over-molded parts, and circuit boards are just a few examples of how they use them.
The medical industry has adopted metal-plated components because of their ability to stand up to sanitizing processes. This helps them be able to maintain their function for an extended period of time and without having to replace the metal component and/or tools.
The aerospace and defense industries have long used plated parts to add strength to their products. The wear and tear of going in space and combat usage have made plated materials stand out.
Each industry has special needs and that is why plating manufacturers should be aware of the needs of each industry. The metals used for plating in every industry have important bearings based on the needs of the industry.
Are All Platers the Same?
Platers often specialize in the types of parts they plate based on their plating capabilities. Barrel plating is used for plating small loose piece parts that cannot be hung up due to their small size.
Barrel plating is broken up into different categories based on the type of barrel used. There is a horizontal barrel, an inclined barrel, and a vibration barrel. Each barrel is focused on a different aspect and size of the object to be plated.
Rack plating electroplates large and complex parts that are difficult for other plating processes. The objects are often put on racks and submerged into the plating solution.
The reel-to-reel plating method allows for select deposits of metal. The reels of pins or contacts are de-reeled and then fed through various electroplating processes. At the end of the line is a take-up system that re-spools the material once the appropriate metal finish is achieved.
Sometimes pre-plated metal is preferred where raw material is plated as a continuous strip of metal before any kind of fabrication process is done to create individual parts. This means that when you process (e.g. swage, stamp, screw-machine, etc.) pieces from the pre-plated strip of raw material, there will be no plating on the sides or edges of the finished part that were originally plated.
Pre-plating usually allows for cost savings in terms of both required labor and materials, because it is easier to coat one large piece of raw material than to individually plate each finished product.
Recognizing a Platers Specialty
The type of part you are looking for will naturally move you toward the platers who specialize in the plating process you need.
If you are looking to have small, loose-piece objects plated, you will want to find platers that offer barrel plating. If you have odd-sized or brittle objects to be plated, you will want to find rack plating specialists. There are other ways of plating and the key is for you to find the plater that specializes in the type of plating you need.
How to Identify a Solid Plating Partner?
The key to finding a solid plating supplier for your business is to focus on the most important areas you need. Having those in mind will help you find the right company to work with.
An Attitude of Partnership
Look for a plating company that doesn't just plate but sees the relationship as a partnership. The relationship that is built with your provider should feel like a real partnership for long-term satisfaction.
Strong Customer Service
Your plating is specific to your company and you want a plating company that understands that and over-delivers to you. Look for companies with high quality, competitive pricing, great customer service, and any other offering or service important to your business.
Check references of current customers to understand how the company provides service to their customers.
Many plating companies offer local support by making dedicated trucking runs for you. This helps you meet your deadlines and always have the plating supplies you need.
Look for plating companies who have experience in your industry. Whether you are in aerospace, automotive, industrial, interconnect, medical, etc... their experience in that industry can be a benefit to you.
Strong plating companies should be able to work with you to make your parts with your specific requirements. For example, with connector pins, you can vary the plating process, such as pre-plated metal or post plated barrel plating based on the need.
This process can change based on the function of the connector and the assembly process you use. You want a company that knows this and can support you in your customization needs.
A Positive Plating Partner
What is plating? Well, now that you have a better understanding of some of the metal plating processes, you know what to look for in a partner.
Bead Electronics manufactures custom end-to-end and loose-piece wire pins and hollow/tubular pins and contacts made from flat strip. Our expertise in pin development and plating makes us an industry leader in providing pins for many different industries. Contact us and see how our expertise can save you time and money.