Electroplating is the method of coating one metal with another. It is most commonly used for decorative purposes, appearance and protection. Electroplated items include chrome bumpers, jewelry, electronics, circuit boards and airplane parts. Generally, manufacturers can apply electroplating to any electrically conductive surface.
Electroplating works by applying an electrical current or through a chemical reaction, either of which causes the dissolved metal in the plating solution to adhere to the surface of the piece. Metals used in electroplating include brass, cadmium, chromium, copper, bronze, gold, silver, cobalt, lead, nickel, iron, platinum, tin and zinc.
Solutions -- such as alkaline cleaners, solvent degreasers or acidic pickling mixtures -- remove dirt, oxidation and contaminants from the piece. The piece is then immersed in the plating solution until coated and rinsed and then buffed or polished, if necessary.
Different types of metal electroplating exist, depending on the kind of pieces to be plated. Mass plating can electroplate millions of items, such as small screws, per day. In rack plating, components are attached to racks and immersed in the plating solution. Barrel plating and bell plating electroplates small items placed in rotating perforated barrels or bell-shaped containers. Continuous plating electroplates metal strip, tube and wire. Line plating uses a production line to electroplate and finish parts.