There are several different options to consider when it comes to plating different components, parts and items. It is important to talk to the company offering the plating services to make sure they are using the right method based on the specific parts.
There are two main plating options for large volume orders or smaller orders or prototypes. These include barrel and rack plating, and each has distinctive advantages based on the size, shape and type of part that is to be plated.
Barrel plating is a common option and allows for a low-cost, low- labor demand type of plating process. The parts are placed in a non-conductive type of barrel, and then the barrel is filled with the electroplating solution.
The barrel is turned, or rotated, to circulate the electrolytic plating solution all around the parts. This provides a uniform finish over the entire part, and can be done with brass, nickel, tin, zinc or copper plating.
The advantage of barrel plating is that is can produce large volumes of parts in a very short period of time without any need to manually handle each of the parts. However, for delicate parts or those with complex, fine shapes and elements, the tumbling process in the barrel can lead to damage or bending of the various edges or design components.
The Rack Option
With rack plating, the parts are not mobile in the cage or container; rather they are wired or hooked directly to a non-conductive rack. This is done by hand, which means that the process can be labor intensive for large production requirements.
In the process, each part is attached to the rack, which can be larger or smaller to suit the part and the volume of the order. In the attachment method will be determined by the weight and size of the part, with the possibility to use different methods to secure uniquely configured parts.
Once attached, the entire rack is then submerged in the tank and the rack stays stable during the process. This prevents any banging or possible damage to the parts as could be an issue with the barrel plating option.
Finally, when the desired plating is completed, the rack is lifted out of the solution. Each part is removed, inspected and packed, providing an additional layer of quality control during the process.
While more costly because of the intensive process of rack plating, it is the superior option for complex parts, delicate parts or when very tight tolerances for plating is required.