What Is Metal Plating and How Does It Work?

Metal parts are often prone to corrosion, mainly when used in an environment with a lot of moisture. However, by covering these metal parts with more noble metals such as nickel and zinc, these parts can last longer. The covering, also known as metal plating, creates a protective barrier.

But how exactly does metal plating create a protective barrier in the first place? And how does it keep corrosion and rust at bay? Here, we’ll dive into the specifics of metal plating and how it works.

Zinc Plating for Corrosion Protection

One of the best ways to think about how metal plating works is to think of the sacrificial anode rod in a water heater. Because water heaters are exposed to oxygen and water, they’re more likely to rust over time. So to prolong the life of the water heater, manufacturers use an anode rod, a long metal rod made of aluminum or magnesium, in the interior of the tank. Over time, the rod attracts the particles in the water, so the rod corrodes instead of the metal in the water heater. The particles will begin to impact the water heater when the anode rod has completely rusted through.

Metal plating is when a material such as zinc coats a metal product or part to inhibit the corrosion process. Just like the sacrificial anode rod, corrosion will need to first eat through the protective plating before it can access the actual metal. 

Zinc plating can not only make the parent metal last longer, but it also makes the metal part look better. Zinc plating can be passivated in various colors, allowing manufacturers to turn an iron or steel product into clear, yellow, or black colors. 

Adhering the Plating

Zinc adheres to the parent metal through a process called electroplating. An anode is a part, such as a metal rod containing the metal used for plating the parent metal. A cathode is a part that will be plated with the material from the anode. The anode and cathode are exposed to an electrical charge in an electrolyte chemical bath. The charge allows the positively charged ions from the anode to pass to the cathode, effectively plating the parent metal in a zinc coating.

Interested in Corrosion Protection?

DeKalb Metal Finishing is one of the top plating companies in the US, specializing in zinc-nickel electroplating and zinc plating for car parts in the automotive industry. We’ve got you covered if you are looking for corrosion protection for your metal parts. Contact us today to learn more about our zinc plating process, zinc plating colors, or our pricing.