What Is Metal Plating and How Does It Work?

Metal parts are often prone to corrosion, especially when they’re used in an environment that has a lot of moisture. By covering these metal parts with more noble metals such as nickel, copper, chromium, and zinc, these parts are able to last longer. This is because 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. To prolong the life of the water heater, manufacturers use an anode rod, which is 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. Only when the anode rod has completely rusted through will the particles begin to impact the water heater. 

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 itself last longer, but it also makes the metal part itself look better. Zinc plating comes in a variety of colors, allowing manufacturers to turn an iron or steel product into colors such as yellow or black. 

Adhering the Plating

Zinc is adhered to the parent metal through a process called electroplating. During this process, trained engineers transfer the metal coating from an anode to a cathode. An anode is a part, such as a metal rod, that contains the metal that will be used for plating the parent metal. A cathode is the part that’s going to be plated with the material from the anode. Both 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 zinc plating companies, specializing in zinc nickel electroplating for car parts in the automotive industry. If you’re a part of a company looking for corrosion protection for your metal parts, we’ve got you covered. Contact us today to learn more about our zinc plating processzinc plating colors, or our pricing.