What Is Electroplating?
When it comes to metal work, there is no more amazing process than electroplating. Electroplating is the process of using an electrical current to coat one type of metal with another.
Typically the process is used to create inexpensive jewelry, though electroplating also has many uses within the automotive, electronic, and medical industries, among many others. Electroplating has actually been around for more than 200 years.
In 1805, Luigi Brugnatelli developed the process, using the first electric battery, which had been developed by Alessandro Volta. Sadly, the process was not used in any sort of industry for another thirty years, as the technology was repressed by the French Academy of Sciences due to a dispute they had with Brugnatelli’s concepts.
By 1839, scientists in Britain and Russia had developed their own processes for electroplating; and the process became widely used for electroplating printing press plates with copper. Over the next 20 years, electroplating with gold, silver, nickel, brass, tin and zinc was also developed and became popular for industrial use.
The process of electroplating is really quite fascinating. Basically what happens is one type of metal is given a negative electrical charge, and then placed into a bath of salt water and metallic particles of whatever type of metal is desired for the plating. A positive electrical charge is then passed through the salt and metal bath, which causes the metallic particles to cling to the negatively charged metal base.
One of the most important things to remember when working with the electroplating process is that any base metal must be polished and smooth before placing it into the bath.
As the positive ions attach themselves to the negative base, any scratches or fissures in the metal will stand out. So ensuring that you have a smooth surface to begin with will ensure your piece comes out looking its best.
Today, electroplating is used in a wide variety of industries. In the automotive industry, electroplating is used to coat engine parts; this is also true for any industry, which makes or uses motors of any sort, including the aviation industry and the marine industry. It’s also used in the minting of coins, and another popular use for electroplating is to create gold plated jewelry.
In addition to gilding certain materials with gold and copper, electroplating is also used to build up engine parts that have been ground too small or thin. The longer a piece of base metal is left in the electroplating bath, the thicker the resulting coating will be.
This is especially important to remember in the event you attempt to electroplate anything yourself, as a piece of base metal left in a bath too long can be easily rendered useless if the coating becomes too thick.
Overall, electroplating is one of the most amazing processes in science and industry today. It has allowed the advancement of technology that would not have been possible otherwise, and has become so well understood that it is possible for anyone to purchase an electroplating kit to perform their own electroplating projects in the comfort of their homes.
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