Electroplating More Than just a Shine

Team Chemical Market

28 Mar 2024


In the clandestine realm of industrial alchemy, lies a subject both ancient and modern - The Electroplating process. In its shimmering depths, lie the secrets of transforming base metals into objects of allure and utility. Electroplating holds its sway over industries vast and varied, from automotive to aerospace, from jewelry to electronics. Though Electroplating techniques may seem simple,  mastery over this process is not merely a goal but a necessity. In this short article, we endeavor to present a comprehensive view of the subject of Electroplating.

Electroplating Process

Electroplating is a process used to coat a metal object with a thin layer ( usually in microns) of another metal. Typically using electrolysis, in an electrolytic cell, is exemplified in the diagram above. It illustrates an iron piece that is to be coated with copper. The solution or electrolyte utilized should be a salt of the metal intended for coating. An electric current is passed through the solution with the help of an external DC source. The copper ions from the Copper salt solution are deposited onto the iron piece. The copper electrode ( anode) dissolves in the electrolyte to replenish the copper deposited. As the process advances the size of the copper electrode on the left diminishes. Beyond this method, there exist alternative  Electroplating techniques for coating purposes.

Types of Electroplating Metals

The benefits of Electroplating can vary widely, from enhancing the appearance of an object to protecting against corrosion or improving conductivity. Thus the metals used in electroplating can vary depending upon the specific application.  Given below is a list of  metals commonly used in electroplating :

Nickel - Widely chosen for corrosion protection, decorative purposes, etc. It is very popular as it provides a durable and lustrous finish.  

Copper - Used to enhance conductivity. Gives a bright and attractive finish.

Chromium - Primarily employed for decorative purposes, offering a shiny and durable coating. Commonly applied to automotive parts, bathroom fixtures, kitchenware, etc.

Zinc - Plating with zinc is often referred to as galvanizing. Used for corrosion protection, it forms a layer on steel or iron substrates, thus preventing them from rusting.  Finds application in corrugated roofing sheets.      

Gold -  Valued for its decorative appeal and corrosion resistance, frequently used in jewelry, electronics,  and decorative items where a luxurious finish is desired.  

Silver -  Employed for enhancing electrical conductivity, decorative purposes, and as an anti-tarnish coating. Commonly used in jewelry, tableware, and electrical contacts.

One application that is being widely used today is in the automotive sector,  where chromium deposition is done on a base material of plastic (ABS). It is employed in the front cooling grills and dashboard parts.  

The electroplating process encompasses degreasing to remove dirt, followed by surface polishing, plating, and post-plating treatment before final testing. In India the recommended electroplating practice adheres to   Indian Standards IS 3655 ( 1985) with additional standards such as  IS 1573( 1986) specifying electroplated coatings of zinc on iron and steel.      

Manufacturers may require electroplating to impart specific properties like better wear and abrasion resistance, greater lubricity and lower friction, EMI/ RFI ( Electromagnetic Interference/ Radio frequency interference ) protection for electronic circuits, temperature, and impact resistance, improved solderability, reduced porosity, added surface hardness etc. All these special features can be achieved with advanced electroplating methods.

 Environmental Pollution

Environmental pollution is a significant concern associated with the electroplating industry. The process discharges solid wastes, and heavy metals through air emissions and effluents.  Its adverse impact on health and the environment are key concerns for both the manufacturers and end users. For instance, cyanide, cadmium, and lead plating are highly toxic and hazardous. This makes their safe disposal extremely difficult. Cleaner alternatives such as nickel plating are increasingly favored.

Market Scenario

In terms of market dynamics,  the Electroplating industry in India is worth about Rs 12,000 Crore. Sectors such as EVs, Batteries, and Hydrogen will be the drivers for future growth. The industry comprises around  3 lakh electroplaters and is characterized by competitiveness and price sensitivity. Initiatives like " Make in India" and production incentive schemes by the government are anticipated to support growth. However, the future may also necessitate different electroplating solutions. This will arise due to special requirements, which will need capital infusion. Overall the market is expected to grow at about 5 % CAGR.  It is expected that global companies could participate in the future in this segment when the market becomes more lucrative.


In conclusion, there will be many challenges to overcome in the future and solutions for the same provided with the help of human ingenuity. However environmental concerns of safe disposal of wastes and hazardous chemicals must be addressed. It is a delicate balance between technology and preservation. For in the end, it is not the metals we plate, but the legacy we leave behind, that truly shines the brightest.


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