The 3 Major Uses Of Electroplating

In the myth of King Midas, the hapless royal unwisely wishes for the ability to turn whatever he touches into gold. Although King Midas with his Golden Touch is just a fable, it is nearly possible to turn a modern object to gold. Electroplating is a technique used to coat a metal like copper, iron, or steel with a thin layer of another metal like zinc, gold, or silver using an electrochemical process. The negatively charged object to be plated, the cathode, is placed in an electrolytic solution that contains ions of the plating metal, the positively charge anode. A power source adds current to the circuit, introducing electricity. The current oxidizes the metal and allows the atoms to dissolve into the solution as positive ions. Thanks to this current, the metal ions will then adhere to the negatively charged substrate or cathode in a thin layer. Here are the top three uses for electroplating.

Corrosion Resistance

One of the major uses of electroplating finishes is adding a layer of extra corrosion resistance to the object receiving the finish. For example, objects made of iron and steel are very susceptible to corrosion. This process of degradation can be dangerous when these materials are used to build infrastructure like bridges, skyscrapers, or other load-bearing structures. However, these metals can be plated with corrosion-resistant zinc in a process called galvanization to protect them from corrosion. Other options for protection against corrosion include zinc-nickel alloys.


Another reason for electroplating is to create an object that can conduct electricity through the plating finish even when the substrate material is not electrically conductive. Gold and silver are excellent electroplating finishes for this purpose. This process is often used to create components in electronics using inexpensive substrate material and a fine layer of more expensive but conductive finish. Your computer and cell phone contain several parts that have been electroplated for this purpose.


The third reason for an electroplate finish is to create a product that is more aesthetically pleasing and beautiful than the substrate material underneath. Because it would be expensive to make an object completely out of gold or silver, it's cheaper to use a more inexpensive substrate material and then coat that material with a gold or silver finish using electroplating techniques. With gold products, this is often called gilding. This process is used frequently to make jewelry at a more cost-effective price.

If you have questions about the process, contact an electroplating contractor to learn more.