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Machine Shop: Electroplating & Surface Finishing Applications

December 14, 2021by Gerry Dillon

As 2021 comes to a close, all of our fully certified CNC machinists at APM are busy as buzzing bees,  putting in long hours here at our state-of-the-art CNC machine shop. It’s been a good year for us as we’ve  taken care of new clients and established clients alike. Now, typically, we spend most of our working hours  manufacturing some of the best, most high-quality precision parts in the industry. That’s our specialty, of  course; providing milling, turning, prototype development, and production on our top-quality CNC mills and  lathes.

That being said, we also pride ourselves on taking the time and effort to provide our valued clients with the  very best customer experience we can provide. That experience includes keeping you and our other clients  updated about the latest developments in precision machining technology. It also includes letting you know  about the latest news from our shop and our newest available CNC services. (You can read all about them in our machine shop blog, too.)

Right now in Colorado (as you likely know if you live here), the cold of winter has set in, and the snows  have arrived. The trees are frozen and seemingly dead as they take their long winter’s nap. (They’ll be back  in spring, we promise!) Some of us at APM enjoy this time of year most. Others, not so much. Still, we don’t  get out in the cold, snow, and ice as often as we’d like because we’re too busy attending to our duties,  milling, and machining parts precisely for you, our clients.

As you may or may not know, the vast majority of the parts we manufacture meticulously in our shop are  fully functional from the get-go. The job is handled by our CNC mills and lathes, our top machines that are  at the forefront of what we do and demand the most attention. However, some of them need a bit more  “dressing up” before they’re ready to be shipped out. As we move into winter, we wanted to let you know  about another service that APM performs that might not take center stage, but it’s nonetheless vital to our  business; electroplating.

Here’s the thing; once we finish milling and machining a part, many believe that the production process  ends. However, that’s not always the case, as many of the parts we manufacture still need surface finishing  before they’re ready to ship. Indeed, one of the last and most crucial steps in delivering high-quality machine  parts is surface finishing so that they meet and exceed the expectations of you, our clients, and customers.  Indeed, we can’t deliver our work (or exchange any money for it) until the surface finishing is completed on many of the parts we manufacture. (The reason why is that we’re a contract machine shop.)

One of the most important of those surface finishing processes typically involves something called plating.  One of several different types of metal-finishing techniques available, plating is an excellent option for a wide variety of different parts depending on who will use them and what their purpose will be. The reason why is that plating helps a milled part to have a longer working lifespan. Plating can, for example,  increase the abrasion and wear resistance of a machined part and provide corrosion protection and lubricity. Also, plating is aesthetically pleasing and can build up the thickness of otherwise undersized parts.

What Does Plating Do for a CNC Machine Part?

Plating is the process by which a layer of new metal is attached (plated) to a CNC machined part. The metal  used for the plating can be made of tin, copper, zinc, gold, nickel, or silver. Whatever the new metal, the  plating process helps it adhere exceptionally tightly to the milled part. So tightly, in fact, that the new layer  of metal becomes fully bonded to the machined part’s surface. Typically, plating is performed using an  electrical current, which is why many of the plating processes today are known as electroplating

Here in our custom machine shop, the electroplating process involves immersing a milled or lathed part into  a water bath. That bath contains the plating metal (in ion form) that will be used, suspended in a chemical  solution. If it’s copper, for example, the chemical solution in the bath will be copper sulfate.

The electroplating process itself is when an electrical current is passed through the water bath containing the  chemical solution and the metal that’s being used to plate the part. Two electrodes are dipped into the water  bath, forming a battery or other power supply circuit. The part that is being plated becomes the cathode and, when it does, the metal ions in the water bath are attracted to it and form a thin player on top of it. This is called electrodeposition.

Here at APM, our state-of-the-art machine shop offers a wide variety of different electroplating techniques,  including anodizing, passivating, nickel plating and chromating

In short, an important thing to remember is that, after a part is finished being milled or lathed, one last  critical step to add functionality to that part is to electroplate it. Not only does it make the part more functional but also more attractive as well.

At APM, our goal as CNC machinists is to see your job through from start to finish and provide you with  the highest quality electroplated parts on the market. If you have questions or want to learn about our many  options for electroplating, we’re always available to take your questions and provide the answer you need.

Call or contact us today for the answers you seek. For additional information or to request a quote, please  visit or call 303-776-1910. Also, please follow our social media pages for more highlights from our standout shop, including Facebook, Twitter @APMLongmont, and the Advanced Precision Machining LinkedIn Company Page.

by Gerry Dillon

Gerry Dillon is a co-founder, current owner and certified CNC machinist at Advanced Precision Machining (APM), a full-service machine shop located in Longmont, Colorado. Gerry has over 30 years of precision milling and machining experience under his belt.