The Process of Barrel Plating

by | Oct 16, 2015 | Plating and Metal Finishing

There are many different ways to finish or put plating on a metal, and barrel plating is one of the most time-tested, cheap and effective. This method has been around for more than 100 years and hasn’t really changed much. It is effective with certain kinds of pieces and it can be used to create a wide selection of different products.

Barrel plating derives its name from back in the 19th century when people would put steel items into a barrel which is filled with water, then add another metal and an electrode. The electric current would then transfer ions from the new metal to the steel, giving it a protective coating. The process has, of course, been fine-tuned and improved over time as different metals have been tried for the plating and new technologies have been applied to the process.

The Modern Process
In the modern process, parts are still placed in a barrel, but the barrel is generally made of plastic or composite materials and put on a motorized platform which turns it, tumbling the pieces inside. An electrically-charged bar is placed or mounted inside the barrel and a metal is added for the plating. Zinc is often the metal of choice, as it creates galvanized steel, which is much more resistant to corrosion.

The method is perfect for plating large numbers of small parts, and it can generally give those parts a perfectly uniform coating. The problem with the process is the tumbling action, which can bend or dent heavier or more fragile parts. The size or number of pieces plated at a single time is basically only limited by the size of the barrel and the fragility of the pieces. The modern barrel plating process is relatively inexpensive, but can take a little longer than other electroplating processes.

Barrel Plated Products
The most obvious choices of pieces to be barrel plated are small pieces like screws, nails, hinges, rivets and other fasteners. Certain hand tools might also be barrel plated, such as wrenches, screwdrivers or sockets. Small decorative items like jewelry and key chains are often barrel plated, as are plumbing couplers and valves.

PEP General Metal Finishing provides various types of finishing services for an array of commercial and industrial applications. Visit website to learn about their services.

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