The Importance of Cleaning and the Pre-Process Treatment

July 5, 2017
Posted in news
July 5, 2017 Bend Plating

The Importance of Cleaning and the Pre-Process Treatment

Whether you plan to use metal plating for your gaming, automotive, marine, medical, or outdoor applications, it is important to consider the cleaning and pre-process treatment that will eliminate contaminants from the surface of whatever items need plating.

Foreign materials such as dirt, oil, grease, or rust can severely impair the microplating process by prohibiting adhesion in addition to limiting quality and durability. Thorough cleaning and pre-processing need to take place to ensure an even surface for plating, proper adhesion, and a long-lasting result. This requires a three-step process.

Step One: Pre-Cleaning

First, the material must be pre-cleaned by soaking the surface in a metal-specific surfactant. Steel, copper, nickel, and titanium can be cleaned using alkaline cleaners whereas brass, bronze, zinc, aluminum, and tin require inhibited alkaline cleansers. Metals such as magnesium require acid-based cleansers. This process removes the vast majority of foreign material from the surface without tarnishing or in any way harming the substrate in the process.

Step Two: Secondary Cleaning

From there, secondary cleaning—or polishing—can be used to remove contaminants that may not have been removed during the pre-cleaning phase. This process includes forcibly removing trace materials using physical or chemical abrasion.

Primary methods of secondary cleaning include abrasive blasting (which uses pressurized steam), spray cleaning (which uses pressurized heating chemicals), and ultrasonic washing (which uses high-frequency sound waves). For rust, a special solution of hydrochloric acid is used to remove scale as part of a process known as pickling.

Step Three: Surface Activation

If metals are being plated onto plastics or other non-metallic materials, chemical activation is required for more in-depth cleaning and plasma treatment is required for increased adhesion properties. UV treatment can also be beneficial for enhanced conductivity, though this is a more costly option. No matter which method is used, the goal of surface activation is to enhance non-metallic materials so that they maintain the properties of the metals they are being plated with.

Once the surface has been cleaned and pre-processed, it is ready for the electroplating or electroless plating process required to achieve the superior chemical resistance, electrical conductivity, corrosion resistance, and aesthetic design of your application.

Bend Plating can help you decide which metal finishing process is best for your project. Contact us to learn more about the cleaning and pre-processing treatment required for your electroplating application.

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