Decorative metal coatings are nothing new. In fact, some form of galvanization has been used for more than 2,000 years, if not longer. Alloys containing 80% zinc have been found at numerous archeological sites supporting the belief that metal coatings have been used for quite some time. Though the brief history of metal coating starts much simpler than that: with silverware.
The History of Decorative Metal Coatings
The Beginning of Galvanization
Until 1742, utensils were made from iron. But that was soon to change. A French chemist by the name of Melouin suggested an alternative to the French Royal Academy: Dip iron utensils in zinc. The idea was to add an inexpensive protective coating to iron dining ware. Pretty soon, everyone was doing it. The practice spread over the next one hundred years and became commonplace by the mid-18th century.
In 1824 the process became a little bit more sophisticated. A man named Sir Humphrey Davy connected two metals electrically in water. Not only was he able to coat one dissimilar metal over another, but he was also able to prove that it stood up to corrosion better. This became one of the first instances of electroplating. The method was quickly put to use protecting copper ship bottoms from corrosion by plating them with iron or zinc.
The ability to change the property of one metal using another quickly became a widespread sensation. Especially for the iron industry. By 1850 more than 10,000 tons of zinc were in use each year in England solely for the purpose of protecting iron.
How We Use Metal Coatings Today
We’ve come a long way since the 19th century. Today we plate copper, nickel, chrome, and even 24-karat gold onto a wide variety of substrates. Using low-temperature arc vapor deposition or physical vapor deposition (or PVD) we can deposit thin metal coatings onto metal base materials and plastics.
Metal coatings improve how a part or product functions. Functional characteristics include hardness, durability, temperature resistance, corrosion resistance, and oxidation resistance. In addition to improving a part’s functional characteristics, metal coatings can greatly enhance the aesthetic characteristics of part or product. The Chrome on the Chrysler Building in New York does not make the building stronger, it makes the building stand out as an industry icon shining brighter than all of the other buildings.
The automotive industry depends on decorative metal coatings for rims, grills, and interior consoles to make these parts last for the life of the car. The same goes for the marine and aerospace industries where metal finishing and coatings enhance the looks and lifespan of a wide variety of parts including propellers, shafts, dials, winches, exterior elements, and many other parts and pieces.
Bend Plating provides metal finishing and decorative metal coatings for a wide variety of industries. Contact us for more information about your manufacturing project.