The Differences Between Powder Coating and ElectroplatingJuly 18, 2019
Electrostatic fields attract air-carried charged powders until a uniformly coated layer blankets an oppositely charged workpiece. That, in a nutshell, is how powder coating works. Now, electroplating might seem like a similar coating system, but it's really an entirely different process. Right off the bat, plating is done in a wet bath. Powder coating is a dry process. That's a pretty significant difference, and there are others.
Electrocoating Submerged Workpieces
Again, that's the glaring process disparity. A tank is filled with a positively charged electrolyte. A negatively charged part sinks into the solution, and then positive ions are drawn to the cathode surface where they bond. On rising up into the air again, the coated component moves forward. It dips down into a rinsing tank, lifts up one more time, then it's off to the curing oven for the baking phase. Think about it, the tanks do apply a coating, plus that rinse action, and they do so uniformly because the workpiece is completely submerged. So, what can be done about complex profiles? Unlike an electrostatic gun and dry cubicle, there's no way to control depth penetration or concealed cavity ingress.
Fine-Grain Control: A Powder Coating Benefit
While it's true that an expertly conducted electroplating process does produce a bonded metal surface, that bond isn't as protective as a powder coated shell. Sure, metal plating introduces enhanced electrical conductivity, which is a popular electroplating feature. Moreover, the process does reach deep into cavities, although it's still hard to control what'll happen as the plating accumulates in those hidden crevices. Moving over to a powder coated product, the flexibility factor kicks into high gear. Granted, the protective membrane doesn't bond as fully as an electroplated product, but there are more options. More colours, more textures, more finishing versatility, all of these factors are on-hand when using a dry powder coating process. And remember, powder coated parts are shielded from all kinds of physical and chemical forces.
Electroplated parts have bonded metal coatings, which make them fatigue and corrosion resistant. And yet, powder coated parts are incredibly durable. They also use curing agents and additives to create infinitely variable pigments and textures. The polymer coating can even contain metallic flakes, so a glossy chrome-like finish is easy enough to duplicate. Harder to control the finish thickness, electroplated workpieces rely on wet environment dip-and-charge configurations. With powder coating performance, this dry application method uses electrostatic guns. More controllable and recyclable than electroplating, the durable protective layer does leave waste material behind, but that waste can be reclaimed. Finally, electroplating is Greener than it used to be, but it's not as eco-friendly as a powder coating operation.
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