Protective plating has been part of the automotive industry for 100 years since the invention of the chromium plating process. Over the decades many other substances have been used to great effect, including acrylics, urethane and polyurethane. From the infancy of the industry, it was obvious that motor vehicles were always going to be vulnerable to the effects of climate as well as wear and tear. Automotive plating in its many forms has provided an ideal solution.
Electroplating and thermal spraying are the modern manifestations of the process. Electroplating involves an electrochemical process in which metal ions bond themselves to a metal substrate, or surface. The application of an electrical current forces the ions to be attracted to the surface and form the required coating. Thermal plating, of which one of the most effective is the use of plasma spray, does not require the complex chemical techniques of electroplating and produces no effluent which requires disposal.
The advantages of thermal spraying mean that companies such as Poeton, whose history began in 1898 with the plating and enamelling of bicycles, have become vital to a very wide range of industries. These include mining, agriculture and aerospace. However, whichever method of plating is used, the main benefits to the automotive industry are in the areas of abrasion, corrosion, rust and conductivity.
The Chief Benefits
Corrosion, largely but not entirely caused by rust, is a perennial problem which no amount of maintenance can fully prevent. Plating, particularly of permanently exposed areas, represents a powerful defence against this kind of natural decay.
Internally, a vehicle consists of hundreds of moving parts, which are subject to punishing use. Plating gives them a robust resistance to the rigours of ordinary use, reducing the need for frequent maintenance or replacements and saving time, money and inconvenience.
When two men at Columbia University discovered chrome electroplating in the 1920s the only objective was protection, but there is another important benefit. In modern cars many of the mechanisms are now dependent on electricity. Chief amongst these is the Engine Control Unit, the central onboard computer. Plating has exceptional conductivity properties which greatly assist the electrical process.
As automotive technology has become more sophisticated and vehicles more complex, with even budget-priced cars performing at extremely high levels, plating plays a more significant role than ever in their safety, efficiency and longevity.