When Does Your Custom Machined Part Need To Be Plated?

25 July 2016
 Categories: Industrial & Manufacturing, Blog


Almost any part you need can be custom machined to meet your requirements. Whether you're trying to match an obscure part on a well-used piece of equipment or you're creating a prototype piece for a new invention, a computer controlled (CNC) custom machining shop can produce what you need. 

One consideration that you may have overlooked, however, is how to have that custom part or prototype finished once it has been made. Most machining and fabrication shops have the option of plating your part, but how do you know if that's necessary? Here are the factors that can help you decide.

What types of metal plating are commonly used?

Plating is generally done for either appearance or durability. If you're looking to improve the appearance of a part, your options range from chrome to brushed nickel to gold. 

You can also have a part coated to make it resistant to corrosion or more durable, such as with a zinc coating over steel to galvanize the part.

What metal is the part made from?

Many custom machined parts are made of either aluminum or steel. Steel parts are usually stronger, so it may not need extra plating. Also, many steel alloys are magnetic; depending on the plating you use, you may alter the part's magnetic properties. If this matters to you, then either choose a metal coating that retains the part's magnetic properties or forego the plating.

Quickly produced sheet metal parts may also have a rougher surface, and a textured coating can hide that if you prefer.

Will friction be an issue?

If the part or parts you are creating are in close proximity to other parts and need to be able to glide over the surface of another part, you may want to have a coating applied that will reduce surface friction. Some types of nickel coatings, for example, are great at spreading any effects of friction more evenly over the surface of the part.

Will the part be visible once it is installed?

Many decorative coatings exist that can make a visible part on a vehicle or other equipment look nice. Metallic or colored finishes, textured finishes and gloss finishes can spice up the look of your part if that is important.

What is the lifespan of the part?

If you're creating a prototype to test for a few days, it's unlikely that you need any type of protective or decorative coating on your part. But if you're getting a part made to replace something on a machine or piece of equipment, you want it to last as long as possible. That's when a durable coating might make sense. 

Will the part be used indoors or outside?

If the part you're recreating will be on an interior machine, and there are no concerns like excess humidity on the manufacturing floor, you don't have the same concerns that you might if the part were to be used on a piece of farming equipment that is exposed to the elements. Parts that may get wet can have a protective finish to reduce rust and corrosion.

How soon do you need the part?

Metal plating is not an especially long process, but it can add an extra day or two to the production time of your part. If speed is of the essence, and you don't require a galvanized surface for corrosion resistance, you may prefer to skip plating.

Talk to a CNC custom machining shop, such as A2ZFX, to find out which types of coating they offer and what they recommend for your application.