Electroplating: A Brief History

Electroplating involves coating the specific metal object with a minute layer, often times in millionths of an inch, of another type of metal. The object of electroplating can be twofold:

  1. To make the item look better; this is certainly the intent of electroplating of decorative pieces such as trays or jewelry
  2. To change the functional nature of the base metal being plated, such as to prevent or reduce corrosion, enable soldering and wire-bonding, or to increase conductivity. This is the goal of the work performed by our company, PEP General Metal Finishing. It is a job we engage with the highest of standards, often exceeding those set by ASTM and Military standards (MIL-STD).

The Beginning of Electroplating

The individual responsible for the first steps towards electroplating was an Italian chemist – Luigi V. Brugnatelli (1761-1818). In 1805, using the voltaic pile invented by a friend and colleague, Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) in 1800, he performed the first electrodeposition. However, prohibited by the French Academy of Sciences and rejected by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, his work did not become common usage until almost 40 years later.

In Great Britain and Russia, scientists had begun to discover the process implementing it for the copper electroplating of the plates used in printing presses. In Russia, much is owed to Boris Jacobi (1801-1874) while, in Great Britain, John Wright (1808-1844) of Birmingham discovered that, when it came to electroplating gold and silver, potassium cyanide was the ideal electrolyte for the process. In 1840, two of his associates, George Elkington (1801-1865) and Henry Elkington, cousins, received the very first patents for electroplating. This led to the establishment of Birmingham as the industrial center of electroplating. From here, it was to spread around the globe. With increasing technological advances, it became a common industrial process that found solutions where others saw only problems.

Electroplating Today

At PEP General Metal Finishing, we have benefited from the advances made in electroplating over the past decades. The World Wars provided the knowledge and skill to perform such processes as hard chromium plating, bronze alloy plating and improved tin plating. The entry into the electronic age meant the entry of computers into the process and subsequent need for higher reliability components. The result has been a company that has benefited from the past, is rooted in its present devotion to quality production and looks eagerly towards any improvements and advancements that the future can bring.

Contact us at PEP General Metal Finishing to learn about our quality services.