-- The Home Page of the Finishing Industry
A website for Serious Education, promoting Aloha,
& the most FUN smiley you can have in metal finishing

on this site
current topics
topic 3427

In-house lab setup for plating shop

An ongoing discussion from 1999 through 2015 . . .


Q. My company runs a captive nickel plating shop. We have had our solutions analyzed outside, but we are now going to set up an in-house lab. We have the technical skills and the sources for lab equipment, but I'd like to have suggestions about the physical arrangement of a plating shop lab. I'd like to also know of any problems that any of you may have run into in your own labs.

Rick Alexander
engravers - Gaffney, South Carolina


A. Your lab setup will depend a lot on what you plan to do. For titrations you should have an area to prep and titrate the samples. If you plan on doing hull cells, have an area to set up for that. A fume hood for heating samples and mixing acids is a good idea. One important note is to check your states OSHA requirements concerning lab safety requirements. I know in Maryland MOSHA looks closely at lab setups. Also, having your lab sink plumbed to a holding tank or to your WTS is a good idea. These are just a few suggestions. It might be wise to think of it as you would a new process....have a detailed written plan of exactly what you want and need before beginning.

jim conner
Jim Conner
Anoplex - Dallas, Texas USA


A. All of Jim's suggestions are excellent. You might also want to start thinking about an accurate and detailed system for record keeping and documentation. There are some good lab software programs for plating shops on the market. Also if you are going to be having some strict quality audits it might be a good idea to have your glassware and chemistry come with certificates of accuracy traceable to NIST. A good PH meter and analytical balance will probably also come in handy. Also what type of nickel are you plating? Is there a need to monitor stress? If so you might also want to consider a spiral contractometer.

Rick Richardson, MSF
Dayton, Ohio


A. You mentioned that you have the technical skills to back your lab. Be sure that includes a chemist that is experienced with commercial plating processes. I've visited lots of places where the resident senior plater, resident engineer or even technician has been the "lab guru". The results have been lots of black magic. No offense, but you can't replace the skills offered from a degreed chemist.

Greg Fuqua
Jacksonville, Florida


A. Rick, contact me. I am the poor man's plater (chemist/metallurgist) and have set up a couple of labs. I will ask lots of questions before giving opinions.

Fortunately, nickel is a fairly easy lab to operate for a technically inclined person, once they have been shown the endpoints.

All of the previous opinions are valid.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida
[contact info deleted due to age of posting; if James offers again, we'll make his contact info available again]

Cost and requirements to set up an internal lab

June 10, 2015

Q. My company currently performs a multitude of plating and has always utilized outside labs. Recently we have had some difficulty associated with hard chrome and nickel. Utilizing outside labs has caused some delays on results/recommended adjustments. Our shop personnel have requested me to research feasibility on bringing lab services inside (which we are not currently equipped for).

Can someone offer what kind of cost is associated with bringing in a lab and personnel necessary to run it? I, personally do not believe this is a good option for us as we are small and currently do not possess the skill level required to do this. Historically over many years, we have had great success with our lab results and recommended adjustments.


Roger Eckenroth
- Kent, Washington USA

simultaneous June 11, 2015

A. That all depends on which tests you might want to do in house.
The next big item is how "gold plated" you want it to be.

An option would be to do the simple stuff in house and farm out anything that requires really expensive equipment.

You do not have to be a chemist to do this lab work (it helps, but not required) It requires a person to be taught how to follow cook book chemistry. Unfortunately, It does require a knowledgeable person to do the teaching.

I have taught a number of lab techs and frequently taught other things like reducing the sample sizes fro 5 ml to 1 ml which saves 80% on chemical costs.

Tank additions do not have to be calculated IF simple charts are made for each tank.

Be careful who you hire to do the training.

Training should take less than a week for a small shop.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

June 11, 2015

A. Roger

The cost will depend on what you want to achieve with the lab. If you're looking to do basic chemical analysis / titrations of commercial chemical products, the Technical Product Bulletins will usually give you the procedure and equipment needed to perform the tests. Cost to set up would not be prohibitive. Talk to your supplier.

If you have a college or university nearby, consider hiring a chemistry major to work part-time to do the work. You might need additional temporary help to get the ball rolling if you do not have a current employee proficient with the analytical process. By using a college student, you get the labor at a discount and the student gets real world experience to put on his resume. You just have to repeat the hiring process every couple of years after they graduate and move on. Recommend you get someone with at least 2 years college chemistry. Out of 6 or 7 hired, we had 1 that did not have the skill set needed to do the job.

Willie Alexander
- Colorado Springs, Colorado

June 12, 2015

A. Roger,
I agree with the responses to the older question that yours was appended to. The cost and other factors associated with setting up your lab depends on what processes you need to do there. It's fairly easy to pick up the basics new or used (beakers, graduated cylinders, hot plates, balances). Things like titrations are rather simple to do once you know how and only requires a few bits of specialized gear and not much space, but other types of analytical equipment can be rather pricey. As Jim Conner said, you may need to install a fume hood depending on legal requirements and how noxious the chemicals are that you will be working with.

As for having a qualified chemist on board, most of this type of thing is like cooking. If you can follow a recipe, you can bake a cake, but you probably don't know what all the different ingredients do or why those specific amounts are needed, and if something goes wrong that isn't mentioned in the cookbook, you won't know how to fix it. So it basically comes down to your comfort level on whether you want to bake the cake yourself, possibly with the number of a consulting chef on hand, or just outright hire a chef onto staff.

ray kremer
Ray Kremer
Stellar Solutions, Inc.
supporting advertiser
McHenry, Illinois
stellar solutions banner

July 8, 2015

A. You can do everything with titrations except sulfate in the chrome bath. For that you need an analytical balance. So, buret, glassware, prepared titrants ... you can get away with a few hundred bucks.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

July 9, 2015

A. Good day Roger.

All of the responses have given good info. You can make cookies, or you can make pastry, just follow the recipe and repeat, exactly, each and every time. Since you are doing nickel and chrome, your supplier can do the trivalent chrome, and you can do the sulfate with a centrifuge from Kocour.
Chromic acid is dead easy.
I would strongly recommend purchasing a hull cell for the nickel, as it is a useful tool for brighteners, and determining consumption based on amp hours. Nickel metal, sulfates, chlorides and boric are all dead easy.
Why not address the cleaners and acids also, since you wish to do in-house analysis.
My boss, many years ago, had asked me to help out in the lab. I had plating and waste treatment experience, which really made the learning curve that much easier.
It is a learning curve for all involved. Be patient and persevere, the results are truly rewarding.
Good luck, and tell us how your kitchen is doing!


Eric Bogner
Lab Tech. - Whitby, On, Canada

July 22, 2015

thumbs up signGreat post, Eric.

dave wichern
Dave Wichern
Consultant - The Bronx, New York

July 27, 2015

Thanks Dave.


Eric Bogner
Lab Tech. - Whitby, On, Canada

This public forum has 60,000 threads. If you have a question in mind which seems off topic to this thread, you might prefer to Search the Site


Disclaimer: It's not possible to diagnose a finishing problem or the hazards of an operation via these pages. All information presented is for general reference and does not represent a professional opinion nor the policy of an author's employer. The internet is largely anonymous & unvetted; some names may be fictitious and some recommendations may be deliberately harmful.

  If you need a product/service, please check these Directories:

JobshopsCapital Equip. & Install'nChemicals & Consumables Consult'g, Train'g, SoftwareEnvironmental ComplianceTesting Svcs. & Devices

©1995-2018, Inc., Pine Beach, NJ   -   About   -  Privacy Policy
How Google uses data when you visit this site.