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topic 42981

Metal plating cost calculation

A discussion started in 2006 but continuing through 2019


Q. I'm a Brazilian chemical engineer in charge of a galvanic zinc plating line, and I must find out how to calculate precisely the zinc plating process cost based on A/dm2 (or A/sq. ft.) Most of our local companies charge the service based on the weight of the finished pieces, which is a rather empirical and imprecise way. Does anyone know some kind of software or spreadsheet that could help me on this quest?

Process specification: Rotary, 20 kg, acid zinc based on potassium chloride, without ammonia or cyanide.
Dirtiness kind: Several base metals contaminated with oil or grease.
Applied layer: 20 microns
Finishing: Trivalent passivation.
Top-coat: Synthetic resin with water solvent

Thanks for the attention.

Marc Dal'luce
Plating shop employee - São Paulo, SP, Brazil


A. Short of a fairly impressive 3D measuring machine slaved to a computer, I doubt you can find a piece of software that make it much simpler than just setting up your own in Excel. There is a file in the Library here that shows the formulas for most simple shapes ... breakdown your parts into combinations of these shapes and start measuring.

There are a couple of letters in the archives that pertain to the same issue - and that may tip you off to a simpler method - but I believe all the advice breaks down to what I said.

Good luck!

Jim Gorsich
Accurate Anodizing Inc.
supporting advertiser
Compton, California, USA
accurate anodizing banner

simultaneous 2006


ajay raina
Ajay Raina
Ludhiana, Punjab, India


A. First thing first, measure the area of your current products. You can use Autocad, and model the products in 3D, then the software can calculate the area.
Then start to measure production, how much are you spending for each dm2 worked and for each micron of metal deposited (remember that whe you cover a metal, not only is the area you cover but the thickness of the deposit, which will require energy and time of your equipment).


Guillermo Castorena G.
Jobshop - San Luis Potosí, México


A. Hi Marc Dal'luce,
To add up to what Guillermo said, I would like to mention that Autocad is a simpler method to solve your concern. When you make the profile in cad, use a Pedit command and close the loop. Also extrude the same where you mention the thickness. This becomes a solid section. Use a Matprop command and you get the Total surface Area. Just to verify you can also mention density and you will find that you get the exact weight also which you can check on the part also.

But for your information, in cases like Zinc, it is that the conversion cost is higher that the material cost. So better to look at how you can ask the supplier to reduce on time rather than directly negotiating on price in line with Surface area.

Good Luck.

Sanjeeva [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
Supply Chain - Bangalore, India

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)

How to make ballpark cost estimate for general electroplating processes?

June 29, 2010

Q. I am working on cost model for Powertrain components.Could somebody help me to understand (or refer to a right source of data) how I can make rough estimate of Zinc plating, e-coating, anodizing, chroming and impregnation.
I am looking for some industry standards:
- $/per kg of part's weight or - $/per sq.m of part's surface.

Thanks in advance for your professional assistance.


Tatyana Plotnikova
automotive cost engineer - Detroit, Michigan, USA

June 30, 2010

A. Hi, Tatyana. I have seen estimating handbooks for many different industries, but regrettably have never seen one for electroplating services. A fakebook like that would sound like a good enterprise for a semi-retired metal finisher if s/he can figure a way to get people to pay for it rather than steal it in an age where intellectual piracy is considered a virtue and technology makes it easy :-)

Unfortunately, people have already alerted me to "free pdfs" of several of the classic electroplating texts, so I don't think we'll see it :-(

I think you'll have to rely on quotes from plating shops or hire a plating consultant to put together such figures for you. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

July 1, 2010

A. The auto industry is the last place that this will work as companies will cancel a contract for as little as a tenth of one cent per part. It is a cut throat industry with JIT being a costly driving force for the vendor.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

July 21, 2010

A. Tatyana...Unfortunately for you James and Ted are right. I spent 10 years in the estimating department of a good sized metal finisher. There are so many variables that come into play in job costing that I could probably write several hundred pages on the subject. Maybe I will...if someone would buy it. I can tell you this though....the main drivers of finishing costs are cost of chemistry, the cost of waste treatment of that chemistry and of course labor. They all change depending where the finishing shop is located. The only way to determine what you are looking for is to shop around. After a while you will get a good idea of your costs.

Tim Hamlett
Tim Hamlett, CEF
aerospace metals distributor - Tamarac, Florida, USA

October 14, 2013

Q. I have heard that there is a software which regulates the plating thickness and also calculate the areas too, does anybody know about it.

Ravi Chandavarkar
Ravi Chandavarkar
plating shop employee - Mumbai, India

October 2013

A. Hi Ravi. There are several brands available, but we don't make commercial suggestions in this forum (why?). Google terms like "electrochemical modeling software for plating". They often involve calculating exact placement of anodes, parts, virtual anodes, and plastic shields to try to achieve a more even thickness distribution. Generally this software is presently for the more exotic needs rather than something you see in many shops.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

How to do a quotation?

September 12, 2019

Q. Hi, good day everybody.
Today I am here because I have a couple of doubts; I got a new job in a plating plant and one of my responsibilities is to do a quotation of the cost to process different pieces.

I have 3 lines conversion chrome trivalent (C.C.T), electroless nickel and stainless steel passivate.

On nickel line I have

Soak cleaner
Acid dip
and Mickel

on C.C.T. I have a soak cleaner
deoxidize solution
and finally C.C.T.

on [stainless] steel passivate line
soak cleaner
citric acid
sodium dichromate

My problem is I how I can know how much chem I am using on my pieces in the nickel bath; I don't have problems on nickel because the nickel metal is fixed on the metal base, and same with C.C.T.

But how I can know on soak, electro, acid dip, sodium dichromate and deoxidize?

I am processing pieces and doing the respective concentration analysis but the concentration doesn't change. I am pretty sure that my analysis is okay -- so somebody know how I can get these quotations?

Could I have it with the size of the pieces?

Aaron Garcia
- agua prieta, Mexico

simultaneous September 13, 2019

A. No one can even make a guess until you get some basic information together. Start here:

1. What was the total cost of operating your business last year, including labor, supplies, taxes, insurance, utilities, building, vehicles, and everything else?

2. How many hours of billable work were performed last year?

2. B Divide #1 by #2 = your cost per man hour hour of productive work.

3. What percentage profit do you intend to make?

4. Multiply the answer from #2B X 1 + #3.

5. How many man-hrs will the job require?

6. Multiply the answer from #4 X #5. That is your price for the job. Divide that by the number of pieces to find the charge per piece.

The answer from #6 is good enough for a start. Later on you can adjust for differences in your cost for each type of work.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

September 13, 2019

Hi Aaron,
With Passivation, your chemical usage is more "what do we have to dispose of when it gets dirty and how often" than "how much stuff is consumed by sticking to each square inch of part". So insofar as 'dirty' relates to iron coming off each square inch of part, relative to the iron content in the part to begin with, the chemicals are pretty cheap and you could instead, for chemical usage estimating purposes, go with a flat rate based on how often your workload requires tank changes, and then divide that by loads per period and have a starting place to add the rest of the cost on top of. Don't forget to include disposal costs, including labor to actually do the tank dumps.
Operator labor is going to be a huge factor here, and part geometry is important. Parts with threads, deep pockets, blind holes, etc. require more labor for blowing off and inspecting, and many parts require inspection under a microscope, which is a big investment. Parts that can't be processed in a barrel, so that they have to be set up in baskets with separation between them so they don't touch, will have to have additional racking time added.
Then there's Time In Tank. Processes requiring long immersion rather than a 10 minute dip get billed more of course, just for taking up real estate.
Post process testing is another charge. Copper sulfate vs water immersion is a major time difference for the operator, and an equipment commitment if it is water immersion testing. Those are easily handled as flat-rate, per-lot up to X number of pieces, surcharge.
You can build yourself a quoting tool that takes all these factors into account; my suggestion is to gather the following information:
-history of purchases of all chemicals consumed on the passivation line for a year
-a representative period (like 3 months) of run reports, broken down by process spec
-all your specs, and for the ones that offer 2 options for immersion time, ask the operator which is being used
-history of hazmat disposal charges for passivation stuff specifically, including contaminated DI resin beads
-rental/exchange/resin/membrane fees or whatever applies to your DI or RO system
-maintenance records and equipment purchases/repairs
-software licensing fees, if automated
-government fees for operating various hazmat/water related stuff
-outside testing expenses for compliance and/or contamination monitoring
-your observations from timing how long it takes the operator to do prep, racking, processing, drying, testing, and inspection for different part configurations- each step individually timed; there are wide variations from job to job as to what % of the time is spent on what task.
Look at how this all breaks out. What is fixed and what is directly related to workload. Once the bills are paid, and the operator has his compensation package covered, how much profit do you want to see on each job? The answer should pop out at you once you've got it all laid out in front of you in a spreadsheet.
A bonus of building this spreadsheet is that if suddenly the cost of one item goes way up, you know exactly where to adjust your pricing.

Rachel Mackintosh
Plating Solutions Control Specialist / Industrial Metals Waste Treatment - Brattleboro, Vermont

October 10, 2019

thumbs up sign Thanks both for your answers. Rachel, I will take your advice to search the history of purchases and see how many parts we worked in last year; thanks for that, hope you be fine, best regards,

Aaron Garcia [returning]
- AP , Mexico

Ed. note: Other interesting threads on cost estimating for plating include topic 25603 and topic 55790 none

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