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"Plating a steel bottle opener"

September 11, 2016

Q. I have been 3D printing and selling a bottle opener I designed in steel. I am looking into investment casting to get the per unit cost down (after initial set up). Would chrome plating stand up well to a bottle cap? The opener does not have a hole in it, does it need one to be 'hung' by the wire during the plating process. Does anyone recommend a different finish for this opener, and finally, I would like the option to have this in a 'standard' steel grey and/or and dark grey or black finish, any recommendations for a darker finish? Thank you for your help!

Steven Durden
Hobbyist - South Bend, Indiana, USA

September 2016

A. Hi Steven. Yes, nickel-chrome plating will hold up fine.

Parts do have to be racked or wired for plating, so they need some non-critical little area where contact will be made and a rack mark is acceptable; it can be done in clamping fashion, a hole is not necessary. But there is a lot more to "design for plating" than a hole or racking area. Please see the "Design for Plating" or "Influence on Electroplatability" sections of plating textbooks or inquire of NASF.org if you can get a copy of any of the MFSA "Quality Metal Finishing Guides", which all include such a presentation.

Electroplating deposits metals, but you can obtain black via a chromate conversion coating on zinc plating, or a blackening treatment on nickel plating, or a "poisoned" chrome deposit which comes out grey to black. There are a thousand and one other finishes from powder coating to PVD finishes that you might find attractive. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 12, 2016

Q. Ted, thank you so much for the information. I was looking further into it and saw there was a "barrel" process. In my research I was really only able to find a 12 year old post from this forum that said it doesn't work well with Chrome, is this still the case, is there a plating that would work better or for a bottle opener I should be aiming to use Chrome. Thanks. Steven

Steven Durden
- South Bend, Indiana

September 2016

A. Hi again. Chrome is still exceptionally difficult to barrel plate because breaks in contact are a commonplace in barrel plating and will ruin chrome plating. You might be satisfied with nickel plating, which is shiny but very slightly yellowish compared to the very slightly bluish color of chrome. The nickel will tarnish to a yellower color with time, but might be fine ... and nickel can be barrel plated.

You might locate a plating shop or two in your area and sit down with them.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 14, 2016

A. If you are looking for a good black finish, I would suggest topping the plating with a PVD finish. Black is in high demand -- we're even putting it on our faucets -- so you shouldn't have a problem finding a decorative coater that can both plate the part and apply the PVD finish.

jim treglio portrait
Jim Treglio - scwineryreview.com
PVD Consultant & Wine Lover - San Diego, California

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