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Cost $$$ (cap-ex) to open a small commercial gold plating shop?

November 4, 2016

Q. Hello Ted, forum:

Thank you folks, for real help via this forum about 10-15 years ago, when I was getting involved in copper electroforming (heavy, thick, acid copper plating). Hundreds of complex microwave-radio components later, your help and that effort was a real success.

A little more background, I'm very familiar and experienced with two gold plating processes: A very pure CN gold bath and a brightened hard gold bath. Our setting is in effect a small university lab, the two gold tanks we run are 4-5 gallons each. A small operation but very useful and productive in an R&D type setting.

And cost effective. My impression remains that commercial shops often charge 10-20X the commodity gold cost, and min-charges of $500-$700 are common. (My typical jobs are 1-20 pieces, a few square inches each piece, 50-300 µinch of gold).

So here's my question: How terrible, what $ cost, to set up a small (two 5 gallon tanks) gold plating shop? I can estimate the equipment and bath costs easily enough. What I don't have a clue on is some rule-of-thumb for EPA / OSHA / Environmental issues.

Put it another way: Can you open up a small shop, a couple tanks and, if the jobs are there, capable of doing $500,000 a year or more of work, can you make a living at it? Or are the other costs, environmental, insurance, etc., USA regulations --does all that stuff just make it impossible to succeed?

I know this question opens up 50 other questions, lots of details, but any answers / guesses / rules-of-thumb would be appreciated! Regards, thanks, Gerry

Gerry Petencin
employee, microwave components - Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

November 2016

A. Hi. Environmental compliance can be a pain in the neck, but I don't think it's a deal breaker. Your gold rinse waters can probably first pass through ion exchange cylinders (resin to be burned by a refinery for recovery) or electrolytically recovered with something like a Goldbug. The total wastewater should be of such low volume that you can concentrate it and have it hauled away, or manually batch treat it weekly for discharge to a POTW.

Plating equipment is low tech to the extent that cost is largely proportional to size. A line of 5 gallon tanks is much cheaper than a 50 gallon line, which is much cheaper than 500 gallons, etc.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

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