Apr 25

Nickel Plated Benches for Thomas Heatherwick

NiTEC have recently had the pleasure of nickel plating a number of benches for the English designer Thomas Heatherwick.

Known for his innovative designs and creative use of engineering and materials to produce public monuments and sculptures, Heatherwick was asked to design the Olympic Cauldron used at the London 2012 opening and closing ceremonies.

Famed for his adventurous and original use of manufacturing processes and materials across the disciplines of architecture, art and design, Thomas Heatherwick is also renowned for his innovative ideas at the forefront of manufacturing and design practice.

Thomas Heatherwick’s extruded benches began life in Heatherwick’s design and architecture studio when working on a project that involved manufacturing aluminium components through an industrial process called extrusion.

What is extrusion?

The process of extrusion involves squeezing heated metal through a shaped hole which is known as die. The heated metal produces straight aluminium lengths in this way, with a precisely shaped cross section.

However, extrusion is liable to produce very contorted shapes when the metal initially squeezes through the die. This is because the metal becomes snagged and warped as it struggles to fit. The form eventually straightens out and usually during this process; the contorted end is chopped off and melted back down.

However, Thomas Heatherwick considered the mutated sections to be more interesting by far than the straight parts, and set out to produce more warped lengths of extruded aluminium on a much larger scale.

The designer then wondered if it would be possible to use the extrusion process to create seating, much of which was needed at the time to furnish new airports and stations being built around the world. Heatherwick saw it as a simple but effective alternative to ordinary furniture that had to made up of several components and materials. These extruded seats could be made all in one go, with the legs and back of the seat formed all at once.

The Heatherwick studio hunted for a machine capable of making this dream a reality for more than 16 years, until they finally came across a new extrusion machine that had been built in the Far East. The machine was designed for use in the aerospace industry and had the capability of exerting ten thousand tonnes of pressure. The factory it came from could not actually guarantee the outcome of the experiment because the machine had never been used to its full capacity.

Nickel plating aluminium benches

Using this specialised die, Heatherwick and his studio staff made a series of aluminium benches with straight, extruded lengths, and contrasting raw, contorted ends. The sweeping parallel lines created through the extrusion process are contorted into random, gnarled endings and the arbitrary swirling forms of the bench are created through the initiation and termination of the extrusion process. NiTEC were asked to nickel plate the benches to provide a high quality surface that would be very resistant to wear. To view these benches, please click here to visit the Heatherwick studio website.

Heatherwick’s projects take the design process to its broadest reaches, from entire buildings to handbags, bridges to furniture, and always involve a radical approach to manufacturing processes and use of materials. Heatherwick is now working on more commercial products using this process to create components for architectural construction, facade design and mass produced seating ranges.

To find out more about our involvement in special projects, or to find out more about electroless nickel plating, please visit the NiTEC website, call our friendly team of staff on 0845 224 3571 email: info@nitec-enp.co.uk

Apr 15

Choosing Between Electroplating and Electroless Nickel Plating

What is electroplating?

Electroplating is a process that uses an electrical current to dissolve metal so that a metal coating is deposited on an electrode. This process is called electrodeposition. The part that is to be plated is called the cathode and the anode is made of the metal which is to be plated onto the component.

The parts to be plated are then placed in a solution called an electrolyte, which contains metal salts and ions which allow the electricity to flow through it. The power supply then directs the current to the anode, which oxidises the metal atoms that comprise it and allows them to dissolve in the solution.

 

Then, the dissolved metal ions plate onto the cathode from the electrolyte solution. The rate at which the cathode is plated is always equal to the rate that the anode is dissolved.

What is electroplating used for?

Electroplating is used to change the surface properties of an object. For example, electroplating may be used to build up the thickness on a part that is slightly undersized, or to form objects by electroforming.

Electroplating may also be used where abrasion, wear resistance, and corrosion protection are an issue, to increase lubricity and for aesthetic purposes. Unlike electroless nickel plating however, the process of electroplating makes the component subject to changes in the density of the current. This results in variations in the thickness of the electroplated deposit.

What is electroless nickel plating?

Electroless nickel plating is an auto-catalytic reaction which is used to deposit a coating of nickel on a substrate. The metal is deposited when a reducing agent reacts with metal ions. Unlike electroplating, it is not necessary to pass an electric current through the solution to form a deposit.

What are the advantages of electroless nickel plating over electroplating?

Electroless nickel plating has a completely uniform coating. This means that it is a perfect solution for critical high-end engineering items including defense, healthcare, automotive and aerospace.

Electroless nickel can be deposited to produce a wide range of coating thicknesses, with uniformity and minimum variation from point to point. This uniformity can be maintained in plating both large and small parts and on components that are fairly complex, with recessed areas.

Electroplating of such parts, on the other hand, would produce thickness variation and possible voids in the plating when coating holes and inside diameters. Also, with the proper pre-plate catalyst, electroless nickel plating can deposit on non-conductive surfaces.

What is electroless nickel plating used for?

Electroless nickel plating is a plating technique commonly used to prevent corrosion and wear. The electroless nickel plating process is a high quality, cost effective solution to coating metals such as mild steel or stainless steel and can substantially extend the life of a component.

Electroless nickel plating is extremely resistant to corrosion and will therefore extend the life of everything it coats.  This makes it ideal for coating parts exposed to harsh environments such as those operating in the marine, oil and gas and defense industries. Therefore, it can also reduce the cost of repair and replacement parts.

If you would like more information about the process of electroless nickel plating as an alternative to electroplating, visit the NiTEC website, call our team of expert staff on 0845 224 3571, or email info@nitec-enp.co.uk

Apr 04

Advantages of a High Phosphorous Electroless Nickel Alloy

An electroless nickel coating is a dense alloy of nickel and phosphorus. The amount of phosphorus co-deposited can range from less than 2% to more than 12%, depending upon bath formulation, operating pH and bath age.

High phosphorous electroless nickel plating tanksAn electroless nickel coating with a high phosphorous content is extremely effective in the oil, gas and coal industry. These environments are highly corrosive and therefore require a phosphorous content of more than 10%.

Phosphorous content in electroless nickel deposits can vary from 1 – >12% by weight and the variation can be controlled to result in a number of deposit types.

High Phosphorus Deposits

  • Typically contain 10-12% phosphorus
  • Very high corrosion resistance
  • Complete lack of magnetic response.
  • Most conditions in the highly corrosive oil, gas and coal industry require deposits with a high phosphorus content (>10%).

Low Phosphorus Deposits

  • Typically contain 2-5% phosphorus.
  • Improved hardness and wear characteristics
  •  Higher temperature resistance
  •  Increased corrosion resistance in alkaline environments.
  • Best suited to the chloro-alkali industry, such as the transportation of liquid soda.
  • Enhanced solderability and bondability, especially in electronic applications.

Mid Phosphorus Deposits

  • Typically contain 6-9% phosphorus
  • Bright and aesthetically pleasing
  • Good hardness and wear resistance
  • Moderate corrosion resistance

Alkaline nickel-phosphorus

  • Plate at a relatively low temperatures (75-140°F, 24-60°C)
  • Suitable for plating on plastics and other nonconductive materials
  • Suitable for use on zincated aluminum.

If you would like to find out more about electroless nickel plating with high phosphorus nickel deposits for use in the oil, gas and coal industry, please visit the NiTEC website.

Apr 02

Nickel Plating Components for Rolls-Royce Oil and Gas Division

Electroless nickel plating is of course our speciality here at NiTEC. Our capacity for electroless nickel plating large parts cannot be matched in the UK. We were recently approached by Rolls-Royce with the prospect of electroless nickel plating a component for their oil and gas division.

Of course famous for making high quality cars, Rolls Royce are also world leaders in providing power
systems and services for use at sea, on land and in the air.

Rolls-Royce’s energy business supplies gas turbines, compressors and diesel power units to customers around the world and is a world leader in the supply of power for onshore and offshore oil and gas applications.

 

Operating in four major global market sectors, marine, energy, civil aerospace, and defense aerospace, we were of course delighted to help such a large and successful company.

If you would like to receive updates and news from NiTEC regarding exciting projects such as this electroless nickel plating for Rolls-Royce, why not ‘Like’ our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter?

Mar 27

Eliminate Post-Plate Grinding with Electroless Nickel Plating

An electroless nickel coating can eliminate the need for post-plate grinding because of its ability to deposit a reliable, uniform coating.

The metal layer deposited by the electroless nickel plating process has an even thickness over all surfaces of the component, virtually regardless of their shape. As the components are not deformed by the plating process, the uniformity of the coating obtained by the nickel plating makes the process ideal for engineering components. Therefore, this uniform coating is the perfect solution for critical high-end engineering items such as those used in the defense, healthcare, automotive and aerospace industries.

The deposition of a uniform electroless nickel coating save time, effort, and money because no processing of the part is needed after plating. Therefore, tight manufacturing tolerances can be achieved with an electroless nickel coating as it is deposited evenly on the surface of the part.

The uniform coating of the nickel plating means that the surface is very hard wearing, resistant to corrosion and durable in a variety of environments.

 

The deposition process of electroless nickel is autocatalytic, meaning that once a primary layer of nickel has formed on the substrate, that layer and each subsequent layer becomes the catalyst that causes the above reaction to continue. Thus, very thick coatings can be applied, provided that the ingredients in the plating bath are replenished.

NiTEC are also specialists in diffused nickel plating technology, the copper plating process and the process of shotblasting & heat treatment. For more information about nickel plating services in the UK, take a look at our website, or call us on 0845 224 3571.

 

Mar 25

Electroless Nickel Plating: Perfect for Replacing Stainless Steel

Electroless nickel plating is an excellent alternative to stainless steel. Stainless steel can be very expensive, especially when making large components. Making large parts out of cast iron and then electroless nickel plating them afterwards is a much cheaper and quicker solution.

Stainless steel can be used in environments where corrosion resistance is important and where the levels of hardness of the metal are also important. However, despite its name, stainless steel is not actually fully stain proof.

Unlike ordinary steel, it doesn’t corrode, rust or stain easily with water. But under certain conditions, for example, where there are low levels of oxygen, high levels of salt or poor circulation, stainless steel will stain and in some circumstances will even corrode.

Electroless nickel plate: alternative to stainless steel

Mild steel that has been electroless nickel plated can actually be more effective than stainless steel. With regards to levels of hardness and corrosion resistance, an electroless nickel coating can exceed the benefits offered by stainless steel. Stainless steel is a lot more expensive than mild steel or cast iron that has been electroless nickel plated.

It is far more cost effective to electroless nickel plate parts made of mild steel or cast iron for the ultimate levels of corrosion resistance. Electroless nickel is not only a more cost effective solution, it is also a much more efficient solution to the problems of corrosion, wear and hardness.

As leading specialists in the electroless nickel plating field, we have the facilities to electroless nickel plate large components as an alternative to stainless steel. The equipment and methods used at NiTEC mean that even the most difficult large part can be plated correctly and consistently.

For more information about replacing stainless steel with electroless nickel plating to increase corrosion resistance of the component and keep costs down, visit the NiTEC website, or call our friendly team of staff on 0845 224 3571.

 

 

Feb 21

6 Things You Need to Know about Electroless Nickel Plating

What is electroless nickel?

Electroless nickel is an alloy of nickel and phosphorous.

How does electroless nickel plating work?

Electroless nickel plating occurs when an auto-catalytic reaction deposits a coating of nickel onto a substrate.

Unlike electroplating, it doesn’t require an electric current passing through the solution to form a deposit, hence the term ‘electroless’.

What are the advantages of an electroless nickel coating?

An electroless nickel coating provides great corrosion protection, even in the most extreme environments. It is very hard and has excellent wear resistance. Another fantastic feature of electroless nickel plating is that it can be used where close tolerances are required for components, meaning that there is no need for grinding after plating.

What surfaces can electroless nickel plate be applied to?

Electroless nickel can be used to plate most base materials including stainless steel, steel, copper and brass.

Why use electroless nickel plating over other plating methods?

Electroless nickel plating can be used to plate very complex shapes with a uniform coating. Unlike electrolplating, the deposit has a completely uniform thickness all over the component in question. The electroless nickel plates all parts of the components surface, regardless of holes, recesses, or sharp angles.

In which industries is electroless nickel plating used?

Electroless nickel plating is perfect for use in offshore applications. It has been used in a wide variety of other engineering disciplines including automotive, defence, aerospace and electronics.

If you have more questions about electroless nickel plating or would like to find out more about it’s suitability regarding your project, visit the Nitec website, or call and speak to a member of our staff on +44 (0) 845 224 3571

Feb 18

Metal Pickling at NiTEC

Among our other services including electroless nickel plating; we also offer the option of metal pickling.

Pickling can be used to effectively remove impurities from a metal surface such as stains, rust or scale. This type of metal surface treatment uses strong acids to remove impurities from the surface of the metal and is commonly used to clean or descale steel.

We have recently been involved with a project pickling stainless steel for the Aerospace group Meggitt. The components, which were to be used in a project in offshore Brazil, were pickled using hydrofluoric and nitric acid.

These types of acid are effective in removing discoloured scale from stainless steel.

 

Many processes that occur at a high temperature can leave a discolouring oxide residue or scale on the surface of the metal. Pickling the component removes the scale from the surface of the metal, leaving it looking much cleaner and brighter.

Acids are difficult to handle because they are so corrosive. Therefore, pickling is a process that requires the upmost care and safety. Luckily, we have the experience and expertise to carry out this process safely.

If you would like more information about Nitec’s experience working with substances such as hydrofluoric acid, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0845 224 3571 or email us at web@nitec-enp.co.uk. Alternatively, you can visit the Nitec website for more information.

Jan 09

Increase the Lifespan of Steam Turbines with Electroless Nickel Plating

Based in Derbyshire, Nitec have a wealth of experience electroless nickel plating for large multinational companies and a wide variety of industries.

As a leading provider of worldwide metal plating services, Nitec have recently worked with Elliott Turbo-Steam Turbines. Elliot steam turbines are specially built to be able to perform for years, and they have an excellent reputation as being the best in the industry.

Elliot steam turbines are very reliable and hard wearing, and by adding an electroless nickel coating, their life span can be further increased. As the addition of an electroless nickel coating is very hard, it can reduce the wear of the part when friction is an issue.

Elliot steam turbines are used in power generation and food processing,  chemical and petrochemical, pulp and paper, and the oil and gas industry.

For more information on how electroless nickel coatings can be used to increase the lifespan of components and reduce wear through friction, contact Nitec by visiting our website, or speaking to a member of our specialist team on 0845 224 357.

Jan 09

Electroless Nickel Plating for Rutherford Appleton Laboratories

Rutherford Appleton Laboratories approached Nitec with the prospect of nickel plating a laboratory vacuum chamber. As specialists in the process of electroless nickel plating, the staff at Nitec gladly took on the project.

Thousands of scientists and engineers have used the lab to carry out their research in lots of areas, including astronomy, physics and light sources. With such important research in mind, electroless nickel plating specialists Nitec had to meet all the relevant regulations in order to comply with the high standards requested by Rutherford Laboratories.

The equipment requiring surface treatment was a vacuum chamber, used by the laboratory to carry out tests and experiments  The iron from the chamber walls was a concern for Rutherford Laboratories, as it could affect the results of tests. The lasers which are used in experiments such as these actually had the power to burn through the paint, therefore the chamber needed to be coated with a thin layer of electroless nickel to prevent this happening.

Nitec have a large amount of experience in plating unusually shaped objects and equipment. The expert staff at Nitec had to manufacture tanks to fit each part of the vacuum chamber, as the chamber came in several sections. Some of the parts weighed more than 20 tonnes.

The chamber itself was built like a small room, and had many portals, doors and windows which presented Nitec with the problem of gas traps formed by the recesses. Therefore, the chamber itself, which was originally going to be used as the plating tank and filled with the electroless nickel plating solution, had to be sheeted over and internally shot blasted.

Blanking plates were made for each section of the chamber, and each one was fitted with an air pipe which fed up and outside the chamber in order to remove any excess solution and gas. This process ensured that the vacuum chamber was completely covered by the electroless nickel coating, meeting the high standards of quality required by the laboratory in order for all tests and experiments to be accurate and successful.

To find out more about how Nitec can help your business with their electroless nickel plating needs, even if the object is particularly large or unusually shaped, why not visit our website and take a look at the projects we have embarked upon recently. If you would like to speak to one of the electroless nickel plating experts at Nitec, don’t hesitate to call our friendly team on 44 (0)845 224 3571.