Final Report: A New Coating Method and Apparatus To Reduce Waste and Hazards in PlatingEPA Contract Number: 68D00205
Title: A New Coating Method and Apparatus To Reduce Waste and Hazards in Plating
Investigators: Sunthankar, Mandar
Small Business: IonEdge Corporation
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Project Period: September 1, 2000 through September 1, 2002
Project Amount: $225,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase II (2000) Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Pollution Prevention , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
The Phase II research project was completed successfully. In addition, the technology was commercialized. Cleaning and degreasing procedures were developed early in the project. A production prototype apparatus was developed and operationalized for depositing hard chromium coatings. Independent laboratory test data indicated that the dry-plated chrome is equal in wear resistance and hardness to that of electroplated chrome. Scanning electron microscope cross-sections indicated that the dry-plated chrome is amorphous in structure and exhibits no porosity or defects. Because a customer's parts were available at the time, most research and development was conducted directly on commercial samples to obtain acceptable quality coatings to meet the customer's expectations. Batch chrome-plating processes have been developed on steels as well as plastics and ceramics. Fundamentally new and environmentally benign decorative chrome-plating methods have been developed for application to metallic, plastic, and ceramic objects. The chrome dry-plating cycle was automated, and the coating time was reduced for processing large surface areas of parts. Furthermore, process repeatability has been assured by running the equipment for several hours at a time and producing a large number of components. Many customers have placed repeated purchase orders for production quantities. Finally, chromium emission studies indicated no detectable emissions from the equipment. As demonstrated, the proposed method is environmentally safe, has substantially increased throughput, and indicates desirable process economics for commercial applications.
There are no detectable chromium emissions from the process or the equipment, and there are no hazardous liquids used in its operation; the only solid waste is made of pure chromium deposits that are periodically removed from the apparatus. The dry-plated chrome hardness and wear resistance is at least equal to that of the electroplated chromium. The chrome dry-plating equipment has been operated for more than 1 year without an operational failure. The dry-plating process is relatively simple and rapid (less than 20 min/cycle), capable of coating large areas (more than 1,000 in2). The technology has diverse applications; consequently, it has been commercialized to plate metals and alloys other than chromium. New methods have been developed for decorative chrome plating on metal, plastic, and ceramic objects. In these cases, there is no need for copper and nickel underlayers, resulting in further waste and hazard reduction. This chromium-plating technology was demonstrated to be highly competitive in several applications where electroplated chrome currently is used. In conclusion, the method developed under the Phase II research project provides a lower cost alternative to environmentally hazardous conventional chrome in use today.