Remanufacturing and selective electroplating

Features - electroplating

Off-highway equipment life can be expanded through selective use of material science.

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June 17, 2021

Remanufacturing is on the rise. Already commonly used in the automobile, heavy equipment, and off-highway vehicles (OHV) sectors, this manufacturing trend is expected to continue growing across more industries and applications.

Growth of remanufacturing can be further attributed to the constant desire to drive down the total cost of ownership of expensive equipment. Examples include landing gear in aerospace; diesel engines in OHV; and pumps, valves, and turbines. There’s a great need to minimize repairs and replacements while enhancing agility throughout engineering processes – and remanufacturing fits this need perfectly.

Remanufacturing need

Machines are constantly subjected to unpredictable field conditions, harsh operating environments, and sometimes abuse, which combine to increase the risk of wear and tear, corrosion, and damage. If not properly maintained, many of these components – or entire pieces of machinery – may need to be scrapped, increasing capital equipment costs and downtime. These worn, corroded, or damaged components contribute to the 73 million metric tons of ferrous metal, and millions more tons of non-ferrous metals and stainless steel in the U.S. scrap rate. This result is far from inevitable though – if site managers and manufacturers can find a way to head off component failure and eliminate the requirement for scrapping equipment.

Remanufacturing is an increasingly prominent way to extend the operational lifespan of equipment. However, it’s just as crucial to ensure that downtime is minimized when doing so, especially as the costs of such downtime can quickly rack up. Quickly, cost-effectively, and sustainably enhancing components to improve wear resistance and repair damage is where selective electroplating offers a vital benefit.

Selectively electroplating engine components can keep equipment operating, extending life and reducing operators’ costs.
SIFCO Applied Surface Concepts (ASC)

Selective plating (also known as brush plating) is a method of repairing and restoring critical dimensions and surface properties of worn components back to OEM standards, using an array of solutions such as copper, nickel, nickel-tungsten, and cobalt. Even more crucially, it can be completed on site to reduce the downtime and cost of disassembly, transport, and reassembly.

Selective electroplating can treat specific areas of a component with accurate, selective brush plating of materials onto localized surfaces and diameters, enabling in-situ repair and enhancement that’s typically faster than alternative surface coating methods.

As opposed to tank plating – the other major method in electroplating – brush plating doesn’t require extensive masking or special fixtures. It can also plate deposits between 30x and 60x faster without risk of part distortion since the process takes place at room temperature, making this particular remanufacturing process faster, more cost-effective, and lower-risk.

Plating specific areas of components reduces harsh chemical use, reducing the environmental impact of selective electroplating.

Science of selective electroplating

Given the continuous use and sometimes harsh direct impact experienced when equipment and machinery is in operation, selective plating needs to bond at the atomic level. This is something not provided by traditional surface coating methods, such as thermal spray, which only forms a mechanical bond.

To create atomic bonds, selective plating uses electrochemical principles: an electrolyte solution containing ions of the deposit material is introduced between the negatively charged plating surface and the positively charged tool. This is powered by a portable power pack, enabling precision control of amperage, voltage, and duration.

When the tool – or anode – touches the surface, it creates a circuit with a cover material around the tool providing a reservoir to ensure even distribution. The current within the circuit causes the ions between the interfaces to bond – building up the plating layer and delivering a highly adherent and dense metal deposit.

Selective plating also allows for more accurate control of deposit thicknesses – often allowing parts to be plated to size without post-machining. With the portable nature of brush plating, repairs can be completed in the shop or on the job site – improving accuracy and flexibility.

Environmental impact

Sustainability is at the heart of remanufacturing – and any way that we can cut down the demand for Earth’s resources is welcome. Brush plating fits the bill here, especially given its far lower impact compared to other surface coating methods.

Using less solution and chemicals, and generating very little waste, as well as reductions in carbon costs of emissions, transport, and shipping, it’s a more sustainable option. Even for workers’ health and wellbeing, reducing fumes and hazardous waste that require disposal delivers a safer, healthier working environment.

SIFCO Applied Surface Concepts (ASC) https://www.sifcoasc.com/ remanufacturing

About the author: Tony Arana, based in Houston, Texas, is Southwest territory sales manager at SIFCO ASC. He can be reached at 800.765.4131 or tarana@sifcoasc.com.