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How electroplating uses in custom signs

How electroplating uses in custom signs

Table of Contents

When you want to get luxury looks signage with higher corrosion resistance but have to consider the limited budget, the electroplating signage is a good choice.

It attaches a metal coating/layer on the surface of metal signs using the principle of electrolysis and changes the signage facade’s characteristics or specifications. Not only can it improve the corrosion resistance and oxidation resistance (such as rust) of the signage, also make your logos to be noticed.

The Basic knowledge of electroplating

What is electroplating?

Electroplating is also called plating. Plating is a layer of metal coating on the object of a different type of metal.

The purpose of plating can be decorative, as in silver/gold plating, or practical to improve weather resistance, conductivity, light reflection, and corrosion resistance(copper sulfate, etc.). For instance, with industrial parts, zinc or cadmium plating prevents the underlying metal from rusting, while nickel or chrome plating protects against wear.

Many types of metal can be plated. Can aluminum be electroplated?

Electroplating is the typical process for custom signage.

  • Exterior signs are mostly exposed outdoors, and a plating finish can enhance weather resistance.
  • The steel color is single, and the plating finish brings colorful, luxurious band logo letters.
How does electroplating work?

How many types of plating are there?

There are different types of electroplating according to different classification standards; we listed them below,

  • Material substrate: it includes industrial parts plating and plastic parts plating
  • Plating layer/coating: Aluminum plating, Tin plating, Nickel plating, Silver plating, Chrome plating, Zinc plating, Copper plating, Gold plating, Titanium plating,etc
  • Production Process: mass plating (barrel plating), rack plating, continuous plating, and in-line plating.
  • The purpose of plating: practical plating and decorative plating

How does it work for Electroplating?

The plating process includes pre-plating, electroplating, and post-plating treatment.


The steel surface must contain contaminants such as oil and grease for the plating metal to bond appropriately.

  • Polishing: surface roughness of surface which is to meet specific requirements, we need to polish the steel parts and do some process on the surface 
  • Degreasing and Rust Removing: Workers suspend the parts over a vat of boiling chemical solvents. As the hot vapor comes into contact with a colder metal, it condenses, dripping down into the bat and taking any contaminants. 
  • Activation polarization: Generally, it is rusted in weak acid to perform activation treatment before plating. It is the way to let the base plating layer be wholly exposed, which can improve the bonding force of the plating layer and will not peel off the layer.


For the metal signs, we usually use Vacuum plating and Galvanic plating.

Post-plating treatment

The simplest post-treatment includes hot water cleaning and drying.

The use or design purpose of the metal can be divided into three categories: protection, decoration, and function.

  • For the protective post-treatment, passivation treatment is the most common method. For those higher protection requirements, it proceeds the gloss coating like that.
  • For decorative post-processing, it is commonly used in non-metal material, such as imitation gold, imitation silver, imitation bronze, brushing, coloring, or dying.
  • For the available post-processing, for example, it is used as a surface coating film for a magnetic shielding layer, or a surface solder coating used as a solderable plating layer, etc.

The typical electroplating process used in custom metal signs

Vacuum plating and Galvanic plating are the typical electroplating process for custom signage.

What is different between Vacuum plating between Galvanic plating

Galvanic plating puts the metal parts into a chemical solution for electroplating. They added a handful of chemicals to a tank filled with water to help conduct electricity because water alone won’t conduct sufficiently. The working principle is that the electricity dissolves the metal, then attaches itself to the steel parts, which are plating.

Vacuum plating, also called vacuum metalizing, is carried out in a closed ultra-low pressure container. The metal is heated under high vacuum conditions to melt and evaporate, then the layer/coating is attached to the steel parts to be plated.

The advantage and disadvantages of Vacuum plating


  • Vacuum plating can be applied to various materials
  • Electrolytic material is cost-effective. Because vacuum coating has good adhesion, density, hardness, corrosion resistance, etc., the coating can be thinner than Galvanic plating, saving the metal from dissolving
  • Environment-friendly. Since all coating materials are attached to the surface of the plating parts in a vacuum environment, there is no chemical solution pollution
  • Various plating colors. The color of galvanic plating is less, and vacuum plating can meet a broad range of functional and decorative coating requirements, such as flash silver, magic blue, crack, drop silver, etc.
  • Higher durable and corrosion resistance


  • Color is a bit lighter than galvanic plating
  • Expensive production cost. As vacuum plating process is complicated and most of the process relies on manual operation

FAQ for electroplating metal letters

1. How long does Vacuum plating last?

There are many factors affecting color durability, such as

Electroplating process we used

In general, vacuum plating is more durable than Galvanic plating. If the signage is installed outdoors and exposed to sunlight, it should use a vacuum plating process; otherwise, the signs will fade shortly after less than one year.

The thickness of the plating coating

Thicker and more durable, it is not great to use the densest coating as it needs to consider the appearance and decorativeness.

Product application

Vacuum plating is the ideal option for exterior signs as it is more weather-resistance, while galvanic plating can do more darker colors.

Layer coating metal material

Whether the electroplating products fade or not, the surface metal layer coating is more critical than the product itself. Suppose the coating metal chemistry features are very positive. In that case, it will quickly oxidize after exposure to air, such as Cu/Zn、, Ag, etc., so the protective coating processing is also an essential step after electroplating.

The protective coating

The protective coating, also called the sealing layer, is the process in Post-plating treatment. The standard method is electrolysis or electrophoresis, or protective paint.

In summary, we cannot determine the exact lifetime of electroplating products. It mainly depends on the above factors. But the approximate time is 1-2 years for vacuum plating signs.

2. What is the ideal thickness for plating coating?

For the higher precision requirement products, the Quartz crystals monitor system can be used to test the thickness or set the automatic film thickness control with the power supply. It will automatically stop when the required consistency is reached.

In general, stainless steel vacuum plating generally has a thickness of 0.3micTiN+0.07micAu for gold and rose gold, 0.3 mic for black/gray/gun color.

3. Can it be etched after electroplating?

If your plaques still need to be etched, please proceed with the etched process and then electroplating, as the etched process will damage the electroplating coating.

4. Why is there color tolerance in electroplating?

Even for two metal panels with the exact specification, there is a color difference after plating in the same electroplating tank or container. The main reasons for color tolerance are as follows,

  • Even for two metal panels with the exact specification, there is a color difference after plating in the same electroplating tank or container. The main reasons for color tolerance are as follows,
  • Longer time to be placed after primer coating, or longer time to exposure in the air to wait for the protective layer/coating after finishing the electroplating;
  • The electric current and voltage, rotation, evaporation time, and the amount of electroplating layer metal materials ;
  • The air humidity in the electroplating workshop, as will the size and shape of the electroplating industrial parts;
  • The primer paint is not completely dry;
  • The purity of the electroplating material.

Different electroplating plants use various production processes; the color tolerance of plating products is hard to avoid.

The color difference meter can measure the color tolerance between the standard color sample and the newly made color samples. Then we find the solutions to correct the color difference.

To ensure the color quality of the electroplated parts, we should confirm the standard color sample and acceptable color tolerance before mass production.

5. How to solve the color tolerance of electroplated parts?

The color tolerance of electroplated parts cannot be avoided entirely, but we can control and minimize the degree of color difference. The following points cannot be ignored.

The electroplated color is unevenness

This problem may be uneven texture on the product’s surface or unstable current in the electroplating process. Therefore, we should try our best to control the electric current strength.

The color of electroplating parts is yellow and not shinning

The reason may be insufficient current or incomplete electroplating time during the electroplating process. The solution is to strengthen the intensity management of the Cr plating process during the electroplating.

Having pits on the surface of the electroplating layer

The possible reason for this phenomenon may be that the electroplating solution contains impurities or pre-plating polish on the surface is insufficient. The key is clean the electroplating tank totally and improve the polishing accuracy (the polishing accuracy of semi-gloss products is higher than 8000N, and the polishing accuracy of all-gloss products is more than 5000N).

Plated stainless steel colour

6. Can Vacuum electroplating replace Galvanic electroplating?

PVD(Physical Vapor Deposition) coating is a technology of vacuum electroplating.

PVD has the advantages of high hardness, high wear resistance (low friction coefficient), good corrosion resistance, and chemical stability. Also, its coating film has a longer lifetime; at the same time, it can significantly improve the appearance and decoration performance of the industrial parts.

Currently, Vacuum plating cannot wholly replace Galvanic plating, even though it has many advantages, such as an eco-friendly environment.

As the production cost, PVD coating is mainly applied to the high-end hardware, while those low-end products only do the galvanic electroplating.

How to choose the electroplating metal letters?

The application of electroplating letters

Electroplating is a kind of necessary surface treatment for metal letters. It is a process of changing the original color by plating a layer of other metals or alloys on the surface of the advertising signs.

By electroplating finish, our signage can achieve luxury looking cost-effectively, extending the exposed outdoor lifetime.

It is widely used in exterior and interior signs, including cut-out metal letters, fabricated letters, illuminated signs, custom plaques, etc.

The advantage of electroplated letters

Increase your custom signage visibility

Cost-effective. Various materials are available, such as stainless steel, aluminum, brass, etc.

Longer lifetime guarantee.

Which kind of electroplating letters can you get from FT Signage?

If the painted finish cannot show your brand positioning, or you want your logo looks at various metal color at the top end, but there is only a limited budget in your hand, an electroplated finish is one of the best choices.

Advantages in using FT Signage letters and logos with electroplating finish

  • An eco-friendly vacuum plating process is our primary option for electroplating letters. It has a 1-2 years guarantee for exterior signs.
  • Variety of color options
  • Limitless custom solutions are suitable for flat-cut letters, LED signs, and metal plaques.
  • Manufactured using a fine, precision cut laser, CNC, and water jets machines, it can be less than 1/4″ thick.
  • Paper patterns and mounting studs are free of charge
  • Sprayed clear coat on the surface to protect
  • Standard work process to control the color tolerance of plating
  • Produced within 7-10 days after artwork approval

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