We frequently get calls from individuals that want to set-up a new business, typically for chrome plating on car and motorcycle parts. They would like to start small and add additional capacity as the business grows.
There is a general misconception that setting-up a plating business can be done easily, quickly and inexpensively. While this may have been the case years ago, nothing can be further from the truth today. This is due to the current EPA requirements for environmental compliance and the OSHA requirements for worker safety. Many plating shops have gone out of business in past years due to the inability to upgrade to these regulations.
This presents a barrier to those desiring to enter the market, but also an opportunity to those that can overcome these obstacles.
First, let's establish some realizations. A plating shop is a fairly complex assortment of equipment and chemical processes designed to deposit a metal(s) onto a specific size and quantity range, and type of part(s). All industrial plating operations are built on this basis; there is no such thing as an "off the shelf" plating system. Each system is designed for a particular application. The overall cost of the system involves the size and quantities of the parts to be plated, the hours per day of production, the base metals involved and the type of plating to be done.
Decorative chrome plating is a good example, like what is used on car and motorcycle parts. Most people don't realize that this actually involves triple plating, first copper, then nickel and finally the chrome layer. The chrome layer is actually quite thin while both the copper and nickel layers are much thicker. The copper is used to seal off the base metal and the nickel is used to obtain both leveling and corrosion resistance.
Such a shop would want to be set-up to plate both steel and aluminum parts, and have stripping capabilities for all three plated metals. An operation like this would require a total a minimum of 25 - 30 tanks and a floor space of 3,000 - 5,000 sq. ft. Additional space may be needed for the polishing operation, staging and set-up areas, offices, laboratory, etc.
An industrial building with three phase power is needed in either 240 or 480 voltage. A permanent location, with the proper zoning, should be selected as a plating shop is not very moveable due to the containment involved.
A typical system involves a collection of components including the tanks, containment, rectifiers, bussing, bath heaters, air agitators, ventilation scrubbers, evaporators, pumps, filters, plumbing, bath chemicals, anodes, fixtures, laboratory and a host of other items. Each of these components needs to be properly sized and designed in order for the system to produce the desired plating quality. The reason that so many tanks are needed is that the actual plating operation is preceded by an alkaline cleaning and an acidic activation process, for each metal plated, all with their individual rinse and recovery tanks.
Small kits are available to do certain types of plating, but these are not designed for real world quality, part sizes or quantities. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing right and a "kit" will not handle plating work too much beyond the hobby stage.
It is impossible to place a bottom line on the cost of a properly designed plating system without first completing a Project Feasibility Study. Each system will vary drastically depending upon the specific needs.
This is not to say that a profit can not be generated from an operation like this, as it can. The secret lies in the marketing and sales efforts needed to keep the tanks full of work. The outside price of plating is higher than it has ever been, so the profits will be there if the operation is able to get enough work in the door to justify the investment.
Industrial captive OEM plating operations are a different story altogether. They manufacture a specific part and already have a fixed volume basis to work from. Here it's only a matter of costing the system and finding out what the operational overhead will be. Once this is known, it's a simple calculation to see whether obtaining a plating system makes financial sense.
Other concerns that are addressed by Plating Resources, Inc. in the Project Feasibility Study are: