Aerospace Plating Is the Line Between Take Off and Failure: Know Your Metal

Aerospace Plating Is the Line Between Take Off and Failure: Know Your Metal

Aircraft manufacturing is all about high quality. With the advent of SAE International’s AS9100
quality-management system in 1999, aerospace suppliers and manufacturers around the globe
are required to comply with ultra-specific production quality standards. Part of meeting those
standards is the finishing process used to strengthen and protect the metals involved in
developing an aircraft. That process is called aerospace plating.

Why Aerospace Plating Is Imperative
Most modern aircraft are built from titanium and titanium alloys. Titanium is prized for being
light-weight, extremely strong, and low-density, which is a perfect combination for aerospace
crafts. Other metals commonly used include steel, aluminum, and magnesium.

As elemental as these metals are in the aircraft production process, they are not perfect on their
own. These metals are still susceptible to corrosion, oxidation, and breaking down under high
temperatures. To protect the aerospace metals against a variety of threats to their integrity,
aerospace plating is used as a metal finishing process.

Two major plating processes are electroplating and electroless plating. Electroplating involves
coating a metal surface with ions of another metal, using a process called electrodeposition.
Electroless plating also includes deposition of metal but employs a chemical reaction to apply
the coating instead of electricity.

Benefits of either type of aerospace plating include:
• Improved corrosion protection
• Enhanced strength of metal substrate
• Increased resistance to high temperatures
• Component longevity
• Enhanced electrical conductivity
• Increased resistance to oxidation
• Aesthetic appeal

Aerospace Plating in Action
Although electroplating is used a on a variety of metal types, we’ll focus on titanium because of
its popularity in the aerospace industry. Titanium is a tricky metal to plate because it is
extremely active and quick to form an oxide film. Few other metals can form a bond with a
titanium substrate, making it necessary to have developed the processing of plating nickel onto
the titanium. Any underlying nickel coating makes it easier to bond other metals to the
component. Modern companies have been working to perfect this process with the upswing in
titanium use.

For more hard-to-reach areas, electroless plating is an effective process. Produced through a
chemical reaction, this metal coating creates uniform coverage on more complicated substrate
surfaces. Nickel is also most often used in this application, along with other types of nickel
alloys, including:
• High Phosphorous – Provides top protection against corrosion and enhanced resistance
in highly acidic environments.
• Medium Phosphorous – Ideal choice to improve the aesthetic appearance of the
substrate.
• Low Phosphorous – Known to increase surface hardness and solderability, along with
providing top resistance against alkaline environments.
• Black Electroless Nickel Coating – A more recent innovation, black electroless nickel
coating facilitates light and energy absorption. This offers a more effective solution to
withstanding harsh climates and environments, while lending aesthetic applications
when a black finish is preferred.

How up-to-date are you when it comes to aerospace plating? Learn what processes are ideal
for your aerospace niche when you contact etaGLOBAL today.