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Nickel vs Chrome Plating: What’s the differences?

Author: Yaozu Deng
Published on: 2023-08-04

“Nickel and Chrome are the two most used plating materials. The reason is their physical and mechanical properties. But, definitely, they have the differences in specific advantages.”

Choosing the perfect finish for manufactured parts is a significant aspect of its functionality and aesthetic. The finish can dramatically influence the overall performance or durability, whether it’s industrial components or consumer items. Nickel and Chorme Plating are finishing techniques applicable to diverse materials & geometries. However, they have some fundamental differences in Nickel vs. Chrome Plating because of their separate properties.

This article will compare these two plating methods, including physical properties, applications, advantages, and potential drawbacks.

 

What is Nickel Plating?

It is the process of creating a nickel layer on the surface of parts or products. The coating method could be either electrolysis or electroless(chemical) plating. Additionally, it is not limited to the metallic surfaces. The nickel can also be plated on some plastics.

Nickel plated parts 

Furthermore, Nickel Plating produces a more uniform coating. It can easily coat complex shapes & geometries. Consequently, a wide range of layer thickness is achievable. The Electroless Nickel coating can deposit the thick layers.

Properties of Nickel Plating Parts.

  • Corrosion resistance, excellent thermal & electrical conductivity
  • Silvery white with a slight golden tone
  • The hardness of plating is as high as 63 on the Rockwell scale(with electroless)
  • Minimal decoloration over time
  • Adds magnetic properties to non-magnetic substrates
  • Excellent Adhesion over 

Working Mechanism Of Nickel Plating

Nickel electroplating process 

Nickel Plating works on the electroplating Principle. The immersed substrate on the electrolytic solution acts as the cathode, whereas the nickel anode provides the ions for deposition while applying current on the circuit.

The thickness of nickel plating depends on the applied current, electrolysis time, and nickel ion concentration in the electrolytic solution.

Electroless Nickel Plating 

It is a chemical deposition method of applying a nickel layer on the substrate. Instead of electrolysis, it utilizes the bathing solution of nickel to dip the parts to be plated—the chemical reduction results in the deposition of nickel from an aqueous solution. 

The main advantage of electroless coating is the plating of complex geometry. Additionally, the simple setup makes it cheaper than the electroplating.

 

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What is Chrome Plating?

Chrome or Chromium is a steely-gray hard metal. It provides excellent hardness, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance. Subsequently, these properties make it a suitable plating metal for numerous applications. The hardness of Chrome Plating is higher if we compare Nickel vs. Chrome Plating

Chrome plated parts

Crome plated parts

You can choose two sub-types methods: Decorative or Hard Chrome Plating. The main difference between these two is the thickness of chrome deposition. 

  • Decorative Plating: 0.00013 and 0.00025 mm 
  • Hard Plating: 0.005 to 0.015 mm

The decorative chrome plating is often applied over nickel plating to enhance the surface hardness and finish.

Working Mechanism of Chrome Plating

The working of chrome plating involves the same electroplating method. Here, the chrome metal is the anode, and the substrate is the cathode. Meanwhile, the electrolytic solution contains the chromium in it. Eg. H2CrO4.

The electricity triggers the oxidation and deposits the layer of chromium on the cathode’s surface. The thickness of the coating can vary, whether it is hard coating or decorative.

 

What are the Key Differences in Nickel vs Chrome Plating?

Since we know the basics of both plating methods, let’s compare them in different aspects. How do they look? Their properties, cost, and many more factors.

1. Physical and Mechanical Properties

Chrome-plated parts are often more tough & durable, especially hard chrome surfaces. On the other hand, the lower ductility of chrome poses a higher risk of cracking under stress.

Consequently, the coefficient of friction is slightly less for Nickel Plated Surfaces. It is 0.40 for Nickel and 0.50 for chromium surfaces.

2. Appearance

The appearance of Nickel varies from matte to bright and yellowish to whitish. On the other hand, the chrome looks bright bluish-white, which is highly reflective also. That’s why it can achieve a mirror-like finish”. Next, nickel coating has various forms of finishes, from shiny polished Nickel to brushed or satin nickel.

3. Durability and Corrosion Resistance

Chrome is more resistant to scratching and holds up well against regular wear and tear. Its superior corrosion resistance makes it an excellent choice for fixtures exposed to moisture.

On the other hand, Nickel Plated Parts still offer reasonable durability. It is resistant to rust and corrosion. And for robustness, electroless coating can be done at lower prices.

4. Care and Maintenance of Finishes

Chrome finishes are relatively easy to clean and maintain due to their highly reflective finish. On the other hand, Nickel (brushed or satin finishes) is more prone to showing spots. However, both finishes do a better job of hiding minor scratches and dents.

5. Cost Implications

The cost of both finishes can vary based on the specific item and the quality of the finish. As a general rule, Nickel finishes tend to be slightly more expensive in  Chrome vs Nickel Plating due to the cost of the raw material. 

Zinc is another major plating metal. If you want to know more you can read a comparative analysis of Nickel Plating vs. chrome Plating with Zinc Plating in this article: Difference Between Chrome Plating, Zinc Plating, and Nickel Plating here. 

 

What are the Uses of Nickel Plating and Chrome Plating?

Several industries rely on Chrome and Nickel Plating for surface finishing of industrial components, from automobiles to medical and electronics.

For example, nickel is used in plating electronic components such as connectors. Meanwhile, chrome provides aesthetic and protective properties to numerous items.

Electroless nickel finish

The following table differentiates the Nickel Plating vs. Chrome Plating Applications;

Table: Chrome and Nickel Plating Applications 

Industry Nickel Plating Applications Chrome Plating Applications
Automotive Fuel injectors, brake parts, and transmission components Exterior trim, wheels, and bumpers
Electronics Connectors, semiconductor packaging, and lead frames Decorative casings and covers
Aerospace Aircraft engines, landing gear components Exhaust systems and for decorative purposes
Oil & Gas Valves, pumps, and gas turbines Field machinery and drilling equipment
Marine Ship fittings, navigational components Hull fittings, propellers, and trim
Medical Surgical instruments Decorative finish on various components

 

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What are the Other Plating Comparisons?

Let’s compare some specific variations of both chrome plating and nickel plating; Brushd Nickel, electroless nickel, satin chrome, and hard chrome.

1. Brushed Nickel Vs Chrome Plating 

Brushed Nickel is the better choice if you need a finish that adds a touch of elegance and sophistication. It is a versatile option with diverse color palettes. 

Next, the reflective surface of chrome plating can provide a brighter appearance and depth. However, it requires more frequent cleaning to keep it looking its best.

2. Satin Chrome vs Satin Nickel Finishes

Whether chrome or nickel plating, a satin finish is known for a gentle sheen rather than a high-gloss shine. Also, the stain finishes are less reflective than the standard ones. Stain Chrome and nickel both are alternatives for their respective subdued finish.

3. Electroless Nickel Vs Hard Chrome Plating 

Both these variations are thick-plating approaches. However, the electroless nickel can provide a relatively more thicker layer. Also, nickel layers tend to be more uniform than chromium.

Feature

Electroless Nickel Plating

Hard Chrome Plating

Typical Applications

Oil & gas, automotive, and aerospace

Manufacturing, automotive, and aerospace

Coating Uniformity

Excellent and suits complex shapes

Works better with simpler shapes

Corrosion Resistance

High

Moderate

Hardness & Wear

High and  adjustable with additives

High

Heat Tolerance

Good

High

 

Electroplating and other Finishing Services at ProleanTech

We handle 50+ types of substrate metal & alloys for electroplating finish. Our advanced electrolyzers and other equipment can achieve a uniform metallic coating with the desired thickness. Consequently, we have options of Zinc, Chrome, Nickel, or other plating materials to meet the diverse aesthetic and functionality needs across the industries.

Electroplating

We believe in close collaboration with clients throughout the project for optimal results. First, our engineers understand the needs, and operators execute the plating under strict quality control supervision.

Furthermore, our surface finishing facilities have many other services, including powder coating, polishing, bead blasting, and more! So, upload your design with finishing requirements for an accurate quote.

 

Summing Up 

Chrome and Nickel are the two popular metals, which are plated into the substrate surface to achieve the desired finish quality. Typically, the electroplating process deposits a protective layer on the surface of the workpiece to enhance the smoothness, corrosion resistance, abrasion resistance, and durability.

The overall comparison of Nickel vs Chrome Plating shows that chrome generally offers higher hardness and superior corrosion resistance. As a result, it is a suitable choice for items exposed to moisture and heavy use. Meanwhile, the versatility of Nickel suits hides minor scratches and dents. 

 

FAQs

Which is better, Chrome or Nickel plating?

Chrome is preferred for its hardness and aesthetic qualities, whereas nickel offers corrosion resistance and ductility.

How long does Nickel plating last?

Nickel plating can last several years under normal conditions (up to 20+ years) 

How long does Chrome plating last?

Chrome plating also has a long lifespan, often lasting decades under normal conditions (5-25 years). It is durable against abrasion and wear. 

What is the difference between electroplating and electroless Nickel plating?

Electroplating requires an external electric current to deposit the nickel layer. Meanwhile, electroless plating uses a chemical reaction to achieve deposition. Generally, the electroless coating is more thicker.

Can I apply both Nickel and Chrome plating on a single part?

Yes! Nickel is often used as a base layer to enhance corrosion resistance and adhesion, followed by chrome for increased hardness and aesthetic appeal. 

10 Comments

  1. Shona Akal

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    Reply
  2. Metock

    Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.`;”,`

    Reply
  3. Lesha Victoria

    Thanks for sharing this good piece. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)

    Reply
    • Max

      Thanks

      Reply
  4. Particia Barsch

    You created some decent points there on Nickel and chromium comparison.

    Reply
  5. Russ Korns

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    Reply
  6. Mauro Delaware

    Wow,great composure on CNC chattering. would love to read more about this kind of topics.*`,..

    Reply
    • Dikendra Acharya

      Sure, we will cover related topics on upcoming blogs

      Reply
  7. Anissa Antill

    Very nice design and style and fantastic subject matter of material science.

    Reply
  8. Dallas Stodgell

    Hi there! you make clear comparison on Chrome and Nickel .

    Reply

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