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applications of decorative chrome plating

Comparing Hard Chrome Plating vs. Decorative Chrome Plating

Chrome plating has several applications in various industries ranging from manufacturing to consumer goods industries. This prototyping surface finish process adds protective coatings and shiny lusters to metal parts.

Chrome plating can enhance the mechanical properties of designed components. It can also have aesthetic or decorative purposes. There are two types of chrome plating to help you achieve these two manufacturing goals. They are hard chrome plating and decorative chrome plating.

This article will give a detailed comparison between the two chrome plating types to help you choose the best option for your project.

What is Hard Chrome Plating?

Industrial hard chrome plating is a type of electroplating surface finish. It also commonly refers to functional chrome and engineering chrome. The process in this chrome plating type involves the deposition of chromium onto the surface of a metal.

The chromium layer protects the component and improves durability by increasing wear and corrosion resistance and reducing friction. Engineers and manufacturers combine the base metal with a surface finish to achieve desired quality, reliability, and efficiency.

what is hard chrome plating

Hard chrome plating can be applied in various thicknesses, ranging from 0.0002” to 0.020” or more. You can also use this process for ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Moreso, you can apply chrome plating without affecting the features of the original part.

Why Hard Chrome Plating?

Industrial chrome is an ultra-hard process, making it widely accepted in various industries. It is much harder than many other abrasives and counter faces used in several industries. Its impressive hardness allows it to withstand increased stress content levels.

why hard chrome plating

It also provides a superb adhesion that can go well beyond 10,000 psi. Some of the benefits of hard chrome plating include:

Superior Hardness

As mentioned earlier, hard chrome plating confers more hardness than most of the other metallic coatings and abrasives. It measures about 68 to 72 HRC, helping it withstand several demanding applications and stress.

Low Coefficient of Friction

Very little friction is generated when hard chrome plating contacts metals, carbons, graphites, and polymers. This advantage makes it valuable for moving parts, reducing the heat and friction between components.

Lower friction and operating temperatures help prevent the seizing of parts. Therefore, the lifespan of essential components increases. The lower friction combines with the smoothness of polished plated surfaces to avoid damage due to abrasion.

Enhanced Abrasion and Wear Resistance

Hard chrome plating is extremely resistant to wear due to its exceptional hardness and low friction. Sliding components, metal-to-metal contact applications, and rough, abrasive goods like coal, sand, and cement can all benefit from hard chrome plating.

Hard chrome coating resists wear and abrasion even under strong mechanical contact stress, ensuring a long-term use.

Durable Thickness

Hard chrome plating can be applied in various thicknesses to satisfy the project requirements, depending on the unique use. Hard chrome plating can achieve a hardness of 68 to 69 HRC. Thick, durable chromium plating protects components against wear during normal operation and in severe environments, such as during exposure to corrosive substances.

Manufacturers can employ substantially thicker hard chromium plating to fix worn or damaged components if necessary. It has exceptional abrasion and wear resistance, which helps to increase component life.

Excellent Adhesion

Hard chrome plating has great adhesion to several metal bases. It has a low chance of flaking, making it a durable option. Components are extensively cleaned to remove any impurities before plating to improve adhesion even more.

Chemical solutions provide robust and long-lasting chrome plating adhesion during an electrolytic bath while coating.

Corrosion Resistance

The healthcare sector, chemical, and food and beverage industries all benefit from hard chrome plating’s high corrosion resistance. Hard chrome plating can be used to process materials with most gases and organic acids.

corrosion resistance

It is also possible to completely clean hard chrome-plated components for critical sanitation situations. This is because they can tolerate sanitizers and cleaning chemicals.

Various Chrome Finishing Options

Hard chrome allows for a variety of finishing options, such as grinding and polishing. You can use thick, strong chromium plating and then grind it down to fit specific part dimensions. Hard chrome can also be polished to a high level of smoothness for operations that need very minimal friction and abrasion.

Manufacturers can polish and shine industrial chrome plating for the same beautiful look as ornamental chrome in areas where aesthetic appeal is considered.

What is Decorative Chrome Plating?

This type of chrome plating involves depositing a thin layer of chromium over nickel-plated substrates. The chromium layer acts to protect the nickel plating from oxidation and tarnishing. It also provides a bright bluish tint – bright decorative chrome.

what is decorative chrome plating 2 1

Some manufacturers also electroplate copper on the component before nickel application. The nickel layer adds reflectivity, smoothness, and corrosion resistance. The luster appearance of decorative chrome comes from the initial nickel plating.

The addition of a thin chrome layer brings out the slight blue hue while also protecting against scratches.

Why Decorative Chrome Plating?

The primary purpose of this chrome plating method is to provide aesthetic features to the component. Although it also offers corrosion and wear resistance, the thinness does not enable it to provide a similar level of durability to hard chrome plating.

why decorative chrome plating

Some of the advantages of decorative chrome plating are:

Improved Appearance

From the name, you would notice that decorative chrome plating offers a sleep, appealingly shiny, and smooth surface. Suppose you choose this surface finish type for consumer products like kitchen utensils. In that case, you are sure to have an increased perceived value.

decorative chrome plating improved appearance 1

Decorative chrome also improves the appearance of musical instruments and automotive parts.

Easy Cleaning

This plating type’s luster and smooth surface make it easier to clean. You can easily use chemicals and household cleaners without having to stress.

The smooth surface also ensures that the material does not trap dust particles and dirt. Thus, you can be sure that your product with decorative chrome plating will keep shining for a long time.

Corrosion Resistance

Decorative chrome plating does not only confer attractive appearances to parts. It also ensures adequate protection from corrosion upon exposure to the atmosphere or other oxidizing agents.

This is why manufacturers choose this method for car parts and construction products. These parts are intended for outdoor use and could be exposed to oxidation. Therefore, decorative chrome plating offers the needed protection.

Wear Resistance

Decorative chrome plating has the ability to improve a product’s strength. However, there is a limit to the degree it can go. This plating on the nickel is quite thin, making it fairly susceptible to damage.

For instance, the plating on a bumper may crack in an accident. However, this plating can also withstand some degree of stress for a long time. An example is kitchen utensils that can retain the thin trivalent chromium for long-term use.

What Are the Applications of Hard Chrome Plating?

Various industries employ hard chrome plating to improve their components’ hardness and wear resistance. As industrial chrome, this plating process improves the durability of these parts and their lifespan. Thus, it reduces expenses and maintenance downtime.

applications of hard chrome plating

Moreover, it is a perfect finishing technique for many base metals. It is suitable for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. Examples of such base metals include steel, stainless steel, bronze, copper, brass, and more.

It is also possible to chrome-plate aluminum. However, there will be a need for a nickel or copper underlayer. Some of the common applications of hard chrome plating include the following:

  • Automotive – Used for shock absorbers, pistons, and other parts requiring high cycle times for lubricity and durability
  • Aerospace – Landing gears, actuator components, and aluminum piston rings
  • Machine Tools – Taps, dies, drills, rollers, bearings, press punches, lathe beds, molds, and extrusion tools
  • Gears, rotors, and shafts
  • Compressors
  • Valves and gates
  • Hydraulic cylinders
  • Mining equipment
  • Printing and textile components
  • Agricultural equipment

Hard chrome plating also helps fix parts that have been worn, damaged, or mis-machined. Machinists can add a thick coat of hard chrome plating to a very small component or one that is worn down to restore it to its original size. Chemically stripping damaged coating and applying fresh hard chrome plating will help repair a damaged part.

When combined with abrasive goods like textiles, limestone, paper, or sand, hard chrome plating can be polished to a better smoothness for rounded components like such as print cylinders and rollers. At the same time, this plating still delivers great wear resistance.

What Are the Applications of Decorative Chrome Plating?

As we established earlier, decorative chrome plating improves the aesthetic appearance of parts while also protecting them against wear and corrosion. While its applications are more limited than hard chrome plating, decorative chrome works adequately with various consumer products.

motorbike decorative chrome plating

This is due to its easy cleaning and its shiny and smooth appearance. If you choose to use this finish for only aesthetic appeal, it is an inexpensive option. Decorative chrome plating works with base materials like steel, plastic, aluminum, copper alloys, and zinc alloys.

Some of the common applications of this plating finish are:

  • Car components – it is a feature of several car parts, including trim, bumpers, rocker panels, wheels/rims, door handles, grills, headlight bezels, and more. Using decorative chrome for these parts increases their corrosion resistance since there is increased exposure to the atmosphere.
  • Tools – sockets, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, and many others get decorative chrome plating finishing to improve their wear resistance and durability. The plating will not only improve the appearance of the tools but will also prevent them from damaging.
  • Kitchen utensils – accessories such as spoons, forks, knives, spatula, tongs, etc., can also have a decorative chrome finish. It impacts heat and wear resistance to these utensils while making them easy to clean.
  • Musical Instruments – hardware for instruments like clarinets and guitars also receive a thin decorative coating sometimes. This helps enhance their appearance and durability.

Choosing the Best Chrome Plating Process: Which Method is Right for You?

Hard chrome plating offers superior hardness and strength to materials. It also provides low friction, wears resistance, and lasting durability. On the other hand, decorative chrome plating gives your component an exceptional aesthetic appeal. It also has a degree of wear resistance to it, but it is not as high as with industrial chrome.

Hard chrome plating is best-suited for industrial applications and high-stress conditions. On the other hand, decorative chrome provides desired appearance and protection to majorly consumer goods. Ultimately, the plating type you choose for your parts will depend on their applications.


Understanding the differences between hard chrome plating and decorative chrome plating will help you choose the best method for your project. This will ensure the adequate performance of your components while also enhancing their durability.

AT Machining can be your manufacturing partner to provide top-quality chrome plating services that meet your needs. We combine highly-skilled experts and advanced tooling to ensure the quality of your product. Contact us today, and let’s discuss your project.


Is chrome plating expensive?

Chrome plating processes can be quite expensive due to some variables. The most significant one of these variables is that this plating is an electrolytic process. Thus, there is a need for electricity at all levels of plating.

What kind of materials can be hard chrome plated?

Hard chrome plating is suitable for both ferrous and non-ferrous metals. These substrates include high alloyed metals, stainless steel, cast irons, titanium alloys, bronze, brass, etc.

What is the difference between hard chrome and decorative chrome?

The major difference between hard and decorative chrome plating is the thickness. Hard chrome confers increased thickness to the final product, but decorative chrome is thinner. Furthermore, decorative chrome plating primarily improves the product’s appearance, while hard chrome focuses on hardness and durability.

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