Plating vs. Painting for Finishing Sheet Metal Products

Painting Sheet Metal Enclosures

The sheet metal painting process.

Using aluminum for sheet metal fabrication offers a great deal of of flexibility in terms of creating designs and parts with a variety of shapes or designs. Because of this it is often chosen over other materials. However, aluminum is not the strongest or most durable choice, so many fabrication shops offer finishing options, such as electroplating or painting. Both of these options offer significant benefit in either price or durability. Deciding which option makes the most sense will depend in large part on where your enclosure or sheet metal part will be used.


Basics of Electroplating and Sheet Metal Painting

There are a number of different methods for protecting sheet metal prototypes and production pieces. In this realm, electroplating and painting occupy the opposite ends of each spectrum.

Electroplating creates a very thin layer of another metal such as iridite joined to the component over the aluminum base. Continue Reading Plating vs. Painting for Finishing Sheet Metal Products

Sheet Metal Fabrication: Prototyping to Product


custom sheet metal enclosure

A custom sheet metal enclosure

Sheet metal prototyping affords engineers and project managers the ability to test their product and design prior to any manufacturing. During prototyping, they can learn about potential manufacturing inefficiencies that can cost tens of thousands of dollars on short runs and many more times more during full-scale production. A&E Manufacturing has more than 45 years of experience working with companies to produce the first pieces of their product with a streamlined sheet metal fabrication processes.

Until It’s Built, No One Will Come

There are multiple steps that come between a client submitting a design and the first part even being sent into production. It is in this first step that we can identify key cost drivers that may not be necessary for a part to meet the overall requirements. The quoting department takes the initial design and decides on the most efficient way to make the part. Using our many years of experience, our quoting department and engineers are able to dissect the part submitted and give suggestions on how to better design the part for a more cost effective production run. From shearing the material, to cutting out the initial piece with our CNC laser cutting machines or CNC Turrett Presses, to any forming done on our CNC brakes, spot welding, and the finishing of the product. All processes are taken into account and our years of experience are used to help our customers have a successful prototyping run. Continue Reading Sheet Metal Fabrication: Prototyping to Product

Choosing the Right Finish for Sheet Metal Components

Once all of the CNC turret press operations or CNC sheet metal laser cutting operations are complete, most parts will still need multiple processes in order to come to completion. One which is often overlooked by customers is the coating or finishing of the sheet metal components to fit the needs of their applications. Whether it is powder coating, liquid paint, plating or even a specified grain finish, there are significant advantages and disadvantages between each type of finish.

Painting Sheet Metal Parts

PaintingIt is important not to forget that the standard painting of sheet metal enclosures and other workpieces is still a popular option. It is less expensive than powder coating, especially for small test runs or prototypes and also can offer a thinner coat than other coating options. In addition, the use of paint can keep a sheet metal component from looking too “industrial” which can be important for consumer applications such as gardening enclosures or domestic products. It also offers a wide variety of choices in terms of matte or glossy paints and a number of colors for customers.

Powder Coating Sheet Metal Components

For projects that require thicker coatings, powder coat finishes can provide a consistent, clean finish at a relatively cost-effective price point. Sheet metal manufacturers are able to recover nearly all of the coating from overspray which helps to save money. In addition, the even application of powder means that components have few signs of horizontal versus vertical lines compared to other finishing options for sheet metal solutions. In addition, buyers have the option of matte, satin and other looks that can complement other components or match up with the environment where the piece will be used.

Anodizing and Sealing

Anodizing a sheet metal part uses a chemical reaction to harden the surface of the end product. It offers more protection against sunlight as well as dings and scratches compared to aluminum without it. In addition, for certain enclosures it can also provide protection against solvents and water without oxidation or other potential damage. Outside of CNC milling, it is the only finish that can retain the metallic look but also offers alternative colors to better match the overall design of the application where the part will be used. While the finish is harder than aluminum, the fact that the core retains the properties of the metal ensures that designs incorporating chemical tolerances will not be affected by anodization.

Plating Parts

Adding a layer of another metal through plating can improve the exterior protection for a part made with a less expensive material such as aluminum without a massive price increase. Zinc coatings can protect against rust, while chrome works to limit friction and wear. Many industrial applications may also benefit from tin plating due to the ability for sheet metal to be plated prior to milling and punching because the piece will not become brittle as a result of the plating process. There are a number of other metals that can and are used, ranging from composites and alloys to cadmium and nickel. Be sure to explain the requirements of your project to a sheet metal manufacturing company so they can help choose the right fit for your needs, and just as important, your budget.

Get Help Choosing the Finish For Your Components

There are a number of reasons to choose one type of finishing over another. However, the best way to ensure that the application matches both your needs and your budget is to consult with a sheet metal manufacturing company. ISO 9001:2008 compliant firms like A&E Manufacturing will have the data and the results to show what options best fit your needs, as well as the experience to know which finish will protect components from other pieces you will include in your final project.