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In the UK,aparticular growth area for electroplating is in the medical prosthetics sector.Hip, knee and whole limb replacements are heavily dependent on the precision surface finishing of metals such as titanium, platinum and rhodium.

The development of more sophisticated and specialised electroplating processes for niche industries has brought about a major change in the structure of companies supplying the industry.Until the 1980s, the surface finishing

systems and modern rectifiers are delivering far more reliable current densities to ensure consistent results.

Recycling of redundant plant and machinery

The restructuring of the industry has created alarge number of redundant electroplating plants and ancillary equipment that need to be put to good use. Just as legislation requires the safe recycling of chemicals, waste water etc., there is also aduty of care to the environment in relation to the de- commissioning and recycling of complete process plants.

Developing countries such as India, Brazil, South Africa and Turkey are emerging markets for recycled

This general purpose electroplating facility was relocated from the Republic of Ireland to Pakistan for use by alarge manufacturer of fasteners

requirements of Britain’s manufacturing and engineering sectors were largely served by electroplating sub-contractors (otherwise known as ‘jobbing shops’) that dominated the industry.The decline of heavy engineering throughout the 1980s and 90s saw aparallel downsizing of electroplating sub-contractors, with many disappearing altogether.

As the UK economy has moved towards more high end and specialised manufacturing,such as the hugely successful Formula One industry,many bespoke and confidential metal coating processes have moved in-house. Today’s electroplating operations are more likely to feature clean room environments populated by people in white coats, with correspondingly safe and efficient working practices.

Modern plants include computer controlled automation of product transportation, chemical dosing,pre- treatments and other critical process stages. PLC controls are replacing manual


electroplating plants. At Riley Surface World, we are seeing an increased demand for used process

plants both at home and overseas.

Agood example is this fully automated barrel acid zinc plating plant (pictured) that was de-commissioned in the UK, shipped to Durban, South Africa and re- assembled there for inline production. The client, one of South Africa’s largest plating specialists, enjoyed the benefits of a modern, efficient European plant at a fraction of the cost of having it built locally from scratch.

Another recent development is the adaptation of used electroplating plants for different applications within the UK. Wettreatment lines are relatively easy to re-design and re-configure, sometimes with the introduction of transportation, heating and PLC controls to an outdated manual plant.

There are two good examples of this. Firstly,aprecious metal plating plant (pictured) which was sold, relocated and converted to zinc plating for aglobal remanufacturer of automotive parts in a

SURFACEWORLD january 2013

different part of the country.Secondly,we assisted an Irish company,byauction, to exit electroplating and to sell and relocate two modern electroplating plants (pictured) to alarge manufacturer of fasteners and die castings for the automotive industry in Pakistan.

Even effluent treatment plants can be subjected to the resale and recycle process. Our company recently carried out the sale of asubstantial K-Pack dissolved air flotation facility (pictured) from the paper industry to the oil industry in the UK.

There has been much speculation in recent times about paint and powder coating overtaking electroplating as the metal coating process of choice for many companies. Whilst this may be viable for lots of products, there is no substitute for the fine layers of coating and the range of quality finishes that electroplating can achieve. As anew industrial revolution takes shape in the re-balancing of the UK economy back towards manufacturing and exporting,electroplating is once again coming into its own, in ways which the Elkington brothers could hardly have predicted.

Part of aK-Pack dissolved air

flotation plant recently acquired from the paper industry by an oil company

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