Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH: Chromium(VI) goes, Chromium(III) comes

Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH (Germany) recently converted the previous chromium(VI) processes to the more environmentally friendly chromium(III) process of SurTec

Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH (Germany) recently converted the previous chromium(VI) processes in an automatic electroplating line to the more environmentally friendly chromium(III) process of the surface specialist SurTec. The new process from SurTec convinces in colour and quality and can be integrated into existing plants with little effort.

When chrome-plated fittings gleam or the handles of cupboards and doors still shine with a noble lustre even after years, in many cases it is thanks to Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH from Greiz in Thuringia, Germany. Twenty-five years ago, the company (founded in 1991) intensively expanded the field of decorative rack electroplating. Today, 45 employees are engaged in providing surfaces made of zinc die-cast, brass or steel with coatings of the highest quality. The decorative finishes not only give the components a high surface quality, but also provide protection as required - even for complex requirements. In addition to chrome plating, the product range also includes copper plating, nickel plating and gold plating, each with a glossy, pearlescent or aluminium finish.

High quality and environmentally friendly

Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH places a high value on consistently using environmentally friendly materials and processes. This includes in particular the substitution of substances that are classified as harmful to the environment and health according to the REACh regulation. This also includes chrome plating using chromium(VI) electrolytes, which is still widely used.

In order to improve the ecological compatibility of electroplating as well as the occupational health and safety of the employees and to be able to produce in compliance with the law in the future, the company has changed the chromium deposition in its electroplating line to a high-performance chromium(III) process developed by SurTec for chromium(VI) replacement. The process is especially suitable for small parts in high quantities from 1,000 components. To ensure full reproducibility of the production results at all times, all electroplating technologies are part- and customer-specific. The corresponding process parameters are documented for each batch produced.

Complete replacement for chromium(VI) processes

The consistent appearance of the deposited chromium layer was thus a decisive criterion for Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH when choosing a supplier for the conversion to the chromium(III) process. This requirement is fulfilled by SurTec 883 XT, an innovative chromium(III) process for decorative applications developed by SurTec, which is a one hundred percent chromium(VI) substitute in colour and function.

SurTec's extensive experience in the production of large series using the chromium(III) process was also convincing. SurTec made it possible for the experts of Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH, among other things, to visit an already existing chromium(III) series plant, so that they could get a practical impression of the application.

In order to integrate the process into the existing electroplating plant, the line had to be rebuilt, the old tanks removed and new electrolyte tanks for chromium deposition integrated.  Additionally, the waste water treatment had to be adapted to the chromium(III) electrolyte. The entire conversion was to be realised with as little production downtime as possible.

SurTec chromium(III) process convinces in every respect

SurTec 883 XT is an innovative chromium(III) process for decorative applications on sulphate basis, which offers a hundred percent chromium(VI) substitute in colour and function. Corrosion protection and colour properties are identical to chromium(VI) bright chrome. The process has already received several approvals from renowned companies in the automotive industry, among others.

Chromium(III) processes from SurTec are already replacing previously used chromium(VI) applications in all decorative sectors worldwide. Customers include plastic (POP) & metal coaters as well as the sanitary industry. In total, more than half a million litres of chromium(III) electrolytes are in use. SurTec's latest developments in this field include in particular chromium(III) electrolytes in all colour variations from light (L*-value 85) to dark (L*-value below 40). Furthermore, SurTec is currently working on a process to realise the pre-treatment of plastic components completely free of chromium(VI) and thus to fulfil the REACh requirements.

Compared to chromium(VI), the plating costs of the new process are higher at the beginning and stabilise in the course of using the chromium(III) electrolyte. At the same time, no energy is required for cooling and the chromium(III) process enables faster deposition as well as higher loading of the product carriers with correspondingly powerful DC sources.

Integration in just 48 hours

The new make-up with SurTec 883 XT was a complete success: Within only two days, the integration of the process with SurTec 883 XT into the previously rebuilt electroplating plant could be completed and the chromium(III) production could be started in less than 48 hours after the new make-up of the chromium(III) electrolyte. SurTec provided intensive support in order to train the employees of Spaleck Oberflächenveredlung GmbH and to teach them how to handle the chromium(III) electrolyte. The analysis is carried out by a partner laboratory in addition to the internal analysis.

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