STRATFORD, CT--(Marketwire - Mar 19, 2013) - Since the 1990s, the Department of Defense, US airlines, Canadian military and airline industries, and support manufacturers have sought environmentally friendly alternatives to hard chrome plating. Various methods have been developed, including thermal spraying, but each has had limitations, notably unsuitability for coating non line of sight (NLOS) small inside diameter bores and complex part geometries.
Over the past six years, U.S. Chrome has funded its own hard chrome alternative program. The successful result is a family of TriCom technologies. TriCom-H is a novel, patented, electroplating technology based on a composite microstructure of a cobalt-phosphorus alloy matrix with uniformly dispersed fine silicon carbide (SiC) particles. It represents a drop-in replacement for hard chrome, without environmental drawbacks, and with significant application advantages and cost savings over thermal spraying. It is in increasing demand, the result of production on the hydraulic actuating cylinders for Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, where it replaced a thermal spray coating for an NLOS inside diameter application.
"U.S. Chrome has been in hard chrome plating since 1940. We have used our vast experience to develop TriCom-H," notes Al Kertesz, Vice President of Marketing for U.S. Chrome, "The processing equipment is largely the same, but requires less energy and deposits coating two to three times faster. We are currently processing TriCom-H commercially at our Connecticut facility, but will soon be able to offer the service nationwide at all locations."
The incentives for switching are many, beginning with environmental friendliness (The EPA does not classify cobalt for carcinogenicity). The new composite offers extremely high hardness and low wear resistance. It is metallurgically sound and does not contain micro cracks characteristic of hard chrome; this feature contributes significantly to superior corrosion resistance.
Virtually all hard chrome plating applications are candidates. TriCom-H does have minor limitations. The coating's high phosphorus content makes it unsuitable for high-temperature (above 400°C/750°F) applications of stress-bearing components and it has limited oxidation resistance at those temperatures. Coating hardness can be increased by heat treatment except for a few low temperature alloys, notably aluminum.
"We are extremely bullish on the superior chemistry of TriCom-H," states Kertesz, "and we believe it will emerge as the favored hard chrome plating alternative."
U.S. Chrome is a Nadcap accredited facility and an FAA Repair Station specializing in Hard Chrome and Electroless Nickel. Coating of the internal diameter of components ranging from armament barrels to actuators is a company specialty. Difficult-to-plate applications are eagerly accepted.