Electroplater

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Jonathon, 27

Jonathon can add new life to that trophy sitting on your shelf, or make the old bumper on your classic Holden look brand new again. Find out more:

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Fact file

Job description: Uses the process of electrolysis to add a new layer of metal to metallic objects to improve their resistance to corrosion or improve their appearance.

Subjects studied: Systems & Technology, Business Management, Mathematics, Technological Design & Development, and English.

Further training: Jonathon completed an Electronics Technician course at Box Hill TAFE (2 years) and a
Metal Finishing Technician course at Swinburne TAFE (30 weeks part-time).

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Profile

Jonathan is an electroplater who works for Sterling Plating Pty Ltd. Electroplating uses electrolysis or electrical current to plate a metal onto a base metal. This is done for better corrosion resistance of an article or simply for aesthetics. The company is involved in the plating of a wide range of products with metals such as nickel, brass, copper, zinc, gold and chrome. The products they work on may be chairs, tables, shop fittings, plumbing or car parts.

"My father has been an electroplater for more than 30 years, and I was always interested. So it was a natural progression for me."

"I operate a hoist on the cleaning line of the electroplating process. Before jobs go into the actual plating baths the metal must be free of grease, welding burns, rust and so on. It is my job to use a hoist to raise and lower fall-loads into the chemical baths. These baths vary from alkaline (basic) solutions to acid solutions. Some baths use electrolysis to aid the process. I also perform other tasks such as the wiring and racking of components to be plated, and stripping existing plating from items such as old bumper bars that people are restoring."

Each item that will be plated is "first polished to give it a smooth surface. It is then racked on jigs or wired with copper wire (to carry current) and put into the cleaning line. Once cleaned it will go to the nickel, copper or zinc bath depending on the required finish. Most jobs are for chrome, so after the nickel the item will be dipped into the chrome bath, taken out and the job is done."

What gives Jonathon job satisfaction

"Seeing an article come in dull and boring and watching it go out looking bright and shiny. I take pride in my work. I enjoy seeing a job from start to finish. I especially enjoy seeing old car parts come in to be stripped back to bare metal and restored to what they once were years ago".

Jonathan has some advice for school students thinking of entering this career path:

"Try to add subjects like chemistry into your course. If you are at a school with workshops for fitting and turning, electronics and so on, try to add those also. The experience there will give you a head start. To know how chemicals react under different conditions and how they can be manipulated to perform certain tasks is often amazing. I enjoy the looks I get from customers when I hand back the old tatty bar stool they brought in. They are amazed when we have finished with it. Before you know it, they bring in everything from their house that can be plated!"

Issues or challenges an electroplater faces on the job

"Obviously the main issue we face is safety. Working with such things as caustic chemicals, sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, chromic acid and cyanide, there is no room for error. Protective clothing is a must, as is concentration and a level head."

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Job specs

An electroplater coats metal parts and articles with a layer of decorative or protective metal such as copper, silver, nickel or chromium. They work for electroplating firms, car makers, anodisers, metal polishers and printed circuit board manufacturers.

Electroplaters also prepare and maintain plating solutions by cleaning, preparing and de-scaling surfaces of parts or articles with cleaning solutions such as acids or alkalis, or by using blasting cabinets. They mask areas not to be plated with waxes, lacquers or resistant adhesive tapes and place parts, either separately or in batches, in fixtures, jigs or racks, and dip them in plating solutions or use selective brush plating. They set and adjust controls to pass the required electric current between anodes and cathodes, depending on the thickness of plating required.

Electroplaters may specialise in one of the electroplating operations, such as anodising, barrel plating, metal preparation or powder coating.

Personal requirements

  • Enjoy technical activities 
  • Interested in computer programmable machinery 
  • Physically fit 
  • Strength to handle materials, tools and machines 
  • Good hand-eye coordination 
  • Able to work in a team 
  • Able to work independently 
  • Patience 
  • Accuracy 
  • No skin or breathing allergies

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).

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