PLATING PLASTIC CONNECTORS

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PLATING THE UN-PLATEABLE PLASTIC PBT CONNECTORS

How determination and innovation laid the foundation of metal finishing on uncommon substrates at INCERTEC

Deutsch Automotive Group, a California-based connector company, was creating connectors for the power module in Renault’s new electric automobile the Fluence Z.E. This connector was made of PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) a thermoplastic polymer often used by engineers and manufacturers for its high strength, heat resistance, electrical insulation, and chemical resistance properties. Thus, creating a durable cost-effective product without compromising performance.

All that remained was for Deutsch to make the PBT connector electrically conductive by adding a layer of metal. Even though a few companies in Europe had meager success in plating PBT, it was (and still is) widely acknowledged as “non-plateable” by US metal finishing companies who routinely plated composite materials.

PLATING ON PLASTIC

A plating shop in Fridley, MN was eager to take on this challenge. Established in 1993 as Spec plating and newly renamed INCERTEC to reflect the company’s dedication to innovation, certifications, and technical abilities, INCERTEC was determined to prove out its new name.

Product development manager Jerrid Matson and INCERTEC’s onsite chemists got to work testing different forms and combinations of pre-treatment on the PBT substrate. Solidifying this process was imperative to the success of the entire project. Creating an initial bond by increasing pore sites in the base material enables it to receive the proprietary chemistry and become seeded, creating the metallization layer. Once a part has been metalized, it is no different than any other non-ferrous or ferrous metal and could be plated with typical electrolytic or electroless plating processes.

SELECTIVE PLATING

Adhesion of the metal plating to PBT connectors was not the sole obstacle INCERTEC had to contend with. The team had to selectively plate and define demarcation lines where the substrate was to remain untouched by the metallization process. Custom rubber masking molds were procured with the intent to mask off specific areas efficiently and effectively, but the masking molds could not create a strong enough seal to prevent the plating from leaking into the undesired areas.  INCERTEC had to reallocate internal resources to hand mask the plated PBT connector resulting in a heavily involved multi-step process cycling with pretreatment and post finishing.

SOLUTIONS BASED RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT

Weeks went by as the research and development team frequently put in 14-hour days testing and fine-tuning processes and determining the best method for the selective plating. Days were long, but spirits were high as the team continually moved closer to success, driven by the internal motivation to prove to Deutsch and themselves that INCERTEC had the quality and the expertise with plating on plastic to tackle a seemingly impossible feat. Within 3 months of taking on this Goliath of a project, INCERTEC was successfully plating the un-plateable PBT.

A PROCESS PROVEN

By early May 2011 INCERTEC proved out the process with continued success and received its first skid of Deutsch connectors. This was the first full-volume project INCERTEC had seen. Everyone came together as a team to accomplish the unprecedented high volume, repetitive work. The workflow was then simplified to a dedicated plating line style process. Creating easy-to-understand work instructions and training with the ability to pull in more resources, while still creating repeatability.

By late 2011, INCERTEC transitioned the Deutsch plating operations to its new state-of-the-art metal plating facility in Empalme Sonora Mexico and continued plating PBT connectors until Deutsch was bought out by TE in April 2012.

We took something that said it couldn’t be done in the US, and inside of 3 months it was being run by people who had no idea how difficult what they were doing actually was.

-Jerrid Matson looking back on the successful endeavor.

THE TECHNICAL ABILITY OF INCERTEC

Since the plating of the first Deutsch connectors, INCERTEC has continued to increase its capability of plating on unique substrates like composites, magnets, and ceramics. If you have any questions about how we can help you solve a plating challenge, contact us today to learn more!

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What is Fluorescent Dye Penetrant Testing: Why Utilize It?

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While this inspection method is relatively simple, fluorescent dye penetrant testing expedites the testing of non-porous materials. we can effectively identify any flaws in your part without using harsh chemicals or substances that may damage its functionality.

In addition to its non-destructive qualities, fluorescent dye penetrant testing provides:

  • Faster identification of flaws in the material: This process makes the flaw indication much larger than the flaw itself. This makes it possible to identify flaws that are not visible by the naked eye, such as those smaller than 0.08 mm.
  • High reliability for flaw detection: There is a high level of contrast between the flaw indication and the background material with this process.
  • A testing solution for a wide range of materials: It’s possible to use this method for   metallic, non-metallic, magnetic, and electrical insulator materials.
  • An effective way to test large amounts of material: The simplicity of fluorescent dye penetrant testing means that it streamlines the inspection process.

ADDITIONAL ADVANTAGES OF FLUORESCENT DYE PENETRANT TESTING

Identifying flaws in a part eliminates the possibility of having to scrap it further down the line in production. We take a proactive approach to inspection to enhance the predictability of your operations. When you can be sure that your part is not hiding any flaws, you can be certain that it will work the way you expect.

Testing to these standards requires experience and a familiarity with the industries that demand near perfection in their parts. INCERTEC assures quality for those in aerospace, medical and other industries that need a surefire plating solution.

FLUORESCENT DYE PENETRANT TESTING SERVICES

At INCERTEC, we provide services with the utmost transparency for our customers. If you have any questions about our ASTM E1417 fluorescent dye penetrant service testing standards or how we can help you solve a plating challenge, contact us today to learn more!

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How to scale production with a dedicated plating line

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Dedicated Plating Line Services

The Ultimate Partnership

Metal finishing is a service industry charged with turning customer parts quickly and accurately. But what happens when a metal finisher hits capacity constraints? Or worse, encounters quality issues that snag a whole project?

What is the plating line process?

Line plating is the practice of depositing metal alloys onto a metallic surface through a process of chemical baths. Most plating baths have an electrical current to coat the metal. Other plating baths have no electrical current, known as an autocatalytic chemical process. The parts move from bath to bath through means of automated machinery or by hand by a plater. Once the parts have gone through the plating line process, a new layer of metal coats the part. This new layer of metal preserves the substrate, increasing the corrosion resistance. Electrical conductivity may also change depending on the chosen deposited metal.

Most finishing shops attempt to capture a diverse customer base by catering to many industries, building an inventory of standardized tooling and one-size-fits-most technology. This mentality is not suited for high volume, repeatable work. Creating repeatable, high-quality results, requires the equipment to remain dialed in to precise specifications. This can be accomplished with a dedicated plating line process.

What is a dedicated plating line?

A dedicated plating line uses the plating line process but is designed, planned, and equipped to only run a customer’s specific part or part family within a plating shop. Simply put, finishing tanks and equipment are designed for a single customer at their disposal, including dedicated labor.

The customer controls what, when, and how much goes through the line. When parts are outsourced for plating, the metal finisher dictates the price and lead time based on information from the purchase order and print. The lead time can also vary depending on the finisher’s backlog and available labor.

A dedicated line can be designed around meeting price targets, lead times, quality requirements, line contamination and FOD.

When considering a dedicated plating line, it is important for the customer to reflect on what organizational goal and competitive advantage is being accomplished through the dedicated line. What is important to the organization?

When are dedicated plating lines appropriate?

Dedicated plating lines are scale driven. Most plating companies cannot handle a large daily increase in capacity and still effectively serve its customer base. A dedicated plating line comes with all the benefits of vertically integrating, minus the day-to-day headaches.

Many manufacturers prefer to focus on their core competencies with no desire to vertically integrate the metal finishing operations. Others lament the amount of overhead frequently wasted on additional quality and purchasing efforts from outsourcing metal finishing to multiple vendors while attempting to meet their customer’s lead times. A dedicated line solves both.

Disadvantages of Vertically Integrating Metal Finishing

Vertically integrating metal finishing has a high barrier to entry. Waste treatment and disposal, EPA regulations, skilled labor, special certifications (NADCAP, ITAR, AS9100, ISO 9001) are all expenses and responsibilities that cannot be ignored.

Vertically integrating involves a certain level of risk. For example, plating facilities are notorious for starting on fire. It is one thing to bring down a plating operation, but it is detrimental if it brings down the rest of the manufacturing process.

Questions to Ask Before Creating a Dedicated Line

There are a few circumstances to consider when talking about dedicated plating lines.

  • What is the longevity of the project?
  • Is this existing work that has been running for years and will likely continue for years to come?
  • Is this work a new part or part family that could run for several years?
  • Does it make sense to the bottom line?

Dedicated plating line services come with a price tag and need to generate a certain level of sales per square foot while meeting customer price targets to make sense. The ROI should benefit everyone involved.

INCERTEC PLATING LINE SERVICES

The goal at INCERTEC is to always have the space and capacity open for dedicated plating lines.  INCERTEC has grown significantly based on this principle of partnership. Partner with us and we will work with you to find the best solution.

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Electroplating In Mexico

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INCERTEC’s facility in Empalme, Sonora, Mexico specializes in metal plating and finishing services for the aerospace, electronic, medical device industries. The location also acts as a general job shop for metal plating.

By working with INCERTEC, one of the top providers of industrial electroplating in Mexico, aerospace companies currently producing in Mexico are able to avoid shipping parts north for metal finishing processes, and then shipping them back to Mexico for final assembly. This vertical integration can lower their manufacturing costs and allow them to grow their business more profitably.

INCERTEC is committed to bringing the most sought-after commercial electroplating services to Mexico. In addition to Nadcap, ISO and other certifications, we’re pursuing approvals for Bombardier, Embraer, Cessna, Beechcraft projects. The facility is also certified in non-destructive testing (NDT), a highly valuable technique that can save both money and time in product evaluation, troubleshooting, and research. INCERTEC has increased its technical staff to ensure consistency and quality between its U.S. and Mexico, and there is close alignment in operations between the two facilities.

LEARN MORE ABOUT INCERTEC’S OPERATION IN MEXICO:

Industry Week profiles INCERTEC and their Mexico operation, “By adding this location, we can provide manufacturers doing business in Mexico the same consistency, quality and delivery provided by our U.S. location.”

As the aerospace industry ramps up to fulfill pent-up demand, Empalme, Mexico is emerging as the site of a leading cluster of suppliers and service suppliers including INCERTEC.

INCERTEC launches the company’s new operation in Empalme, Mexico, offering metal plating and finishing for the Aerospace industry in Mexico.

INCERTEC partners with The Offshore Group to bring highly-engineered custom plating solutions to Empalme Mexico.

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RoHS Compliant

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INCERTEC provides RoHS compliant finishes.  The RoHS directive aims to restrict certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronic and electronic equipment. RoHS is also related to the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive, developed as part of a legislative initiative to solve the problem of large amounts of toxic e-waste through setting the collection, recycling, and recovery targets for electrical goods.

 

what substances are tested for with RoHS Compliant components?

Any RoHS compliant component is tested for the presence of

Lead (Pb)
Cadmium (Cd)
Mercury (Hg)
Hexavalent chromium (Hex-Cr)
Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB)
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)

What is allowed for RoHS Compliance?

For Cadmium and Hexavalent chromium, there must be less than 0.01% of the substance by weight at raw homogeneous materials level.  Lead, PBB, and PBDE must be no more than 0.1% of the material when calculated by weight at raw homogeneous materials. Any RoHS compliant component must have 100 ppm or less of mercury and the mercury must not have been intentionally added to the component. However, some military and medical equipment may be exempt from RoHS compliance.

INCERTEC finishes available for ROHS compliance

Anodize
Copper
Electroless Nickel
Electrolytic Nickel
Gold
Silver
Tin
Bismuth Tin
Zinc Nickel
Passivate
Chromate Conversion*
Electropolish

*Note that the availability of RoHS Compliance for chromate conversion treatment is dependent on spec requirements and type of chromate.

Please identify your need for RoHS compliance on your orders and we will likewise note compliance on our material certification. Such certification will be stamped to identify the products as RoHS compliant.

 

INCERTEC Environmental Policy

As a metal finisher INCERTEC is committed to regulatory compliance, continual improvement and prevention of pollution to ensure that we are doing our part in protecting the environment.

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Anodized Aluminum vs. Stainless Steel Corrosion: How Are They Different?

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Anodized aluminum products are everywhere. From the carabiners on your backpack to the iPhone in your pocket, this electrolytic anodic process is a practical method for manufacturers looking to make their aluminum stronger so it lasts longer in high-pressure situations. The anodized layer of protection resists corrosion and minimizes the impact of blunt forces and scratches.

Another metal that’s manufactured to last longer is stainless steel. This versatile metal thrives in hygienic environments. Medical equipment and cookware need to be durable but easily sterilized so it’s safe to use repeatedly. That’s why manufacturers often turn to stainless steel as their material of choice.

Both anodized aluminum and stainless steel are great options when corrosion-resistance is paramount. But they both offer different qualities depending on the part you’re creating. Anodized aluminum is a third of the weight as stainless steel making it great for aircraft. However, the strength and thermal properties of stainless steel make it the preferred metal for modern buildings.

One of the main differences between the metals is how they corrode, which is an important consideration to make before manufacturing any part.

See Our Anodize Capabilities

How Aluminum and Stainless Steel Corrode Differently

While stainless steel is known for being corrosion-resistant, when it’s paired with other elements, it can respond differently when exposed to corrosive environments. That’s why stainless steel comes in different grades to protect itself given the application. Here are the ways stainless steel can be threatened by corrosion.

  • Pitting corrosion: This localized corrosion occurs when the environment contains chlorides.
  • Crevice corrosion: This occurs when there is a low amount of oxygen and a buildup of chlorides.
  • Galvanic corrosion: This type of corrosion happens when dissimilar metals are in contact with the same erosive force such as rain or condensation.
  • Stress corrosion cracking (SCC): Mainly an issue for austenitic stainless steel, SCC is when a crack grows on the surface of the steel.
  • Intergranular corrosion: Also known as an intergranular attack (IGA), this corrosion occurs when the steel has been continuously exposed to heat between 800 and 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. This type of corrosion begins inside the steel.

Aluminum alone does corrode, but it doesn’t rust like steel. Aluminum is most susceptible to galvanic and pitting corrosion.

Galvanic corrosion occurs when aluminum comes in contact with a precious metal such as steel and copper. Instead of creating rust, the aluminum will break down resulting in a dull appearance.

Pitting corrosion also impacts the appearance of aluminum more than its functionality. This type of corrosion happens when chlorides are present in the environment. Pitting can also happen when the aluminum is exposed to environments beyond the 4 to 9 pH range. The more basic or acidic the environment, the faster aluminum will break down. Concrete, for example, has a pH value of around 12.5 and 13.5. This creates extreme pitting corrosion on aluminum.

Anodizing aluminum will help protect the metal from wearing down and corroding quickly in these difficult environments where exposure to harmful elements are imminent.

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How to Anodize Aluminum

Aluminum anodizing is a controlled electrochemical process in which an oxide (anodic) layer is chemically built on the surface of the metal. This oxide layer acts as an insulator and can be dyed in a wide variety of colors.

Anodizing provides surface corrosion protection along with an excellent substrate for decorative finishes. The hardness of the aluminum is increased to a hardness of 48 to 55 on the Rockwell C scale. Unanodized aluminum has a Rockwell hardness of 38 to 44.

Hardcoat anodizing is a highly abrasion-resistant, non-conductive aluminum oxide (Al2O3-xH2O) coating that makes an aluminum surface harder than tool steel due to greater thickness and weight than conventional anodic coatings. Anodic coatings form an excellent base for dry film lubricants, Teflon, paint, and adhesives. The hardness of the aluminum is increased to a hardness of 60 to 70 on the Rockwell C scale.

How to Stress Relieve Aluminum

The stress-relieving temperature is normally between 550 and 650°C for aluminum parts. Soaking time is about one to two hours. After the soaking time, the components should be cooled down slowly in the furnace or in air. A slow cooling speed is important to avoid tensions caused by temperature differences in the material, this is especially important when stress relieving larger components.

If necessary, stress relieving can be performed in a furnace with protective gas to protect surfaces from oxidation. In extreme conditions, vacuum furnaces can be used.

Can You Anodize Stainless Steel?

The oxide layer added to aluminum during the anodizing process has the inverse effect on steel and ultimately creates rust. While you can anodize steel, it would do more harm than good.

What you can do to stainless steel to make it more corrosion resistant is use a process called plating or conversion coating. This type of metal finishing helps protect the steel in corrosive environments so it holds together during regular, high-impact use.

How Does Corrosion Occur Between Anodized Aluminum and Stainless Steel?

When joined together in a similar environment, corrosion can occur between anodized aluminum and stainless steel. Localized corrosion occurs because the oxidation of aluminum during the anodizing process makes it passive. The oxidation can dissolve when it contacts strong acid or alkaline solutions. The removal of this oxide film starts the corrosion of the aluminum.

Another risk is when the anodized aluminum and stainless steel are in contact. Alone, aluminum is an unnoble metal and if it comes in contact with a noble metal, such as stainless steel, galvanic corrosion can occur. Theoretically, this will happen if the anodized layer cracks after continuous pressure. The “unlayered” aluminum will be directly exposed to a large area of stainless steel, resulting in rapid corrosion.

While anodized aluminum and stainless steel offer stronger corrosion-resistance than most metals, they can still be exposed over time. And when put together, corrosion can still occur. If you have any questions about anodizing or how you should finish your metal part, our team is more than happy to help you through the process. If you now know what you need, our team is ready to start the anodizing or other metal finishing process.

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Green Initiatives

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The leadership of INCERTEC has been pivotal in forming a comprehensive plan to become an environmentally-friendly plating company.

Green initiatives influence virtually all aspects of INCERTEC’s business practices, from corporate offices to facility floor, to storage rooms. These initiatives are core to our philosophy of operating an innovative, certified, and technology-driven environmentally friendly plating company. INCERTEC works with independent consultants, as well as state and federal entities on an ongoing basis to reduce waste, recycle products and materials, and improve asset recovery.

Through recent business expansion, INCERTEC has increased process capabilities by 500% while reducing the need for natural resources through different innovations such as our water recycling system and replacing of fluorescent lighting. In our commitment to prevent pollution INCERTEC strives to produce plating finishes of the highest quality while reducing the need for natural resources and protecting land and waterways.

INCERTEC reduction efforts include

  • Reducing our carbon footprint by ongoing replacement of fluorescent lighting with LED lighting
  • Recycling 100% of our rinse water
  • Reducing our water usage by 50% while increasing our process capabilities by 500%
  • Recycling of scrap and unused metals
  • Actively using timers on manufacturing equipment to reduce energy consumption
  • Taking proactive maintenance steps to keep our equipment running at maximum efficiency
  • Continuous improvement of recycling programs and reduction efforts
  • Continuous waste reduction efforts

INCERTEC Environmental Policy

INCERTEC is dedicated to environmental improvements that foster a sustainable future and lead to social and economic improvements in the communities in which we do business.

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Incertec Voted One of the Top Finishing Shops in North America

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INCERTEC prides itself on doing quality work as efficiently as possible. Recently, we were rewarded for our efforts when we were listed in Product Finishing magazine’s “Top Shops of 2018” list. This is an incredible honor that says a lot about the present and future of INCERTEC and our processes. Learn more about what designated us as not only one of the top finishing shops in Minnesota, but one of the best metal finishing shops in North America.

About the Honor

Receiving a designation as one of the top finishing shops in North America by Products Finishing magazine is a great honor, and being named one of the best electroplating companies means you have a commitment to innovation and quality. Everyone on the list is dedicated to coming up with new ideas and solutions, which benefits customers and the plating and finishing industry in general.

How It Was Determined

Products Finishing magazine conducts an extensive benchmarking survey in order to compile their list. The magazine partners with Gardner Intelligence, and the Top Shops Benchmarking Survey generates data that is designed to help shop owners increase efficiency and productivity in their shops. Hundreds of finishing companies are analyzed and graded in multiple areas, including:

  • Finishing Practices and Performances
  • Current Finishing Technology
  • Training and Human Resources
  • Business Strategies and Performances

Once all the grades are given, the shops that scored in the top 50 are given the honor of being placed in the magazine.

What This Means for the Future

Innovative. Certified. Technical. Not only do these three words make up the INCERTEC name, but they also make up three of our core values. We use our relationships with people in the industry to engineer new solutions for challenging projects. Not only does being named a “Top Shop” show consistent performance, but it also shows a commitment to quality on each and every finishing and plating job.

The future is bright at INCERTEC. We have established ourselves as one of the fastest growing metal finishing shops in North America, and we don’t plan on slowing down. We are making strides towards the future as we continue settling into our new state-of-the-art facility. This facility allows us to have more automation within our processes and use all of the newest technology and equipment to create better solutions.

This is a great honor for INCERTEC, but it doesn’t mean we are going to rest on our accomplishments. Recognition like this only further motivates our team to come up with new and innovative solutions for your metal finishing and electroplating needs. We are more committed than ever to provide you with the best services possible and to get you the results that you deserve.

Are you ready to work with one of the top electroplating and metal finishing shops on the continent? Contact INCERTEC today!

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A Custom Engineered Gold Plating Solution For The Oil Industry [Case Study]

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Incertec is committed to finding the best solutions for our customers no matter how challenging the task. We specialize in highly precise gold plating and work closely with customers on each project until we deliver the exact result needed.

Read our case study below about plating for the oil industry to see a specific example of this dedication in action.

Project Outline & Needs

A long-term partner in the oil industry needed a custom plating solution for a very specific part.

The problem they faced was needing precision gold plating for a very selective area on a part that also needed to be moisture resistant and durable.

The part they were currently using didn’t have optimal longevity, so they reached out to us because of our familiarity with their industry and our proven ability to deliver on results for them.

The Design Process

This was a new challenge for both the customer and Incertec at the time, so we collaborated closely on the first iteration throughout the design, trials, and production phases.

The O-rings on previous versions would wear down over time and not tighten and seal as well as we liked, so we went into a redesign phase and selected a different material to increase the longevity.

Masking off all other areas of the part from the plating solution was a very intricate process, so we not only custom engineered a masking solution for the part but also designed reusable masks.

Conclusion

We successfully developed a reliable, reusable masking and plating solution that our customer was 100% satisfied with.

To start work on your own custom plating project, contact us today and begin the conversation.

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What Does Incertec Mean?

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The Meaning Behind the Name INCERTEC

Incertec – Innovative – Certified – Technical

Incertec prides themselves on being a leader in the metal finishing industry, but how do they stay ahead of the competition? Every business decision is made with three words in mind: Innovative, Certified, and Technical. As a company, they find new ways to plate the toughest projects, in the most challenging industries, and does it over and over again.

Innovative

Through solid relationships with customers, vendors, and channel partners Incertec works to engineer solutions for new and challenging finishing projects. They partner with their customers and provide engineered solutions by:

  • Creating chemistries for unique finishing projects that are not typically available at other shops
  • Developing all new processes for uncommon materials
  • Finding solutions for challenging masking projects

When it comes to the most unique pieces or processes Incertec never backs down from a challenge.

Certified

Certifications provide peace of mind and a guarantee to Incertec’s customers of consistent performance. They have completed the requirements for:

  • National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (NADCAP)
  • AS9100
  • ISO 9001
  • International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR)
  • License (FFL)
  • Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)

These certifications are hard proof of their commitment to quality on every job. As they move into their new facility they have been diligent in updating their certifications to guarantee a smooth transition for all clients.

Technical

The medical and aerospace industries require that Incertec retains all documents electronically. Every part and process at Incertec is documented to the standards of NADCAP so they can deliver consistent and traceable results every time.

Beyond industry requirements, Incertec’s brand new, state-of-the-art facility offers consistent chemistry, and more automation throughout the process than before.

To ensure their consistency Incertec employees a host of specialists and equipment to ensure that every piece that leaves their factory is of the highest quality.

Through their innovative methods, certified processes and technical abilities Incertec looks forward to partnering with their customers to provide solutions to any of their finishing needs.

If you have a new or unique projects that you are struggling to find a plater that can meet your requirements or provide the finishes that you are looking for contact us, or request a quote.

 

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Start Your Project with Us

As a leading spec plating and metal finishing company, INCERTEC is capable of handling challenging projects that require a high level of critical detail.

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