Brands are obsessed. Not just with how their products look, but with how they feel.
Think of the rich texture of a leather bag. The caress of a diamond bracelet. Or the shiny new beauty of the ‘jet black’ iPhone 7 you’re holding.
And this race for visual and tactile perfection is now very public. Narrated by Jony Ive, check out this video illustrating the nine-step process behind your iPhone 7 – a slick, behind-the-scenes promotion watched by over two million people.
But surface finishes, coatings, and agents have practical benefits too. They are used to improve the durability of a product and preserve your product's perfect state while it waits patiently in your warehouse.
They can also improve safety. The scratch resistant coating on the visor of my motorbike helmet not only reduces glare but has a shelf life beyond that of the helmet itself, instead of the 3 months they used to last.
So which surface finishes do you need? How do you find the right specialist supplier? How do you structure the plating so it doesn't start changing colour while its still in your warehouse?
Thankfully, answering these questions has been my obsession for over 20 years.
Choosing the right finishing touches
I’ve been fascinated by surface finishing since my early days working with precious metal plating in the aerospace industry.
A preoccupation I carried into the world of luxury hardware where I became a hands-on expert with a range of finishes from lacquer, electrophoretic, paint, PVD, CVD, ALD and of course electroplating.
This experience enables me to help you understand the technical pros and cons of each technique tied to the real life constraints of cost, performance and compliance.
Finding the right supplier
There is a broad range of expert suppliers out there who specialise in surface finishing and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some of the very best.
Chemical and service providers like Bluclad or Conventya who
develop, manufacture and supply the specialty chemicals for surface finishing in over 40 countries and 4 continents, offering a range of options and have a wealth of experience you can tap into.
And I know these – and many others surface finishing suppliers around the world – well enough to help you select the right partner and get the best deal.
Components wired up for anodising. From images like this, it becomes clear why volume is a factor in the finishing process.
A typical, manual plating shop in China. Is your supplier using manual or automated plating?
One can add reliability to your plating the other can remove it...
What is this? Well, when you have become obsessed with surface coatings, this becomes a familiar sight. This is one example of black PVD as seen by an Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).