Surface World December 2018 Surface World Magazine December 2018 - Page 24

IMF: THE INSTITUTE OF MATERIALS FINISHING A nostalgic look at the Electroplating Industry (Part Three) In my final look at my career in Electroplating, I did spend part of my working life “on the other side of the fence” when I ran the nickel and chrome department of a large plating company in Coventry, Chief chemist at a Circuit manufacturing company in the south and also in R&D at a piston ring manufacture in the south. Sadly, all these companies no longer exist, whether that is because of me or in reality a sign of modern day times. It was a different outlook on the industry than being a “rep” but what was good was being able to call in the supplier rep and put pressure on rather than the other way around. My venture into the plating company at Coventry (Montgomery Plating) was down to a good friend of mine. In my capacity as Technical Service representative for M&T, I spent quite a time there installing the nickel/iron process. These were times when the nickel market was proving to be expensive mainly due to the shortage of nickel metal and processes were springing up which replaced up to 30% of the nickel with iron. Coventry became a second home to me and I was offered a position working on the Bright Nickel and Chrome lines of which there were 2 big semi-automatic lines. The bulk of the work was tubular steel (fashion for furniture) which played havoc with the nickels causing iron build up so these baths had to be treated on a regular basis. It is not the best of purifications, but as I was now in charge of the lines I could get someone else to do the work. The other main product line was for the 22 Triumph motor cycle company which was then based down the road in Meriden. Exhausts, downpipes, stanchions, handlebars were all plated here and the finish had to be perfect. Polishing was to be of the highest standard and the parts had to be coated in duplex nickel and chrome according to the old BS spec 1224. It was good working there, but it did only last for 1 year as I was asked to go back to M&T which I did. The piston company (Wellworthy) in Lymington used M&T’s high-speed chrome solutions for all their hard chrome plating and I was asked if I would like to work in the R&D department on the development of the hard chrome for the piston rings. Hard chrome was plated onto cast iron rings which were made into a mandrel composing of many layers of rings. These were shot blasted and plated for up to 12 hours in hard chrome then removed, rinsed and ground down to size on specially adapted grinding lathes. The work was interesting and there were a few developments and modifications made to the processes which did help the final result and my time there was very enjoyable. Wellworthy did give me the opportunity to go to China. Back in 1981, China (who had just opened its doors to the West) had signed an agreement with Wellworthy for technical know-how into chrome plating. The Chinese came over to the UK to learn all about plating hard chrome and during that time took many photographs of the plants and how we operated. It was interesting because when myself and 2 others went over to China, standing and looking at the chrome plant was just like looking at one of our tanks back in the UK, they had copied them down to the last nut and bolt. China certainly was an experience and one thing I learned was that, in terms of food) you did not ask what you were eating. We spent 3 weeks in Changsha (which was where Chairman Mao was born) working with them on hard chrome and during the last week I’m afraid that I did succumb to a severe bout of dehydration ending up in a Chinese hospital. DECEMBER 2018 The hospital was interesting to say the least. I must admit that they were very kind to me and realised what the problem was, so they put me on a saline drip. This was not in your modern day collapsible plastic bottle but a glass bottle which had a special air feed to ensure that the solution was being fed to the arm. Although this slowly got me through the dehydration, the nurses and doctors in the hospital soon realised that there was an English person there and everyone kept coming around to try and see if I would teach them a few words of English. Now when you are not feeling quite the ticket, the last thing you want is people who could not speak English (and I certainly could not speak Chinese) constantly coming around, so the two words (which cannot be used here) which I would have liked to use were muttered many times under my breath. It was an interesting experience and although a distant memory still makes me appreciate the faith that Wellworthy put in me. My last employer was in Southampton and this was BICC Vero. I left Wellworthy for Vero and they were moving into a brand new factory where I was responsible for the laboratory and advising on new plant and processes. It was a good place to work and never a dull moment. At the time I was (and still am) very interested in photography. There were several other people interested so we started a photographic club which ran every alternate Monday after work. We were allowed the use of the darkroom and were never short of models when we had portrait events, I must admit that having the club did seem to bring everyone closer together and made for a good working relationship. Although Vero was great to work for it also was nearly my demise. One Thursday in October, I was working on a new black oxide process in the lab and had several small beakers of chemistry lying around. I decided to get rid of them but, because of their nature (a powerful oxidiser and chlorite based) I looked at disposing them as described by the data sheet. To cut a long story short, the chemistry was to be reduced using sodium thiosulphate and this was being carried out in the fume cupboard. twitter: @surfaceworldmag