Metal Finishing Guide Book

2013

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plating processes, procedures & solutions TRIVALENT CHROMIUM FOR ENHANCED CORROSION PROTECTION ON ALUMINUM SURFACES BY HARISH BHATT, ALP MANAVBASI, AND DANIELLE ROSENQUIST, METALAST INTERNATIONAL, INC., MINDEN, NEV. Chromate conversion coatings have been routinely applied on aluminum-based surfaces in order to improve corrosion characteristics and adhesive properties. The conventional chromate conversion coating process uses highly oxidizing toxic hexavalent chromium (Cr+6) compounds and ferricyanide. The metal finishing industry has been developing less toxic alternative coatings in order to comply with environmental regulations and substance restriction legislation, such as the European Union's Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. One promising alternative is the trivalent chromium–based environmentally friendly conversion coating. This article will describe a new trivalent chromium process for chromate conversion on aluminum with high corrosion protection, good paint adhesion, low cost, quick and simple processing, and all while meeting the stringent requirements of military specifications. It is QPL (Qualified Product List) approved by the United States Navy–Defense Standardization Program under Governing Spec MIL-DTL-81706-B. In addition, this article will outline various chromate conversion techniques for aluminum. It will address a new, environmentally friendly, cost-efficient, and performance-oriented chromate conversion coating with a unique and patented trivalent chromium pre- and post-treatment chemistry for aluminum. CHROMATE CONVERSION OF ALUMINUM Chromate conversion coatings have been used for several decades in the aerospace industry to improve the corrosion resistance of aluminum alloys. Chromate conversion coatings have also been used to passivate zinc, cadmium, copper, silver, magnesium, tin, and their alloys. Chromate coatings, similar to phosphate coatings, are processes of chemical conversion because they contain both substrate metal and depositing species. However, chromate coatings are formed by the reaction of chromic acid or chromium salt water solutions. Chromate conversion coatings usually exhibit good atmospheric corrosion resistance. These conversion coatings form an ideal substrate for paints by providing a clean, essentially inert surface, which provides optimum conditions for adhesion. The application of chromated aluminum can cover a wide range of functions. Conversion coatings can provide mild wear resistance, better drawing or forming characteristics, and may be used to provide a decorative finish. In addition, they are also ideal for pretreatment prior to organic coating. Most organic coatings applied directly to aluminum surfaces will not adhere well, and if subjected to any deformation they will tend to flake off, exposing the bare aluminum. Scratching off the paint surface would also provide a nucleation site for aluminum corrosion and further undercutting of the coating. The successful application of this conversion process requires the aluminum 341

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