The Switch to Trivalent Chrome

Microfinish has been featured in many industry articles for our award-winning service and performance. Our established powder coating and metal finishing company was recently recognized for our ecofriendly and responsible choice to switch to all trivalent chrome.

While this change took time and a real commitment, the result was a safer work environment for our employees and a safer world for everyone.

So why was a change to trivalent chrome needed? Hexavalent chromium plating was the traditional method of chrome plating for decades. It is used for many functional and decorative finishes. Hexavalent chrome plating results from submerging substrates into a hexavalent  chromium propriety solution and DC current is applied. The resulting plating resists wear and corrosion. Unfortunately, hexavalent chrome plating leaves byproducts considered hazardous waste. In fact, hexavalent chromium on its own is a known carcinogen and regulated by the EPA and OSHA.  Thus, the finishing and coating industry globally has made great strides in advancing eco-friendly finishing choices. The best alternative to hexavalent chrome plating is the use of trivalent chrome.

Trivalent chrome plating also provides the same characteristics as hexavalent chrome plating such as corrosion and wear resistance. Trivalent chrome results from the use of chromium sulfate or chromium chloride rather than chromium trioxide. This is what makes it less toxic.

We have used trivalent chromium chemistry for almost three decades, but some industries still specified hexavalent chrome for some parts. When companies that insure our St. Louis facility became more hesitant to cover our business because of our use of this product, we knew it was time to change completely to trivalent chrome.

Tim Pennington, Editor-in-Chief of Finishing and Plating Magazine, detailed Microfinish’s journey to all trivalent chrome in his September 2021 article, “After 5-Year Effort, Microfinish Goes All Trivalent Chrome.” He notes that convincing outside entities was part of the process.

As the switch to trivalent became inevitable, now came the even harder part of convincing the other two entities — the Tier 1 customer and finally the automotive manufacturer — to change their specification to allow the change from hexavalent to trivalent chrome going forward. The biggest push-back from the OEMs to go along with a hex to tri switch was a cosmetic issue: hexavalent has a blue tint, and trivalent imparts more of a silvery look to the surface.”

Other than a slight difference in color, trivalent chrome also left questions of safety, such as hardness of parts, that needed to be addressed. Pennington writes that Microfinish partnered with chemical company, Coventya, to prove that trivalent chrome performed just as well as the traditional hex chrome.

“…automotive customers seem to be a tougher nut to crack unless specifications can be changed to allow the trivalent chrome process. Coventya was the only way (we) could have managed the process because they brought in their metallurgical experts and offered data showing how trivalent chrome worked just as well.”

Microfinish is proud to use trivalent chrome in its metal plating. Since 1959, our company has served the St. Louis community and the nation in many types of finishing processes. We care about the health and wellbeing of our employees, customers and planet. It is just one more reason to feel good about your decision to utilize Microfinish for all your finishing and plating needs.  Learn more by calling us at (314) 849-8181.

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