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Nickel plating and Zinc plating are two of the most popular types of coating, especially in industries such as Automotive, Aerospace, and Defense manufacturing. Both types of plating offer excellent corrosion resistance and protection against rust and oxidation, but each has their own advantages, disadvantages, and best applications. In this article, we’ll go over both types of plating, and when they’re most often used.

Nickel Plating

Nickel plating finishes come in many colors, such as satin, pearl, and black, and have the best adhesion to aluminum alloys. It’s a versatile type of plating that can coat several types of metals besides aluminum alloys, such as copper and copper alloys, various types of steels, brass, aluminum, plastic, and titanium, but some of these materials may require special treatment first.

Because nickel deposits are slow to react in the standard atmosphere, they provide excellent corrosion resistance for many parts. However, nickel plating does not perform as well in harsh environments or applications where the parts are regularly submerged in water or exposed to corrosive conditions.

Nickel plating has several other advantages. It’s a strong finish with high hardness and excellent overall adhesion. If you know that you’ll be adding subsequent finishes to parts, such as chromium coatings, a preliminary nickel plating coat can serve as a protective undercoat. Nickel plating is also an excellent choice for components that require magnetic qualities and lubricity. Most often, it is used to coat aluminum and copper parts for rechargeable batteries, automotive fuel systems, transmission parts, braking systems, and similar applications.

Zinc Plating

Zinc plating is a strong, ductile, and corrosion resistant finish. Zinc plating has better corrosion resistance than Nickel plating, because of a process called galvanic action. Zinc plating forms a sacrificial layer that slowly corrodes before the base metal does, making it an excellent plating for particularly harsh and corrosive environments.

Zinc plating has several different color finishes as well, such as clear/white, yellow, black, and olive drab. It tends to be more cost-effective in the long run due to low material costs and longer shelf life, as well as the fact that it doesn’t require any specialized tools for applications.

Zinc can be prepared in many different bath chemistries, which allows for more customization and improved precision and aesthetics of the coating. It’s also much more environmentally friendly compared to other types of plating such as cadmium, and recyclable as well. All of these properties make zinc plating popular for applications in Aerospace, Defense, Construction Equipment, and Marine manufacturing, especially in brake calipers, pipes, and transmission components.


When choosing between zinc and nickel plating, make sure to keep in mind the environments that your parts will encounter, the costs of each, and the specific properties that your parts will need. Both have their advantages and the applications they’re best suited for, but they are both generally very versatile and excellent coatings.

Are you in need of a supplier of quality finishing solutions? Gleco Plating has one of the widest ranges of plating and finishing capabilities in the finishing industry, and we are a third-generation family business dedicated to collaborating with our community of customers and associates. To learn more about what we can do for you, contact us today!