Chrome plating is a process of electroplating a thin layer of chromium onto metal objects. This thin layer can be used for decoration, to improve corrosion resistance, or to improve the hardness of the surface.
There are chrome alternatives that are sometimes used instead of chromium and this is sometimes referred to as chrome plating. Bright decorative items that undergo a plating process for automobiles are often referred to as chrome as well. Neither are technically associated with the chrome plating industry.
Commercial-grade chrome plating was developed at Columbia University in 1924, based on research by Dr. George J. Sargent that was published in 1920. Dr. Sargent discovered that 1 -part sulfuric acid to 100 parts chromic acid would make it possible to electroplate chromium, creating chrome plating.
Most chrome plating statistics are included in an overall electroplating market landscape.
Important Chrome Plating Industry Statistics
#1. In the United States, the overall metal plating and treating industry generates about $30 billion in annual revenues. Growth is minimal but steady, averaging 0.7% annual growth in the 5-year period that ended in 2017. (IBIS World)
#2. Over 5,700 businesses in the U.S. provide metal plating and treating services, employing over 120,000 people in direct employment opportunities. (IBIS World)
#3. Electroplating is the primary metal finishing process that is used, accounting for over 43% of total revenues in 2016. Electro-less plating is available as well, but at a much higher cost, especially when the environmental regulations of chromium plating are considered. (Grand View Research)
#4. The automotive industry is responsible for the largest revenue segment for the overall metal plating industry, generating $3.39 billion in revenues in 2016. This is due to using metal plating to protect more automotive parts than in years before, including shock absorbers, radiators, and cylinders. (Grand View Research)
#5. North America is the largest market for the chrome plating industry. When all metal plating and treatments are included, it accounts for over 32% of overall revenues. Europe is the second-largest market, accounting for 27.5% of revenues. (Grand View Research)
#6. The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is the fastest growing geographical segment for the industry, achieving a 6.3% CAGR because of increased automotive manufacturing that is occurring. Favorable policies in Thailand, India, Indonesia, and China have helped to fuel this growth as well. (Grand View Research)
#7. The chrome plating industry holds an estimated 40% share of the overall automotive electroplating market, achieving total revenues of $1.43 billion in 2015. The chrome sector is forecast to grow with an annual CAGR of 5.9% through 2022. (Grand View Research)
#8. The largest segment within the automotive category for chrome plating comes from two-wheeled vehicles. (Grand View Research)
#9. Decorative chrome plating is the most common application segment that is found in the industry today. In 2015, it was responsible for 69% of the global market, used mostly for plating exterior components on automobiles. (Grand View Research)
#10. Decorative chrome plating in North America was valued at $440 million in 2015, with the most popular applications occurring on the wheels, frame, kickstand, and headlights of vehicles. (Grand View Research)
#11. In Europe, the United Kingdom and Germany account for 35% of the automotive chrome plating market. (Grand View Research)
#12. The value of the market in the APAC region for the chrome plating industry within the automotive segment was $343.5 million in 2015. By 2025, this region is expected to overtake Europe as the second-largest market for chrome plating in the world. (Grand View Research)
#13. The global market for finishing chemicals that are responsible for metal plating is expected to achieve a value of $14.6 billion by 2022. (Global Industry Analysts)
#14. The APAC region is expected to see the highest levels of annual growth within the finishing chemicals segment, with a forecast 6.7% CAGR through the 5-year period which ends in 2022. (Global Industry Analysts)
#15. Chrome plating on plastics is expected to achieve high levels of growth as an industry segment as well. For the forecast period which ends in 2024, the plating on plastics market value is expected to meet or exceed $135 million. If achieved, this would create a CAGR of 6.5%. (Hexa Research)
#16. As more polymers are used in automobiles, chrome plating on plastics is expected to increase. As of today, polymers are used for up to 20% of the vehicle weight. (Hexa Research)
#17. Chrome-plated ABS plastic is the most common product found in the plating on plastics industry segment. It accounts for over 75% of the total revenues that are generated by this segment of the chrome plating industry. (Globe News Wire)
#18. For just three tanks operating for the chrome plating industry, the annual operation costs for heating are about $2,000. This creates up to 825 gallons of hazardous waste per year, which requires an annual disposal cost of $4,500 per year, per tank. (Western Michigan University)
#19. About 35,000 people are employed in the United States as a plating or coating machine setter or operator. They earn an average hourly wage of $16.20, which equates to about $34,000 per year. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#20. California employs the most people in the chrome plating industry, more than double the employment rate found in Ohio. Yet workers in Ohio earn an average of $1,000 more per year than those in California. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#21. The top 10% of wage earners who work as plating operators earn about $50,000 per year. The bottom 10% of wage earners make about $21,000 per year. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
#22. Plating operators that work with motor vehicle parts manufacturing earn the highest annual wages in the industry, at $37,700 per year. Those employed in the plating on plastics segment earn the least, averaging $31,700 per year. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Chrome Plating Industry Trends and Forecast
Electroplating will continue to be a dominant force for the metal plating and treating industry. The chrome plating industry, however, faces a number of challenges in the future as environmental regulations continue to restrict how and when it can be used. Since 2006, chrome plating has been forbidden from releasing fumes, dust, or mist from its operations in the United States.
There is also evidence to suggest that the sulfuric acid used for the electroplating process with chromium is a carcinogen.
Improved wastewater management techniques, combined with acid scrubbers, could help to bring the industry back to a more dominant force in the overall metal plating market. Until that occurs, the industry will treat the chrome plating market as a secondary option because of the added regulations that must be met when compared to other electroplating options.