12. Mai 2022
Manufacturing at the highest level
In May, the Solingen-based automotive supplier BIA put one of the most modern electroplating lines in Europe into operation at its main plant.
The system, known as "BIA 2", was completed after just over a year of construction and replaces one of the two older systems out of a total of four at the site. "This complete rebuilding of one of our electroplating lines will enable us to develop a completely Chromium(VI)-free process for plating of plastics at the Solingen site by 2023," explains Dr Markus Dahlhaus, Director of Technology at BIA.
Due to the requirements of the European chemicals regulation, REACh, the use of Chromium(VI) (also known as Chromium Trioxide) in the production processes will be strictly limited in the future. More than 15 years ago, long before Chromium(VI) was subject to the REACh regulation, BIA had already developed a production-proven trivalent chromium plating process as an alternative. However, Chromium(III)-based electroplating met with little response in the automotive industry at the time.
"Thanks to the pioneering work we did back then, the BIA Group is already able to offer Chromium(III) coatings in series production at all locations worldwide," attests Dr Dahlhaus. "We are one of the leading providers of this future-oriented technology and can already supply to all relevant markets." adds the Technology Director.
On the new BIA 2 plant, all components are plated using a Chromium(III) based electrolyte. In addition, the system is designed so that it can function as a production plant and pilot test line at the same time. BIA will test chrome-free pretreatment formulations here. This will be the final step in the transition to a completely Chromium(VI)-free process. "There is still no process for pre-treatment that works reliably across all component groups," explains Dr Markus Dahlhaus. However, there are already various experimental approaches that have yielded promising results.
With its state-of-the-art equipment, the new electroplating plant at BIA is also a prime example of sustainable operation and operational safety. Ultramodern air exhaust systems ensure a clean working environment and heat recovery contributes to energy-optimized operation. In addition, technology and processes are optimized to minimise the consumption of water and recyclable materials and the process baths are designed and maintained to maximise recovery of resources and minimise the impact on the environment. For this compatibility between ecology and economy, the new BIA plant received funding from the environmental innovation program of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.