An Interview with John Mulder, Master Finish

BY SCOTT FRANCIS Editor-In-Chief, Gardner Business Media

John Mulder, president of Master Finish of Grand Rapids, Mich., discusses his company’s experience with trivalent chromium and offers advice for those thinking of transitioning their current hexavalent chromium processes or adding tri-chrome capabilities.

One of the biggest issues in the metal finishing industry is the move away from hexavalent chromium-based finishing technologies. While trivalent chromium alternatives have existed for decades, hexavalent has been favored by many in the industry. Today, as trivalent chemistries improve and regulations tighten, more platers are compelled to make the switch. In this installment of On the Line, PF had the opportunity to speak with John Mulder, president of Master Finish (Grand Rapids, Mich.). Master Finish has a long history in chrome plating for decorative applications and has been using trivalent chromium for years. In the interview below, Mulder speaks about his experience with tri chrome and his advice for platers who are planning for the future by transitioning their current chromium processes or adding trivalent chromium capabilities.

Listen to the podcast here.

PF: When did Master Finish get its start?

JM: My grandfather started the business in 1959 with tumbling and deburring and then added plating in the 1960s.

PF: Master Finish has a long history in chrome processing for decorative applications. Can you talk a little bit about what you have done in the past and what you’re thinking about as regulations tighten regarding the use of hex chrome?

JM: Sure, it’s regulatory, but it’s also the demands of what the industry is sending out. So we see a lot more requirements and demand for the trivalent chromes. In the past, we’ve offered bright trivalent chromes for about 15 years, and there was a point where we had to obsolete the bath because there was just no demand for it.

I’m super pleased to say that nowadays, we’re seeing a lot more demand for that trivalent chrome and it’s been a great move for not only the environment in a larger sense, but also for the environment inside of our building and everywhere around. We leave a much lower footprint on the world when we use ecologically friendly chemistry.

The other trend that we see is toward dark chromes and dark finishes, and those are really only achieved in the chrome process using trivalent technologies. It’s an important trend for us because we offer the dark trivalent and the smoked trivalent chrome finishes.

PF: What kind of advice do you have for plating operations who are looking to change some of their processes as they prepare for what they may need to do from a regulatory standpoint and to meet some of the growing demand for tri-chrome that you mentioned?

JM:  From a regulatory standpoint, trivalent chrome has less requirements than you’ll find with traditional hexavalent chromium. You’re not required to meet MACT standards and PEL (permissible exposure limit) standards are also eliminated since trivalent chrome does not contain a carcinogen.

I recommend if you’re new to trivalent chromium to make sure you’re working well with a chemical supplier. They have lots of information on how to set up the baths, what equipment auxiliaries you’ll need. Oftentimes, you’ll need ion exchange filters, and there are different chemical titration requirements than you would have with the hexavalent chromium. You’ll want to plan for it in your budget — it’s a little bit more expensive to get started and maintain. There are some bath options that have expensive anodes t and some equipment for ion exchange units and other auxiliaries for filtration. You will need to plan for some capital expenses when converting.

Ultimately, the processing of the trivalent chrome is very similar to hexavalent chrome. It doesn’t require as much electric electrical current, so you can get more energy efficiency out of the trivalent chrome bath and you have a wider range of ability to cover parts so you can get throwing deeper into recesses and holes and other places on the surface of the part than you can with the hexavalent chromium. So there are some benefits in the processing side as well to using trivalent chromium.

I think you’ll see that the marketplace that is accepting hexavalent chromium is pretty open to trivalent chemistry being used as an alternative for them. And you’ll find that there are opportunities in places you couldn’t get in the door when you were just using the hex chrome. There’s opportunity out there and I look forward to seeing that continue to grow.

I think there are a lot of new regulatory requirements and especially in certain states in the U.S. They’re now banning the use of hexavalent chromium for decorative applications. So the time is now to do that change so that your processing doesn’t become obsolete. If there are other plating companies out there interested in a discussion on trivalent chemistry they can reach out to me via our website

Listen to the complete interview with John Mulder in an episode of PF’s On the Line podcast:






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