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Surface Finishing for Magnesium

As one of the leading surface finishers in the nation, AOTCO Metal finishing is capable of working with a multitude of substrates and materials. From common metals like aluminum or nickel, to exotic materials like Inconel or Molybdenum, AOTCO can provide quality surface finishing services to a variety of substrates. One of the most notable materials we work with is Magnesium.

With over 50 years of experience plating and anodizing magnesium, we are uniquely positioned to understand and deliver exactly what advanced manufacturers require.

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What are the qualities of Magnesium?

Magnesium is a lightweight, shiny, and silver-grey metal that can be found most commonly in our Earth’s crust. Magnesium has an intriguing strength-to-weight ratio and flexibility that makes it especially useful in aerospace applications where minimizing structural weight is essential. Magnesium is also highly reactive and can tarnish if exposed to oxygen for prolonged periods of time.

Magnesium is a member of the Alkaline earth metal family, along with elements like Beryllium and Calcium. Alkaline Earth metals are silver-grey metals that are found naturally within the outermost layers of our Earth’s crust. They are low in density and weight but are highly reactive, especially to water

Magnesium as a Substrate

Magnesium and its various alloys are common structural materials for a variety of manufacturing industries. Sectors like the automotive and aerospace industries have reaped the benefits of magnesium’s excellent strength to weight and density ratios. However, Magnesium has a few key properties that can make the alkaline earth metal difficult to work with, without the proper surface finish.

Magnesium is highly reactive and therefore is extremely susceptible to corrosion over time, which can expedite the need for component maintenance or replacement. However, at AOTCO, we offer a variety of different surface finishing solutions to improve the chemical and physical strength of your Magnesium substrates.

Frequently Asked Questions

Magnesium Pretreatment
A key part of the Magnesium finishing process, or any finishing process, is its pretreatment(s). At AOTCO we have a highly skilled team of platers and engineers who are thoroughly trained in a variety of pretreatment processes. Some of the most common pretreatments for magnesium before it is finished are: 
  • Media Blasting: a popular pre-treatment cleaning process. Uses abrasive media (glass beads, sand, vapor, aluminum oxide, etc.) to clean and smoothen the surface of your substrates prior to their surface finishing process. 
  • Chemical Cleaning: If your substrates are fragile and therefore would be compromised during abrasive media blasting or have particularly difficult-to-remove chemical stains, AOTCO offers several chemical cleaning processes that effectively clean and sterilize the surface of your substrates prior to their surface finishing process. 
  • Complex Masking: Some substrates may have areas that need to avoid being plated or anodized. At AOTCO we have an extensive team of experienced maskers who are capable of masking the most complex of substrates, prior to their surface finishing process. 
  • Etching: Laser Etching can provide a crisp, clean, marking on the surface of your substrate. Etching provides high precision marking under a lightning-fast production time.  
  • Engraving: While laser etching leaves a raised mark, laser engraving “carves out” it’s marking. Laser engraving is typically used for external aesthetic or marking purposes, like applying a company logo or serial number.   
  • And more! 
Surface Finishing for Magnesium

Magnesium is commonly used as a structural material across various industries. This is mostly due to the metal’s great strength to weight ratio. While magnesium certainly has its advantages, the metal is still highly reactive and prone to corrosion and oxidation. This is where a proper surface finish comes in. Whether you are anodizing or plating, surface finishing your magnesium components provides them with a plethora of useful benefits that can improve their functionality and increase their longevity.

At AOTCO, we have over 50 years of surface finishing experience for a wide variety of substrates, including magnesium. Some of the most common surface finishing options for Magnesium are listed below:

  • Electroless Nickel Plating 
  • Anodizing
Benefits of Plating on Magnesium
An effective surface finish can provide its magnesium substrates with a slew of new physical and chemical properties that are highly sought after across a multitude of sectors and industries. Whether you are plating or anodizing your mag components, they will receive an increase in chemical and physical strength that will provide them with greater functionality and allow them to operate for longer periods of time without having to be repaired or replaced. Some of the most notable benefits of plating on Magnesium are:
  • Increased Abrasion Resistance
  • Resistance to Corrosion
  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Longevity
  • Easy Application of dyes (anodize)
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • And many more!
Note About Magnesium Safety
While the benefits of using magnesium and magnesium alloys are widely known, the alkaline earth metal can be potentially hazardous to work with. If magnesium is machined or shaved, the particles and residue released can be harmful to inhale. On top of this, when magnesium catches on fire it is extremely difficult to put out. This is because when water reacts with magnesium it separates the oxygen and hydrogen of the water molecules, only increasing the flame’s size.
Choosing the Right Magnesium Plater
When it comes to choosing a surface finisher for your magnesium components, it is essential to consider your potential finisher’s past experience working with magnesium and other exotic metals. Due to its complex nature and potentially hazardous nature, it’s best to find a magnesium plater who is diligent in following their safety procedures and is certified to provide work for your specific industry.

Luckily, at AOTCO, we provide over half a century of experience working with exotic materials like Magnesium. Our staff is highly trained and follow the most stringent of safety and quality control procedures. We are ITAR compliant, NADCAP accredited, and ISO certified, and we work with our in-house R&D team AOTCO | LABS to continue to improve our safety procedures.
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