Shining out chrome from mining

E-Clad has a wear rate that is between three to 10 times lower than commercial chrome.

LaserBond’s E-Clad solution serves as a capable replacement to hard chrome plating through its environmental superiority and longer lifespan.

Hard Chrome plating has long been the standard for protecting hydraulic cylinders against wear and corrosion attack in heavy industries such as mining.

Chrome plated hydraulic cylinder rods are used widely at mine sites, including on excavators, drills and haul trucks. Chrome is generally applied using highly toxic and energy intensive processes to provide a thin plating (0.025 millimetres to 0.25 millimetres) to protect components such as hydraulic rods from sliding wear.

For economic reasons, due to a very slow build-up of the plating, often only very thin layers are applied, which only provide minimum wear protection and which are prone to damage upon impact.

In addition, the inherent micro-cracks in chrome plating mean that such thin layers do not provide long lasting corrosion protection.

However, with miners being forced to abide to more stringent environmental, social and governance (ESG) demands, the days of chrome plating may soon be over.

Surface engineering company LaserBond recognises this and has developed E-Clad, an environmentally friendly and robust alternative to chrome plating.

E-Clad protects people and workplaces from the carcinogenic properties of hexavalent chromium (chrome), while reducing their carbon footprint with lower energy consumption in the process and extended wear life through higher abrasion, impact and corrosion resistance, meaning fewer changeouts.

LaserBond sales manager Mike Walker says E-Clad metallurgically bonds with the metal underneath to create a strong and more resistant product.

“We wanted E-Clad to replicate the functionality of chrome platings in an environmentally friendly way,” Walker tells Australian Mining.

“The E-Clad process creates a metallurgical bond by melting the chrome replacement layer into the parent material so that they are essentially one, whereas chrome just sits on the surface.”

According to Walker, regulations are being introduced across the globe to phase out chrome due to its environmental and workplace safety issues, with Australia likely to follow this trend.

This will push the mining industry to seek alternative products such as E-Clad. However, there is a strong incentive to switch to LaserBond’s solution sooner rather than later.

“If you have a cylinder and it is sliding in and out of a piston, and a rock falls and puts a crack into it, it will cut the seal in the hydraulic cylinder and oil will leak out,” Walker explains.

“The superior bonding between E-Clad and the actual component can prevent this from happening.”

E-Clad metallurgically bonds with the metal underneath hydraulic cylinders.

Hard chrome plating has thickness limitations. The wear life of chrome plated components is determined by a reduction in the dimensions of the metal underneath the plating.

This can only be replaced two to three times before the chrome plated component needs to be thrown away, but E-Clad’s metallurgical bond ensures it can be taken off and cladded as many times as required.

E-Clad has a wear rate that is between three to 10 times lower than commercial chrome.

“It had to withstand impact thrown at it, it had to stay on even during vibration and be corrosion resistant,” LaserBond national production manager Steve Halloran tells Australian Mining.

“For example, if you had acidic conditions from minerals underground that contaminate steels it had to be resistant to that.

“We don’t have a thickness restriction so nothing is thrown out, there are massive savings on carbon emissions and we can keep that item in service a lot longer.”

LaserBond has developed E-Clad to use 25 per cent less energy than hard chroming, which also enhances its environmental benefits.

The science behind E-Clad has ensured it is stronger than chrome plating, which in turn prevents accidents from occurring on a mine site that lead to unplanned downtime and in a worst-case scenario, serious injury.

“We use E-Clad for suspension rods and trucks with great success,” Walker says. “If you’ve got a truck going down a haul road in a mine site and loses hydraulic pressure because chrome has bubbled up and cut seals it can lurch down and cause an accident.

“This is an unplanned and uncontrolled movement, but the chrome bubbling wouldn’t happen with E-Clad.”

The solution can also be applied in thin applications faster than hard chroming to reduce turnaround times for mining companies.

With E-Clad’s cutting-edge qualities for miners, LaserBond’s research and development team is already looking for ways to enhance its performance even further.

“We have two different grades of E-Clad at the moment so we will continue to expand that product range and continue to research the attributes that our customers are looking for, such as hardness, wear resistance, corrosion resistance and lowering porosity,” Walker says.

“The products that we develop are great products and opening up a huge potential for development in this space – there’s a lot more we can do as we further evolve E-Clad.”

The E-Clad solution is now available for application on wearing components for mine sites across Australia through LaserBond. 

This feature appeared in the November issue of Australian Mining.

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