ANN ARBOR — The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences’ “No-Mask Electroplating” project won first place in the “Great Ideas Competition” at SAE’s 2011 DoD Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition in Fort Worth, Texas.

The annual symposium brings together thousands of government and industry representatives to exchange ideas to improve maintenance practices and procedures.

Modernization of metal electroplating with no-mask conforming anodes is an innovative NCMS research and development project that sought to address issues around electroplating such as the extensive time it takes to mask parts, inaccuracies, inefficiencies and working with plating baths which are highly toxic. NCMS collaborated with government and industry to find a single, powerful solution to eliminate masking labor, achieve faster plating times, and improve uniformity of deposits.

“The results of this project are nothing less than astonishing,” said Bill Chenevert, NCMS Program Manager for the project. “We took this 100-year-old process and gave it a technologically advanced overhaul, saving money, time and the environment.”

The project resulted in a:
* 95 percent reduction in pre-plating part preparation
* 45 percent reduction in plating time
* 50 percent increase in plating tank capacity, improving overall throughput
* A $2.2 million immediate annual savings from the pilot parts alone

Collaborative participants on this award-winning project included the Corpus Christi Army Depot, the Fleet Readiness Center Southwest and Advanced Tooling Corp. The project was funded through NCMS’ Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities program.

The team estimates that if No-Mask Conforming Anodes were deployed across the Department of Defense, more than $50 million in savings could be realized with overall process improvement times of 35 to 50 percent.

The positive impact on the environment is also substantial. No-mask conforming anodes are fully reusable. The technology completely eliminates the mountains of tape, wax and other maskants — all of which must be disposed of as hazardous waste, where even brief exposure could lead to serious health complications.

A video outlining the project was created by the NCMS Educational Services’ team and can be found at under the multimedia tab.

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences, the largest cross industry collaborative Research & Development consortium in North America, is dedicated to driving innovation in commercial, defense, robotics and environmentally sustainable manufacturing. NCMS has over 25 years of experience in the formation and management of complex, multi-partner collaborative R&D programs, and is backed by corporate members representing virtually every manufacturing sector.  For more information on NCMS, visit

The lifesaving Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities program is a Department of Defense supported NCMS initiative that ensures American troops and their equipment are ready to face any situation, with the most up-to-date and best-maintained platforms and tools on earth.


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