The Story of Plating 2 Starting from Zero
It goes without saying that Honma Golf is the golf club manufacturer that revolutionized plating technology.
All Abe had at that time was a group of empty buildings on the plant site designated as the “plating process buildings.”
He was then told to create a facility with a plating processing output capacity three times as large as the volume previously outsourced. Calculating inversely considering the capacity, the plating processing facility would require 30 long, thin, basin-like items linked together in a U shape for a total length of 20 meters. The basins were for soaking the club heads in the plating liquid, as well as for washing away impurities before and after the plating process, meaning that quite a number of them would be required for the whole process. The height of the basins was 1.4 meters.
The equipment also contained five 1.2-meter poles, each with twenty branches, in which the club heads were fastened and dipped one by one into the liquid. Together they looked like backward combs. For the plating process, they were dunked basin to basin. This meant that the ceiling of the plant had to be at least as high as the basins and the poles placed one on top of the other. In addition, there also had to be room for the motor that lifted the poles, so we wanted a total height of four meters.
The ceiling of the buildings that Abe had to work with, however, was some tens of centimeters low. Abe proceeded to lower the floor by 50 centimeters. In anticipation of the rare case that some of the plating liquid spilled from the basin, he created a solid foundation in the shape of a bowl to keep the liquid from flowing outside the building.
The equipment was then brought in, and it was time for a test run. Abe fastened a club onto the equipment, and flipped the switch to start the entire coating procedure. It would take about two hours. Abe paced around the plant, waiting and wondering, “How will it turn out?”.
The first club heads to go through the plating process at Sakata Plant had color variation. Except for the edging, the coating hadn’t covered some of the more complex parts including the cavity. “I wonder what will happen if I make the current stronger,” Abe thought, so next he upped the electrical current running through the plating liquid, re-doing the whole process. This time the edge got burned.
Next he thought of a new idea: “Let’s move he electrodes closer together.” He moved the electrode in the basins, through which a current was running, as close as possible to the electrode with the clubs attached. Because the 5 poles holding the clubs had to come down from a height of 1.2 meters, there was some shaking and wobbling before they got to the basin.
Abe and his staffs supported these with their hands and slowly placed them in the liquid, without touching the electrode in the basin, as it came close to them. This procedure resulted in complete plating. Later, in order to keep wobbling to a minimum, Abe made the electrodes thicker, completing the process of adjusting the production equipment.
Still more work was needed to commercialize the product. The club head hosel was bent at maximum until it just about broke to test whether or not the plating would come off, and the coating snapped right off with pressure. Abe wondered if the pre-plating process was insufficient, and he put the clubs through a process of pre-plating washing. At last the plating withstood the testing.
“Mass production is within our reach!” Abe was elated with his achievement. It had been four months since his assignment to the Sakata Plant.