Protective Coatings: Common Surface Finish Treatments for Magnesium Alloy Components



Magnesium, renowned for its low density, high specific strength, stiffness, shock absorption, electromagnetic shielding, and recyclability, finds extensive applications in aerospace, automotive, and electronic product shells. Despite its significant advantages, the development of magnesium alloys has been hindered by their susceptibility to corrosion, particularly in humid and coastal environments. To address this challenge, extensive research has been conducted to enhance corrosion resistance and extend the service life of magnesium alloy components.


Increasing the corrosion resistance of magnesium alloy will control the composition of the magnesium and form a uniform structure. However, this protection procedure often needs surface treatment. It needs every surface treatment to obtain a self-protective passive film. So far, multiple surface treatments applied to the surface protection of magnesium alloy can change its properties, expand its application fields, and extend its service life. We will address several common surface treatments of magnesium alloy in the following pages.


Common Surface Finishes for Magnesium Alloy Components


1.       Electrophoretic Deposition (E-Coating):

  • Process Principle:
    • Electrophoretic deposition is a coating process where charged particles in a suspension are attracted to an oppositely charged workpiece submerged in the suspension, forming a uniform and dense coating on the surface.
  • Advantages:
    • High Coating Uniformity: E-coating provides a highly uniform and consistent coating on the surface of the components.
    • Good Corrosion Resistance: It offers good corrosion protection to the coated components.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Process Complexity: E-coating involves a relatively complex process and requires specialized equipment and control.
    • Higher Cost: The cost of e-coating can be higher compared to some traditional coating methods.


2.       Spray Coating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Spray coating involves applying a coating material in a spray form onto the surface of the components. Various spraying devices, such as air spray guns or airless spray guns, can be used for this process.
  • Advantages:
    • Simplicity and Speed: Spray coating is a relatively simple and efficient process compared to some other coating methods.
    • Suitable for Large Surfaces: It can be applied to large surface areas and components with complex shapes.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Limited Coating Uniformity: The coating uniformity achieved through spray coating may be lower compared to some advanced coating methods.
    • VOC Emissions: Certain coatings used in spray applications may contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), requiring careful handling.


3.       Anodizing:

  • Process Principle:
    • Anodizing involves the electrochemical oxidation of the magnesium surface to form a protective oxide layer. The process is typically carried out in an electrolyte solution with the magnesium component serving as the anode.
  • Advantages:
    • Improved Corrosion Resistance: Anodizing enhances the corrosion resistance of magnesium components.
    • Increased Hardness: The resulting oxide layer increases the hardness and wear resistance.
    • Various Color Options: Anodizing allows for a range of color choices.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Sensitivity to High Temperatures and Acids: Anodized coatings may degrade in extreme temperature or acidic environments.
    • Higher Cost: Anodizing can be more expensive compared to some coating methods.


4.       Conversion Coating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Conversion coating involves the chemical treatment of magnesium surfaces to create a thin, protective layer. This layer improves corrosion resistance and provides a base for subsequent coatings.
  • Advantages:
    • Good Corrosion Resistance: Conversion coatings offer effective corrosion protection.
    • Enhanced Adhesion: Improved adhesion for subsequent coatings or paints.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Generally Less Effective Than Anodizing: Conversion coatings may not provide the same level of corrosion resistance as anodizing.
    • Lower Cost: Conversion coating methods are often more cost-effective.


5.       Chemical Conversion Coating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Chemical conversion coating, such as phosphating, involves the chemical reaction between magnesium surfaces and a solution containing a metal phosphate compound.
  • Advantages:
    • Good Corrosion Resistance: Provides effective protection against corrosion.
    • Improved Coating Adhesion: Enhances the adhesion of subsequent coatings.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Sensitivity to Specific Environments: May perform less effectively in certain environmental conditions.
    • Some Limitations in Applicability: Not suitable for all situations.


6.       Electroless Nickel Plating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Electroless nickel plating is a chemical deposition process where a nickel-phosphorous alloy is deposited onto the magnesium surface without the need for an external electrical current.
  • Advantages:
    • High Corrosion and Wear Resistance: Provides excellent protection against corrosion and wear.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Potential Environmental Impact: The plating process may involve the use of environmentally sensitive chemicals.
    • Higher Cost: Electroless nickel plating can be more expensive.


7.       Hot-Dip Coating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Hot-dip coating involves immersing magnesium components into a molten metal bath, typically zinc or aluminum. The molten metal adheres to the magnesium surface, forming a protective coating upon cooling.
  • Advantages:
    • Effective Corrosion Protection: Hot-dip coatings provide reliable corrosion protection.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Potential Dimensional Changes: The process may lead to slight changes in component dimensions.
    • Some Processing Complexity: Hot-dip coating involves specific processing steps.


8.       Powder Coating:

  • Process Principle:
    • Powder coating is a dry finishing process where a finely ground powder, typically a polymer resin, is electrostatically sprayed onto the magnesium surface. The coated component is then cured to create a durable finish.
  • Advantages:
    • Durable Surface: Powder coating results in a robust and resistant surface.
    • Various Color Options: Offers a wide range of color choices.
    • Environmentally Friendly: Generally does not involve solvents, making it environmentally friendly.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Higher Curing Temperatures: May require elevated temperatures for curing.
    • Potential Impact on Precision Components: Some precision components may be affected.


9.       Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD):

  • Process Principle:
    • PVD involves depositing thin films onto magnesium surfaces through physical processes such as sputtering or evaporation. This can include coatings like titanium nitride or chromium.
  • Advantages:
    • Enhanced Hardness and Wear Resistance: PVD coatings improve hardness and wear resistance.
    • Good Adhesion: Thin films exhibit excellent adhesion to the substrate.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Higher Cost: PVD can be costlier compared to some other coating methods.
    • Material and Geometry Limitations: Applicability may be limited based on material and shape.


10. Ceramic Coatings:

  • Process Principle:
    • Ceramic coatings involve applying a layer of ceramic material, such as alumina or zirconia, onto the magnesium surface. This is often done through processes like plasma spraying or chemical vapor deposition (CVD).
  • Advantages:
    • Excellent Hardness, Wear, and Corrosion Resistance: Ceramic coatings provide high-performance surface protection.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Specialized Requirements: Application may necessitate specialized equipment and techniques.
  • Higher Cost: Ceramic coatings are generally more expensive.

Advantages of Magnesium Alloys in Die Casting


Die casting involves injecting molten metal into molds under high pressure, requiring materials that can withstand the intense heat and pressure involved in the process. Magnesium alloys excel in this regard, offering several advantages for die casting applications.


  • Fluidity and Mold Filling

Magnesium alloys have excellent fluidity when molten, allowing them to fill intricate mold cavities with precision. This property is crucial for producing complex and detailed components with fine features. The fluid nature of magnesium alloys also contributes to reduced cycle times in the die casting process, improving overall efficiency.


  • Heat Dissipation

Magnesium alloys excel in dissipating heat efficiently. This property is especially beneficial in applications where managing thermal challenges is critical, such as in electronic components or parts subjected to high-temperature environments. The ability to dissipate heat effectively contributes to the longevity and reliability of magnesium die-cast components.


  • Design Flexibility

Magnesium alloys provide designers with significant flexibility in creating intricate and complex geometries. The material’s ability to fill molds with precision allows for the production of components with intricate shapes and fine details. This design flexibility is particularly advantageous in industries where customized and complex components are essential.


  • Machinability

After the die casting process, magnesium alloys exhibit superior machinability. This makes it easier to achieve tight tolerances and intricate designs during post-casting machining operations. The ability to machine magnesium alloys with precision adds to their appeal for industries where finely detailed components are essential.


  • Cost-Efficiency in Production: Streamlining Processes

Magnesium die casting can result in cost-efficiency in production. The combination of lightweight design and the material’s ability to fill molds with precision often leads to reduced material usage. Lower material consumption, coupled with the ease of machining, contributes to streamlined production processes, ultimately improving overall cost-efficiency.

Challenges and Considerations of Magnesium Die Casting


While magnesium alloys offer numerous advantages, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges associated with their use in die casting. For instance, magnesium is highly reactive and susceptible to corrosion. Protective coatings and surface treatments are often employed to address these issues and ensure the longevity of the cast components. Here are some key challenges and considerations:


  1. Corrosion Susceptibility:

Challenge: Magnesium alloys, particularly in certain environments, can be more susceptible to corrosion compared to other materials like aluminum or steel.

Consideration: Implementing protective coatings, such as anodizing or other surface treatments, can mitigate corrosion risks. Alloy selection, design modifications, and proper maintenance practices are essential considerations to address corrosion challenges.


  1. Flammability:

Challenge: Magnesium is flammable, and there is a risk of ignition during certain processing stages or in specific conditions.

Consideration: Stringent safety measures, such as controlled atmospheres during processing and fire prevention strategies, are critical considerations. Adherence to safety protocols and regulations is paramount to minimize flammability-related risks.


  1. Tool Wear and Abrasion:

Challenge: Magnesium alloys can lead to increased tool wear and abrasion during the die casting process, impacting tool life and maintenance costs.

Consideration: Employing high-quality tool materials, coatings, and appropriate cooling systems can help mitigate tool wear. Regular maintenance and monitoring of tool conditions are essential considerations to manage this challenge.


  1. Alloy Purity and Cost:

Challenge: High-purity magnesium alloys, which offer better corrosion resistance, can be more expensive. Balancing alloy purity with cost considerations becomes crucial.

Consideration: Assessing the specific requirements of the application and understanding the trade-offs between alloy purity and cost is essential. It involves finding a suitable balance that meets performance needs without compromising economic considerations.


  1. Limited Die Life:

Challenge: The abrasive nature of magnesium alloys can lead to reduced die life, impacting the overall cost-effectiveness of die casting.

Consideration: Implementing die coatings and surface treatments can help extend die life. Additionally, proper maintenance practices, such as die lubrication, are essential considerations to enhance the longevity of dies.


Addressing these challenges and considerations requires a comprehensive approach involving materials expertise, engineering solutions, and adherence to safety and regulatory standards. Despite these challenges, magnesium alloys continue to be a valuable choice for die casting, offering unique advantages that can outweigh potential hurdles when managed effectively.

GEMS Manufacturing: Your Trusted Partner for Magnesium Alloy Components With Various Surface Finishes


The surface treatment of magnesium alloy parts is a critical aspect of their development and application. Ongoing research and innovation in the industry focus on addressing environmental concerns, improving corrosion resistance, and expanding the range of applications for magnesium alloys. As technology continues to advance, the magnesium alloy industry is poised for increased maturity and wider acceptance as a viable alternative to traditional metal products.


This article provides a comprehensive overview of each surface finish, covering the process principles, advantages, and disadvantages for Anodizing, Conversion Coating, Chemical Conversion Coating, Hot-Dip Coating, Powder Coating, Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD), Ceramic Coatings, and Electrophoretic Deposition (E-Coating). The choice of surface finish depends on the specific requirements of the magnesium component, including its intended use, environmental conditions, and desired properties. It’s essential to carefully consider factors such as corrosion resistance, wear resistance, aesthetics, and cost when selecting a surface treatment for magnesium components. If you’d like information on additional surface finishes, feel free to contact GEMS-MFG!


Understanding and leveraging these common surface finishes for magnesium alloys, GEMS Manufacturing stands poised to deliver tailored solutions, ensuring that your magnesium die casting project not only meets but exceeds performance expectations. Engage with us for a comprehensive partnership that combines expertise, flexibility, and global supply chain proficiency to bring your innovative ideas to life.  GEMS Manufacturing stands ready to be your trusted partner in navigating the complexities of Die Casting for your unique applications.



Integrated Factory Resources

We are your one-stop manufacturing solution provider for customized products with the joint effort & support from our 120 partnership subcontractors mainly for the production of metals & plastics. We can expand much faster but the top management decide to keep GEMS a compact, dedicated and professional company, which allows our team to really focus and deliver on your projects without any excuse or compromise. We strive to be a long-term, reliable and trustworthy partner of our customers rather than just being a contractor, and look forward to growing the company with customers’ success.

Manufacturing Veteran Team

With the passing years, we are proud to build up a manufacturing veteran team with rich experience and full expertise to fulfill your specific demand. From mold making, injection molding, die casting, stamping and sheet metal, to 2nd processes like CNC machining, oil spraying, powder coating and chrome plating, and then assembling and packaging and related, we always have someone in house to be an expert to resolve the issues in different stages of product development. We also specialize in providing charger, cable and hub, plus other electronic accessories that support a complete set of product.

Strong Project Management

“Think global, execute local” is the principle of our work. Time, quality and cost are the three key elements to be considered throughout the product development from concept design to mass production. A detailed plan with weekly conference call update is a critical gateway to ensure these three key elements are successfully implemented, also assuring that all parties are on the same page. Communication is the Secret to Success . Everyone works independently to take care his own job, but together we are a team to get things done and are your daily eyes and ears onsite in China.

Flexible Operation & Customization

We offer a wide variety of products, such as mold, component and assembly product, and certain value-added services. For logo or branding product, we have in house resources to complete a color mix that can perfectly match a brand’s unique colors in fast and cost-effective way. Understood the client needs production parts but having a hard time to find a vendor since the order quantity is as low as 1000 or lower. GEMS is well set up for low volume injection molding or die casting projects. Surely our team is also capable of building SPI Class 101 mold that is designed & made for 1 million cycles or more of producing the same high quality parts consistently.