Chrome finishes meet today’s trend. Since the middle of last year, Lehmann has used trivalent chromium for electroplating in order to eliminate the critical hexavalent chromium from the finishing process. With this early decision, Lehmann has driven and clearly highlighted the challenges of chromium(VI) substitution.
Hexavalent chromium is classified as being a genetically harmful carcinogenic and may trigger allergic skin reactions. Although this is of no relevance for the locking system as end-product, for chromium(VI) is no longer present in the chrome-plated surface, the employees engaged in the production process, i.e. the electroplating, are exposed to the chemical. Two aspects demanded by the furniture locking system specialist’s international customers, namely protection of the environment and sustainability, were further good reasons for stepping up efforts to introduce the new chromium(III) process.
Trivalent chromium is an essential trace element, non-toxic and – unlike chromium(VI) – difficult to dissolve in water. The new chromium(III) process was smoothly integrated into Lehmann’s electroplating system, as components were not chrome-plated in the company’s own electroplating shop prior to the changeover. Extensive laboratory tests preceded the changeover in order to bring the process into line with Lehmann’s components and requirements. The results were so good that series production was able to start just twelve months later. Since the middle of last year, customers are supplied with the trivalent chrome-plated finish. The fact that the colour of the decorative surface is virtually identical with that of a hexavalent chrome-plating is a further argument in favour of the new finish. This new product is not only good for the environment, it also looks good.
„We have turned our attention to the legislative conditions which will surel come at an early stage,“ says managing proprietor Renate Schlüter. „At an international level too, our customers are increasingly demanding enhancements and innovations matching their own sustainability philosophy. Their industrial and commercial customers are likewise turning their attention to the subject. After all, sustainability is also becoming a matter of growing importance to office furniture users, too.“
Note on chromium(VI):
Chromium(VI) has been a subject of controversy for many years: the RoHS Directive prohibits chromium(VI) in all new electrical and electronic devices placed on the market anywhere in the European Union since 1 July 2006. For the automotive industry, its use has been prohibited since 2007. On 15 December 2010, chromium(VI) was included in the European Union’s REACH list of chemical substances „giving cause for concern“. In early 2013, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) launched a public consultation on its draft ban on chromium(VI) in leather goods. It is planned to adopt the longstanding German ban on chromium(VI) in leather goods.
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