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Aluminum Anodizing Process and Design Guide

What is Aluminum Anodizing?

Aluminum anodizing is an electrochemical process in which an oxide (anodic) layer is chemically built on the surface of the metal. This oxide layer acts as an insulator and can be dyed in a wide variety of colors. Anodizing provides surface corrosion protection along with an excellent substrate for decorative finishes.

Anodized Aluminum Parts
Photo courtesy of Global Metal Finishing

What is Hardcoat?

Hardcoat is a highly abrasion resistant, non-conductive aluminum oxide (Al2O3-xH2O) coating that makes an aluminum surface harder than tool steel due to greater thickness and weight than conventional anodic coatings. Anodic coatings form an excellent base for dry film lubricants, Teflon, paint, and adhesives.

Note: You cannot hardcoat over hardcoat, anodize over anodize, build up hardcoat over anodize, chromic over hardcoat, or just add another 0.0005" to the surface

Properties of Hardcoat

Hardness65 to 70 Rockwell C, 850 to 900 DPH, harder than hard chrome plate
ColorDark Gray to Black
Coating Thickness0.002" average, 0.015" for salvage purposes on selected alloys
DielectricHardcoat is non-conductive and will withstand 800 volts per 0.001" thickness.
MachiningHardcoat can be ground, lapped, honed or polished.
DyeingHardcoat may be dyed most colors but tends to come out dark.
SealingHardcoat may be Dichromate, Ni-Acetate, hot water, or Teflon sealed.
Resistivitybetween 106 to 1012 Ohm-cm

Design Considerations

Avoid the following when designing for an anodized finish:

  • blind holes
  • hollow weldments
  • steel inserts
  • sharp corners
  • heavy to thin cross sections

Coating Thickness vs. Corner Radius

Nominal Coating Thickness, inch Radius on edge & inside corner
0.001 ~ 1/32 inch
0.002 ~ 1/16 inch
0.003 ~ 3/32 inch
0.004 ~ 1/8 inch

What is Chemical Conversion?

also known as: Chem Film, Irridite, Alodine, ChemTreat

Chemical conversion coatings are intended to prevent corrosion, improve adhesion of paint finish or other coatings, and for improved electrical and electronic applications where low resistance contacts are required.  The primary difference between a Class 1A and Class 3 coating is thickness, since current passes more readily through a thinner current resistant barrier (coating). Class 3 is thinner.

Importance of rounded corners in aluminum anodizing

Weldments and Welded aluminum parts

When two or more parts are welded together, acid is entrapped in the weld and the area around the weld.  Color variations exist when a welding rod alloy is vastly different from the alloy used to make the part.  Halos appear around welds because of the high temperature used in the welding process.  The area around the weldment will be slightly lighter in color, causing the welded area to appear larger than it is.


Masking is required where no build up is desired or when a part needs both anodizing & chemical conversion. All threaded holes, 1/4" or smaller, are typically masked when hardcoating unless otherwise specified. Holes with heli-coils must be masked. Any dissimilar metal (steel, brass, bronze) or any form of plating will burn off in the anodizing tank unless masked.


Hardcoat and Thread Coating

Hardcoat thickness is typically 0.002" (0.0508 mm).  Half the coating thickness is build-up and half is penetration into the base metal.  For the threaded rod on the right, the diameter increased by 0.002" since half of the coating thickness (0.001") built up the diameter on each side of the rod.

Thread Coating for anodized aluminum parts

Hardcoat Blind Holes or Through Holes

Through holes (TH on drawing at right) will hardcoat evenly up to twice the length of the diameter (X).
Blind holes (BH on drawing at right) will only hardcoat to a depth equal to the diameter of the hole (X=Y).

Thread Coating for anodized aluminum processes

Coating Thickness, Color and Alloys

See chart at right.  Example: Alloy 2024 may have a max. coating thickness of 0.005" and will be gray in color.

++Note: Coatings over 0.0035" tend to chip and become milky in color and should only be used in the salvage of parts.

Aluminum Alloys and maximum coating thickness

Annodizing design guide provided by Anodic, Inc.

Other aluminum topics in MatWeb:

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