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Electroless Plating Vs Electroplating: Which is Best?

As experts in the metal plating process, the staff at NiTEC regularly carry out the process using a variety of metals, namely nickel. We use electroless plating methods, but electroplating is also an option when it comes to plating metals. Here is a comprehensive explanation of both processes, so that you can make an informed decision on the right technique for you and your requirements.

Metal Coatings Applied Using the Electroplating Process

The process of electroplating uses an electric current to reduce dissolved metal cations so that they form a metal coating on an electrode. When current is applied to the component, it shifts the chemical composition and delivers the coating to the surface, depositing a thin layer of metal onto a metal object or component.

Multiple applications are sometimes necessary to create plating of a specific thickness. This layer can be used to provide corrosion or wear resistance, to build up worn or undersized parts, or for decorative purposes. Electroplating involves potentially dangerous equipment in order to work, and also requires clean conditions and careful procedures.

A common system involves a chemical solution with the ionic form of the metal, a positively charged anode, which may consist of the metal being plated (a soluble anode) or an insoluble anode (usually carbon, platinum, titanium, lead, or steel), and finally, a negatively charged cathode where electrons are supplied to produce a film of non-ionic metal.

Metal Coatings Applied Using the Electroless Plating Process

Electroless plating, which is also known as chemical or auto-catalytic plating, is a non-galvanic plating method that involves several simultaneous reactions in an aqueous solution. They key difference between electroless plating and electroplating is that electroless plating occurs without the use of external electrical power.

The reaction that takes place during the electroless plating process happens when hydrogen is released by a reducing agent, normally sodium hypophosphite, and oxidised, therefore providing a negative charge on the surface of the part. The component is treated with chemicals to remove oils and other corrosive elements first, and is then activated with an acid etch or proprietary solution. The application of anti-oxidation chemicals completes the process, leaving the component with high levels of resistance to corrosion and friction.

Which is Best?

For the process of electroplating to be carried out successfully, it requires complex filtration equipment and possibly dangerous battery applications. Electroless plating, on the other hand, uses no extra equipment. The chemicals can be replenished automatically, and the engineers exercise more control over the deposition process which results in a smooth, even application of the nickel plating. It is also possible to vary the thickness and volume of the plating to exact standards and specifications.

UK Electroless Nickel Plating Specialists

If you are looking for a quality company specialising in the process of electroless nickel plating, look no further than NiTEC. Talk to a member of our friendly team on 0845 224 3571 or email info@nitec-enp.co.uk for more information.