What Is An Electroless Plating?
What Is An Electroless Plating?
Electroless plating, also known as chemical plating or autocatalytic plating, is a method of creating a metal coating on a variety of materials through the use of a chemical bath that reduces metal cations.
This process differs from electroplating, in which an electric current is used to create the metal coating. One advantage of electroless plating is that it produces an even layer of metal on any surface, regardless of its shape.
This is in contrast to electroplating, which can produce uneven coatings on certain shapes due to variations in electrical resistance. Electroless plating can also be applied to non-conductive surfaces and parts of an object that cannot be connected to an electrical current.
This process has many practical applications, including decoration, corrosion and wear protection, and the creation of composite coatings by suspending powders in the bath. It can also be used to coat individual grains of powdered material, regardless of their size.
History Of Electroless Plating?
The Tollen’s reaction, which was used to deposit a layer of metallic silver on glass and other surfaces, is considered to be the first electroless plating process. It was commonly used to silver mirrors.
Another early electroless plating process was nickel-phosphorus, which used nickel salts and hypophosphite as a reducing agent and source of phosphorus.
This process was discovered in 1844 by Charles Adolphe Wurtz and patented in 1914 by François Auguste Roux, but did not see much practical use. In 1946, Abner Brenner and Grace E.
Riddell of the National Bureau of Standards accidentally rediscovered the process and presented it at the American Electroplaters’ Society convention the following year. They coined the term “electroless” for the process and also developed optimized bath formulations, which they patented.
How Electroless Plating Works
Electroless plating also called autocatalytic plating or conversion coating is a method of applying a metal coating to a part without using an external power source. It works by putting the part in a water-based solution and using a chemical reaction to deposit nickel on the surface of the part.
This process does not require electricity and is purely chemical in nature, unlike electroplating which requires the use of special equipment and electricity.
Why You Might Choose Electroless Plating
Electroless plating is often a better choice for generating corrosion resistance because it results in a hard and non-porous surface that is more resistant to wear and corrosion.
This type of plating is commonly used in industries such as oil and gas and marine applications for parts like pumps and valves that are often exposed to corrosive substances.
It is also useful for parts with complex shapes that may be difficult to plate uniformly using traditional electroplating methods.
Electroless Plating Vs. Electroplating
Electroplating and electroless plating are both methods used to enhance the appearance, durability and corrosion resistance of a component.
Electroplating requires electricity and a chemical solution to deposit a metal coating on the surface of the component which can alter its chemical composition and may require specialized equipment and clean conditions, electroless plating is a simpler process that does not require electricity and it involves dipping the component in an aqueous solution with anti-oxidation chemicals.
Electroless plating does not require hazardous equipment or multiple applications and allows for more control over the plating process resulting in a smooth and consistent coating of the desired thickness and volume. However, there is a risk of electricity-related accidents with electroplating.
What Industries And Parts Are Best Suited For Electroless Plating?
Electroless plating is often used in industries where parts have complex shapes or may be subjected to heavy corrosive factors. These industries may include;
- The food service industry (e.g. molds and food processing machine parts).
- The oil and gas industry (e.g. valves, balls and plugs, barrels, and pipe fittings).
- The automotive industry (e.g. shock absorbers, cylinders, brake pistons, and gears).
- The aerospace industry (e.g. valves, pistons, pumps, and rocket components).
- The chemical industry (e.g. pumps, mixing blades, heat exchangers and filter units)
- The plastics and textiles industry (e.g. molds, dies, machine parts, spinnerets, and extruders).
It’s worth noting that this is not a complete list of industries and parts that can benefit from electroless plating. If you’re wondering whether electroless plating would be suitable for your particular business or industry, you may want to consult an expert or do further research on the topic.