Introduction

Even in severe locations with acidic conditions, a lot of wear-and-tear, or areas where lubrication is problematic or too expensive, electroless nickel plating can help you keep your industrial machinery working like new for a lot longer. The nicest thing about electroless nickel plating is that it can be done in big batches professionally, making the entire process more cost-effective and resulting in significant long-term savings.

While electroless plating is new to some industries, it has a long history of providing a wide range of support and services. You can customize your protection by using baths that contain a variety of metals and elemental dissolved salts to assist in the plating of your metal. You’ll never have to worry about flaking, thanks to the innovative chemical reaction that generates a top binding. 

nickel plating

5 unique electroless nickel plating processes

Electroless plating has advantages over both coatings and electroplating. It can work on various non-conductive and non-porous surfaces independent of the object’s shape or density while giving a higher-grade coating. The five unique electroless nickel plating processes include-

Phosphorus plating

For enhanced high-corrosion or moderate wear resistance, many coatings will have a high phosphorus component. However, when using a phosphorus electroless nickel plating technique, there will be a tradeoff because different phosphorus levels generate varied effects depending on the material and the sort of environment the plated object is subjected to.

These electroless nickel plating solutions provide a wide spectrum of protection, but you should consult with trained electroless nickel platers to find the best fit for your needs. Phosphorus baths in the range of 5% to 13% phosphor provide an extra benefit without introducing too much fragility or losing the nickel plating benefit.

  • These baths typically include between 10% and 13% phosphor and are utilized in very corrosive situations. This type of bath creates a glass-like layer on the surface of the substance. Because these amorphous surface layers lack crystalline structure, there’s minimal possibility of a weak spot developing where corrosion or wear could break out. This nickel plating is non-magnetic when plated, unlike some of the other baths we’ll look at, making it an excellent choice for electronics and other parts of machinery that require a layer of shielding.
  • An electroless nickel coating with a mid-phosphorus content provides an excellent mix of corrosion and wear resistance. The phosphor content of these baths is normally between 5% and 9%, giving the object being coated a dazzling gloss. These are generally among the most cost-effective options, and they’re a good fit for enhancing the tolerance of moving and undersized parts. Unfortunately, when applied to some metals, such as steel, this coating causes tensile stress (tension), resulting in a modest-quality loss on particular products.
  • Baths with up to 5% phosphor offer a wide range of benefits and precautions for phosphorus-nickel plating. These baths enable materials to withstand greater temperatures, improve overall wear resistance, boost conductivity and minimize solderability. Unlike the other phosphor baths, this one provides little corrosion protection (though it does offer stronger base-environment protection). It also causes metals to experience compressive stress, which is perhaps the worst for steel, with a significantly lower fatigue failure rate.

A boron-based nickel bath

May be the best choice for circumstances where corrosion protection isn’t required. These baths produce a high-quality electroless nickel coating used in high-tech applications such as automotive, aviation, and aerospace. Boron electroless nickel platers come in two-bath types: low-boron and high-boron. The low-boron bath has between 0.5 percent and 3 percent boron, while the high-boron bath contains 3 percent to 5 percent boron. The low-boron bath improves the solderability of materials while also increasing their conductivity without causing damage to them.

The high-boron baths can significantly increase the hardness of the material in question and assist heat treatment for even more durability. This coating can have the same strength as chrome even before heat treatment, making it a clever and cost-effective alternative to chrome plating in the automotive, aerospace, and defence industries. Unfortunately, high-boron nickel-plated objects will not withstand severely corrosive conditions or industrial settings due to the similar predominance of porosity.

Polymer nickel plating

When you need to reduce friction and damage to a part due to use, fluorocarbons and other polymers can be used in the electroless nickel coating process. Because of the large range of materials employed, this is one of the most versatile electroless nickel coating subsets.

Depending on the composition, you can utilize between 10% and 30% polymer mixtures, with the remainder being normal nickel plating. In these instances, a fluoropolymer, a fluorocarbon-based polymer with solid bonding and high resistance to acids, bases, and solvents, is commonly used. Polymer electroless nickel platers provide a wide range of advantages, including the following:

  • resistance to corrosion
  • features of dielectric
  • surfaces that are hydrophobic and hydrophilic
  • higher conductivity
  • non-stick
  • non-wetting
  • dissipation of static energy
  • decrease of squeaks and whines

In these plating circumstances, a nickel layer is created first, followed by a graded interface. The polymer is then placed on top of the graded interface, which improves the coating’s ability to attach to the metal and its robustness.

Diamond and mineral plating

Diamonds can sometimes be a man’s best friend, especially when electroless nickel plating is used. Diamonds and other carbon structures can be used in the nickel electroless plating bath mix to form composite coatings that provide exceptional wear and corrosion resistance. These aren’t ordinary diamonds, so they won’t sever machinery or provide the slice-and-dice quality that diamond drills provide. Shock-synthesized polycrystalline diamonds with a rounded shape are commonly used in diamond plating.

Diamonds develop in crystalline systems with minimal stress seams and produce razor-sharp edges when broken along these spots. Even at typical levels of less than 1 mil, using this in a coating mixture decreases abrasion and wear loss. Because the procedure leaves the material coated with a rough, dull set of layers that may conceal the part, this form of coating often requires a variety of post-coating work.

Plate grinding and buffing are usually included in most treatments to improve the overall appearance. Although diamonds are the most well-known, many different mineral and ceramic coatings offer similar benefits. These will provide nickel-plated materials with a blend of wear and corrosion protection at various price points. It’s advisable to chat to a plating professional about your protection needs to figure out the ideal.

Composition plating

You create a composite material when you add another set of particles in small sizes and quantities to the electroless nickel plating or coating bath. You may create a homogeneous nickel coating with a specific benefit based on materials, hard or soft particle volume, and even the final application method by combining hard and soft particles in the nickel coating mix.

These nickel-plated goods can be managed in a variety of ways to provide a variety of advantages. Composites are becoming increasingly popular as a result of their cost and environmental benefits. Almost all composite coatings have several significant advantages, including:

  • Less nickel is required, resulting in a thinner thickness.
  • Even at smaller sizes, coatings wear as well as, if not better than, traditional coatings.
  • Composite coatings have a longer lifespan.
  • Increased bath-life for the plating provider, which can result in lower overall costs for consumers.

The Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) polymer is used in one of the most prevalent composite coatings. The majority of PTFE composite blends are custom-made to meet the needs of a certain application. In its application, PTFE is low-friction, and it adds hardness and hardness to electroless nickel. In addition, a lubricant, wear resistance, and corrosion resistance can all be added to the mix.

Conclusion

Engineers and mechanics can now plate a wider range of non-conductive surfaces, broadening the types of materials that can be plated, thanks to the introduction of electroless plating. The ability to plate without electricity also means you won’t have to coat in stages using non-covered materials, which might become your equipment’s Achilles’ heel.

The electroless nickel coating produced is also less permeable to water than electroplated nickel or plated chrome, resulting in a more effective barrier between your equipment and the elements; this is especially true for corrosion protection or applying protection that can’t produce much compressive force.

Electroless nickel plating may be the best option for ensuring that your machinery lasts a long time and functions reliably while requiring less maintenance. When you get nickel plating done from the correct shop at the appropriate pricing, it could save your firm a lot of time and effort.