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Silver Plate vs. Tin Plate on Copper Bus Bars


Q. We have a customer in the Telecommunications Industry. We have been plating copper bus bars in Silver Flash. They want to change to Tin Plate. What is the advantage of Silver on Copper over Tin on Copper or visa versa. They are working in the 20-60 volt range. They are plugging in and out. Does Silver Plate reduce Arcing? Is a Nickel barrier plate required between copper and tin? If so, the process is longer and no real cost saving results. We do not know how to advise our customer.

Can you help?

With thanks...

Gerrard Regier
- London, Ontario, Canada


Are you arcing in the connections of busbar, or is the application for switch gear?

Tom Pullizzi
Falls Township, Pennsylvania 


A. A nickel undercoat will be required to prevent migration. Silver is not known to posses arc resisting property. Tin oxide does resist arc. If contact pressure is high, Tin plating should be quite O.K. For light contact pressure the choice has to be silver.

Yashawant Deval
- Pune, Maharashtra, India


Silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of any metal.

Mike Brewington
- Salisbury, Maryland, USA

April 2, 2010

Q. I am also doing tin plating on copper contact.
Some platers suggest do it on brass, some others steel to reduce cost. I am worried about performance.
Can someone help me?

auto agency - Chennai,Tamil Nadu, India

July 7, 2010

A. Hi, S. If the plating is high quality, then the surface of the contact is tin; so if you are only concerned about surface characteristics, you can go with steel or whatever is cheapest.

However, this probably isn't the usual case. Usually you have to worry about what happens if the plating wears thin if the contact is involved in a wear situation. And you may also have to be concerned with the current carrying capacity of the contact. Copper carries about 10x the current that steel does.


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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