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topic 1459

Plating Copper onto Aluminum


Is it possible to plate onto aluminum with copper? IF so how thick and what kind of adhension quality? How difficult is it?

Pat Mason


Sure it's possible--in fact it's done all the time, Pat. A lot of bus bar is copper-plated aluminum. And many decorative nickel-chrome parts, like motorcycle components and chrome wheels, are aluminum with a copper plate and then the nickel-chrome plating.

Thicknesses are per specs or recommended practices like the MFSA Quality Metal Finishing Guides. It depends on the application, of course, and whether there will be buffing of the copper, or further plating.

The adhesion can be fine, but it is also true that adhesion inconsistencies are more common in plating onto aluminum than in plating onto steel. The problem is that a zincating process (immersion zinc) is required between the aluminum and the copper, and it doesn't yield the same type of metallurgical bond as true electroplating does. It's not especially "hard" to plate aluminum, but not all shops are set up to do so.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey



Would it be possible to plate Cyanide Copper directly onto the Aluminum, or is this the process that your are referring to with the Zincate step in the middle?

Gary Chester

No, Gary. The process is zincate, followed by cyanide copper, followed by whatever.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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