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topic 16897, p2

Electroless nickel plating on stainless steel

1       2

A discussion started in 1999 but continuing through 2018

September 17, 2016 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am in the process of Electroless Nickel Plating SS 316 metal. I have been unsuccessful this far.

I believe that I am missing a chelating agent. These are the conditions I am using. 50 ml Deionized water, pH ~5, 90 °C, with the following chemicals.

Nickel Sulfate Hexahydrate 1.3g
Glycolic Acid 1.25
Sodium Hypophosphite 1.250

Is this process accurate? If not, kindly advise me how to fix the problem.


Randal Left
Student - Austin, Texas

September 2016

A. Hi Randal. Is the object of your work to develop your own individual plating process, or is the object of your work to do something with that electroless nickel plated stainless steel object? The reason I ask is that students often naturally assume that the way one obtains a plating solution is by mixing commodity chemicals together -- but in fact "nobody" in the Western world does that ... rather, we buy proprietary plating processes that are the result of decades of development effort, and which contain small amounts of several trade secret chemicals.

Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a project aimed at developing specialized plating chemistry ... more power! But if you're just trying to get the darned thing plated, mixing up raw commodity chemicals isn't the way.

I'm not sure exactly what "unsuccessful" means. It's not sticking, it's not thick enough, the vessel spontaneously plates out, or nothing is happening whatsoever? But the first issue to address is that you probably can't successfully plate electroless nickel on stainless without preceding it with a Wood's Nickel Strike. So you might as well do things in the right order from the start. You'll find numerous threads about Wood's Nickel on this site if there isn't enough info on this thread. And are you positive that the article is spotlessly clean to a waterbreak-free condition? Good luck!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

October 12, 2016

Q. I am facing problem please help me all if you can. I will be very grateful to you all on this act of kindness. We are here trying to make micro crystalline cellulose from cotton waste. For that we first mix cotton waste in a stainless steel tank in dilute hydrochloride acid, that meaning 1:10, one liter of acid with 10 liter of water, and we are using 34% Commercial grade acid, with continuous heating and mixing. Problem is that all our SS tank accessories get very strong rust and broke within one day or two. Please guide us what to do either we nickle the tank or used some chemical you recommend?
I will be very grateful to you all for your act of kindness.

Syed Faisal shah
Ittehad traders - Peshawar Pakistan

May 2017

A. Hi Syed. Although electroless nickel might possibly work for a while, it would be an outrageously expensive approach. If you cannot use a plastic tank in the sink, you can "line" the sink with vinyl tank lining sheets. Plastic (vinyl, polypropylene, polyethylene, teflon, vinyl ester fiberglass), not metal, is the first thing to consider when handling acids. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Electroless Copper plating on Cr/Ni Alloy?

May 4, 2017 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I am working on plating Electroless copper on Cr/Ni Alloy. Currently I am facing an adhesion problem, as it was easily removed after wipe off. Any help on this is highly appreciated.

Prabuddha Sampath
Product designer - Sri Lanka

May 2017

A. Hi cousin Sampath. You may know ten times as much about electroless copper plating as I do (that wouldn't be hard), or you may be clueless so far -- and unfortunately there is no way for me to know from your posting :-(

So for starters: you are talking about actual autocatalytic electroless copper plating ... you're not talking about a copper sulphate immersion deposit? Have you activated the alloy first by plating it with Wood's Nickel?


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

May 5, 2017

Q. Hi Ted,
I have used autocatalytic electroless copper plating solution, which has been worked at Cu/Ni Alloy. After the deposition, deposited copper was plated properly. A thin layer of Cu on Cu/Ni alloy.

But when I tried out with Ni/Cr alloy, Cu has been deposited (vary good thickness achieved). Which was not bonded to Ni/Cr substrate as properly as required.

Now what I was thinking of to overcome was to have plate autocatalytic electroless Ni on Ni/Cr then followed with autocatalytic electroless copper plating?

Any other easy way rather than this will be grateful.

Many thanks,

Prabuddha sampath [returning]
- Sri Lanka

May 2017

A. Hi Sampath. If you will read the rest of this thread you will see that Electroless Nickel won't stick either. The problem is an inert film which forms instantly on the Nickel-Chrome alloy. You need a Wood's Nickel Strike before the electroless copper. The strike is a very dilute and very acidic solution which simultaneously dissolves that inert film while replacing it with fresh nickel.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Electroless Nickel Plating on 316SS Electrolyser Electrodes

May 12, 2017

Q. Hi there

Have been running a prototype of water electrolysis cell stack with SS316 electrodes and now is the time to try something different. Looking into Nickel plating as Nickel is inert vs. aqueous based solutions, so it is a technique of interest since we can improve the longevity of this stack to work for longer.

The SS316 electrodes have been previously pickled with citric acid, passivated with pure oxygen and then followed an activation method that involves electrical charging, see method below:

From reading a few posts in here, it seems that this method is not something common here among finishers, loading the metal finishing book now to grab some more info on procedures.

The electrodes have been bathing in work solution that is aqueous 10% Potassium Hydroxide since that procedure was run a few months ago. So they are very clean.

Is it worth to consider a HCl activation from where we are at? or Wood's strike? Or would that be an overkill? Or start again with pickling? And passivation again?

Have acquired an electroless nickel plating kit from a hobby plating supplier.

Just want to make sure we get it right first time as it is a long process to pull all the electrodes out of this stack.

Let us know if we are or aren't on the right track.

Much appreciated. RGK

Renaud Kobrynski
Engineer - Brunswick

May 2017

A. Hi Renaud. My personal opinion is that there are several things wrong here. First is the belief that with no prior experience you can plate these plates properly on your first self-supervised training exercise. I think that's awfully optimistic and that as a minimum you should plate and test a variety of scrap and sample parts before you "pull all the electrodes out of this stack".

I don't know if this is a hobby project or a business, but in business you would generally send such parts to a plating shop with proven competence, not attempt to plate them yourself.

It's probably not a case of people in the plating industry being unfamiliar with a successful method for "activating" the stainless steel for subsequent plating, but a situation where the people writing in the blog you mentioned having a rather different meaning in mind when they talk about "activating" the electrode than platers have in mind when they speak of activating metals for subsequent electrodeposition onto them.

I don't think there's much chance of electroless nickel plating properly adhering to these 316 SS electrodes unless you first do a Wood's Nickel or equivalent strike. Good luck!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

May 18, 2017

Q. Dear Mister,

I don't think you have much understanding on how many hybrids of types of projects out there and where you draw your line between "hobby" or "business", this is plain retarded, and I have no business in answering to this attack.

We have plenty of time at hand as the longer we spend developing our own techniques that keeps our engineering interns busy, the more money we get out of our R&D grant.

Therefore, what advantage would we have in shoving our budget into any of these, inefficient, money hungry "local businesses" that in the end spends it all in real estate scams, when we can empower ourselves with new knowledge in metal finishing for example. Metal finishing ain't rocket science, it has to be done right, just like about anything technical.

We will indeed test on some samples, we are not that stupid.

So are you only experienced in giving advice just to the guys that make metals look pretty or are you going to help us save some time on this plating job on these electrolytic active parts, or is that p'haps too challenging for you old timer?

By the way, congrats for your web interface it's just such a remarkable platform by its simplicity and its technicality, a pleasure to work with that.

Renaud G. Kobrynski [returning]
- Brunswick Vic, Australia

May 27, 2017

"So are you only experienced in giving advice just to the guys that make metals look pretty or are you going to help us save some time on this plating job on these electrolytic active parts, or is that p'haps too challenging for you old timer?"

Nobody knows everything, but when it comes to Ted and the others who participate on this site, collectively there is more knowledge than you will ever acquire in a lifetime.

I suggest you take your offensive attitude and go away. Far, far away.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

June 20, 2017

! Thank you for all of your useful information. Your website is my final resource for finding practical solutions to my plating problems.

masih ghorban
Arjan Co. - Tehran, Iran

June 2017

thumbs up sign Thanks for the kind words, cousin Masih. Remember that trying to teach can often be the best way to learn :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Flaking Electroless nickel on 304 Stainless

February 2, 2018

Q. I had some parts returned to us from our customer with flaking Electroless coating.

The material is 304 stainless that has a drawing requirement of "Electroless Nickel Plate IAW AMS-C-26074 [link by ed. to spec at TechStreet], Class 4, Grade C." While I understand that Class 4 is an incorrect callout for stainless steel, and a Grade C (0.0015) thickness may be risky, our Plater tells us that they processed the parts as stainless regardless of the drawing callout. He also tells us that a 0.0015" won't work on stainless steel.

Can someone recommend a Class and Grade more suited to this material?

Michael Knight
Quality Engineer - Centennial Colorado, USA

February 8, 2018

A. Hi Michael

The purpose of any spec is to ensure that the finish meets design requirements. You cannot change a spec just because it is easier to achieve and we have no way of knowing what is appropriate. There has to be some reason why 304 needs additional plating.
You need to ask the design engineer why the original spec was called for.
You would not believe the number of times I have found a spec called .."because that is what the last part had".
Or it could be for a very good reason.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

February 12, 2018

thumbs up sign Thank you Mr. Smith.

I spoke to engineering and the reason for the nickel plating is to prevent galling in a threaded bore.

Hope this helps.

Michael Knight [returning]
- Englewood, Colorado USA

February 12, 2018

A. I always question the wisdom of plating on stainless, since the point of the alloy is its enhanced corrosion resistance without the need for a coating, and the surface must be activated (the opposite of corrosion resistance!) in order to make the plating happen.

It stands to reason that a less expensive steel could be substituted as the substrate with no effective change to the final plated surface.

I'm not sure if the thought process is "but we always use stainless for this kind of part", without realizing that the need for plating negates the original purpose of using stainless.

ray kremer
Ray Kremer
Stellar Solutions, Inc.
McHenry, Illinois

April 17, 2018 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread





April 2018

Hi Anthony. Why not make the plunger out of type 316 stainless, which can probably withstand this situation?

Although it's possible that the adhesion is not good enough, explaining why plating is being knocked off, it sounds equally likely to me that the impact may be 'denting' the softer stainless steel and you are getting an eggshell effect, or as our friend Guillermo expressed it on a different thread, a sheet of glass on a soft sofa. If you can't make the plunger out of a better grade of stainless, perhaps you could make it of a heat treated plain steel, to which the electroless nickel plating would adhere better as well?


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Injection mold tooling plating delamination issues.

September 26, 2018

Q. Stainless is the injection molding tooling material, teflon impregnated nickel is the electroless plating material. Would possible cause of delamination be brief use of PTFE mold surface release agent on the tooling "prior" to plating - to get first parts for inspection? The theory being that the PTFE would be difficult to clean off the tool surfaces 100% prior to plating.

There are non PTFE mold releases like Zinc Stearate spray ones that might be easier to clean off 100%.

Joe Killian
engineer - San Jose, California, USA

September 2018

A. Hi Joe. If you're saying that that's what you did, sure, it would be a major problem.

But if you're just speculating about possible causes of poor adhesion, it is very hard to get reliable adhesion onto stainless steel and it probably requires a Wood's Nickel Strike before the electroless nickel. Good luck.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Pine Beach, New Jersey
We need "Aloha" now more than ever

Teflon/ electroless nickel plating of 420 stainless mold tooling issues

March 7, 2019

Q. We have a 420 stainless injection mold insert with many pins vertical in a 16 x 24 array. The tops of these pins are lapped. Post lapping the perimeter of the pins are razor sharp. I know... not generally a good idea but for various processing reasons we have started that way. Not my choice.

We definitely have a plating delamination issue just under the tops of these pins on just a few pins (6). Could be the usual reasons for delamination not related to sharp edges but maybe the sharp edges starts the delamination.

However, some of these sharp edges themselves may have delaminated resulting in plastic degradation via very high shear stress on the plastic. The plastic being molded is polypropylene.


1. What are the usual reasons for EN delam on SS?

2. The plater may be using a strike layer for good adhesion. My guess is sharp edges may cause problems with the strike layer resulting in edge delamination of the EN. Possible?

I will be doing my best to get the molder to break those sharp edges. Stubborn molder.

Jay Daulton
engineer - San Jose, California, USA
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