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topic 16897p3

Electroless nickel plating on stainless steel

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A discussion started in 1999 but continuing through 2020

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 :-)


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Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

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 [affil. link 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.
supporting advertiser
McHenry, Illinois
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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
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

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
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

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
  ^- Privately contact this inquirer -^

March 11, 2020

Q. [Electroless Nickel, copper and silver on stainless steel 316]

Dear experts,

I found this thread is very helpful and informative.

My project will use the electroless plating method to coat Nickel, copper, and silver on SS 316. As experts recommended, Wood's Nickel should be conducted before electroless plating. Are there any other steps that I should do in the procedure?

Would you like to advise a specific Wood's Nickel formulation for SS 316? And which article or book I can find the step-by-step process?

As my application is under severe fluid flow conditions, adhesion is the most important issue. Could I do the heat-treatment to enhance coating adhesion?

Thank you so much and I highly appreciate any advice.

Ho Dong
Incheon University - Incheon, Korea

March 2020

affil. link
"Electrodeposition: The Materials Science of Coatings and Substrates"
by Jack Dini
from Abe Books
info on Amazon
see our Review

A. Hello Ho,
In my opinion the best discussion of Wood's Nickel and adhesion is in Jack Dini's "Electrodeposition", and getting good adhesion between the Wood's Nickel and the stainless substrate is the most critical interface. But after a quick rinse, you must immediately do the next steps of Electroless Nickel and Copper plating because nickel plated surfaces passivate quickly. You might want to research whether a silver "strike" bath is required between copper plating and silver plating. Heating treating at any point will deactivate the surface and ruin the adhesion.

I'm not sure which steps in your project you are required to do personally, but just a reminder in case you didn't know it: plating is very jobshop oriented and the usual practice is to send parts out to a plating shop for plating. Becoming good at SST pretreatment, Wood's nickel strike, electroless nickel plating, copper plating, and silver striking/plating is fodder for four or five thesis projects, not one :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

March 12, 2020

Q. Hello Mr. Mooney. Many thanks to your helpful advice. I tried to call many companies and shops in Korea, unfortunately, they do not cover all kinds of plating metals that I need. It requires many works as you mentioned, but I have no choice ;-). It would be very helpful please give me advice on the below issues.
1.In Woods strike step, the book said anodic 30-60 sec then turn to catholic 2-6 min. What is anodic and catholic and how to set up? Could I apply Wood strike by brushing the solution on substrate?
2.Could you explain why heat treatment will ruin adhesion?
3.I have gathered and compared the information of electroless plating procedures of Ni, Ag and Cu plating on stainless steel 316 substrate as follows:
Nickel plating procedure: 1. Cleaning-> 2. Etching ->3. Woods nickel strike-> 4.Electroless Nickel plating
Copper plating procedure ver.1 : 1. Cleaning-> 2. Etching ->3. Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal solution-> 4.Electroless copper plating.
Copper plating procedure ver.2 : 1. Cleaning-> 2. Etching ->3. Woods nickel strike -> 4.Electroless copper plating.
Copper plating procedure ver.3 : 1. Cleaning-> 2. Etching ->3. Woods nickel strike->4. Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal-> 5.Electroless copper plating.
Silver plating procedure: 1. Cleaning-> 2. Etching ->3. 4. Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal -> 4.Electroless Silver plating.
AMONG 3 versions of Copper plating procedures which one is correct/ or best work on SS 316? Do we need to do both Woods strike and Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal?
FOR Silver plating procedure why we do not need Woods nickel strike?

Ho Dong
- Incheon, Korea

March 2020

A. Hello again, Ho.


The whole purpose of this site is to help people with their metal finishing needs so we certainly don't want to make that help unduly hard to get!

But when a thread covers everything from pretreatment to Wood's Nickel to electroless nickel to heat treatment to copper plating to silver striking to silver plating, google penalizes our site's ranking; as important, it makes it impossible for our thousands of daily readers to find the info they need when threads covers a dozen metal finishing processes and we end up with a hundred threads that address each individual type of plating :-(

But your second posting is making me think that you are saying you have to build 3 of something for some reason -- one each with electroless copper, electroless silver, and electroless nickel (because I've personally never heard of doing electroless nickel followed by electroless copper). Note that palladium seeding applies to non-conductive substrates, not metallic ones. Please start with a half page description of exactly what you want to build and why because all we're doing is confusing each other when I don't correctly understand what you want. Thanks!


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

March 18, 2020

Q. Dear Mr. Mooney. I am sorry for mixing things up at the beginning. You are right, I would like to do electroless plating of Nickel, copper, and silver SEPARATELY on three stainless steel 316 substrates.

FOR Nickel plating, I will do as following steps: Cleaning-> Etching ->Woods nickel strike-> Electroless Nickel plating.
FOR copper plating, I gathered info from research papers and books e.g. 'Electroless Copper and Nickel-Phosphorus Plating Processing' and 'Electroless Plating: Fundamentals And Applications' There are three different procedures:
1) Cleaning-> Etching -> Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal solution-> Electroless copper plating;
2) Cleaning->Etching ->Woods nickel strike ->Electroless copper plating;
3) Cleaning-> Etching ->Woods nickel strike->Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal->Electroless copper plating.
The books always recommend to do Catalyzing by Palladium-tin for Stainless steel substrate. I am confused which procedure is the best one?
FOR silver plating the book also recommend catalyzing by Palladium-tin as follow the procedure: Cleaning-> Etching ->Catalyzing by Palladium-tin colloidal -> Electroless Silver plating. Do we need to do Woods strike here?
IN ADDITION, In Woods strike PROCESS, the book said current density 'ANODIC 1A/dm^2 in 30-60 sec' then turn to 'CATHODIC 1A/dm^2 in 2-6 min' What is ANODIC and CATHODIC and how to set up?
Finally, I should not do heat treatment after plating as you advised. Could you explain why adhesion will be ruined by heat treatment?
This discussion is very helpful to me. Thank you so much for your enthusiastic advice.
Best regards,

Ho Dong [returning]
- Incheon, Korea

March 2020

A. Hi again. Stainless steel instantly forms an oxide layer on it, and electroplating with ideal adhesion requires the formation of metallic bonds between the substrate and the electroplated coating, which can't happen with an oxide layer in between them. Wood's Nickel Strike is a way of hopefully dissolving that oxide layer in acid and replacing it with nickel. Therefore (to my understanding) it is always required when plating on stainless steel (although there are alternatives like other nickel strike formulations or striking with gold).

affil. link
"Electrodeposition: The Materials Science of Coatings and Substrates"
by Jack Dini
from Abe Books
info on Amazon
see our Review

Anodic and cathodic cycles mean, respectively, running the power supply with the workpiece being the positive electrode and the negative electrode. Yes, some sources suggest a short period of anodic current first; but many shops do not do it, and that single question of whether the anodic is necessary or beneficial could probably justify it's own research project :-)
As previously mentioned, personally I think the best explanation of Wood's Nickel Strike is in Dini's "Electrodeposition".

I am not personally familiar with the use of palladium-tin catalyzing on stainless steel; I have only heard of it being used on non-conductive substrates. To summarize, I think the right thing to do is to clean and Wood's Nickel Strike all three of your pieces, then make sure nickel is catalytic (initiates the deposition) for your electroless copper and electroless silver, and to proceed to deposit the three electroless plating solutions onto the nickel strike.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Aloha -- an idea worth spreading

November 19, 2020

Q. I'm trying to something similar to a lot of others in this post. I have an assembly that is copper and 304SS that are brazed together using a CuSil (copper silver alloy) and a gold copper alloy. We have to plate high phosphorous electroless nickel because of its non magnetic properties.

The problem we have faced on this for a long time is peeling nickel on the stainless steal portions. After years of asking I finally have it approved to apply an acid gold strike. So I'm bead blasting the parts before plating, cleaning in alkaline cleaner, activating in a sodium fluoride activator, and then performing an acid gold strike at 100 ASF. This seems to have some success. I have some parts that have no flaking or peeling at all and others that are peeling on the stainless steel still. Any ideas what I could be doing wrong or better to obtain adhesion?

Ben Hartford
- Laurens South Carolina

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