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"Electroless copper plating and electroless nickel plating"


A final year student carrying out project.
I want to find out if a non-cyanide copper electroless plating can be done on mild steel.

I also want to find out if electroless nickel plating can be done on mild steel.



Yes, and yes. Electroless nickel is an autocatalytic plating bath where the presence of either steel or nickel causes additional nickel to deposit; my research-less guess would be that more electroless nickel is deposited on steel substrates than any other substrate.

Autocatalytic electroless copper is probably deposited on fiberglass printed circuit boards more than on steel, but it can be deposited onto steel. And immersion copper plating, where we simply rely on copper to deposit on steel by virtue of being more noble and coming out of solution preferentially, while of value only for limited applications, is nonetheless very common.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 27, 2012

Q. Does Electroless copper plating have an advantage over electrolytic copper plating?

I carry out electrolyte copper plating, please help.

Abhiraj Naik
Engineer - Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

March 27, 2012

Hi Abhiraj.

I'm not personally aware of electroless (autocatalyltic) copper plating being used for any other purpose than metallizing plastics, especially printed circuit boards -- but maybe a reader can educate us both.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

First of two simultaneous responses -- March 27, 2012

Hello Abhiraj,
As Ted said there are certain applications where ElectroLess Cu has to be used. It does have advantages in respect to what it can accomplish that Electrolytic Cu can't. ElectroLess Cu is not meant to be plated as a final finish because of thickness limitations and deposit characteristics. For instance in printed circuit board applications, the typical Cu thickness is 50 to 75 micro inches. Heavier thicknesses for this application the Cu tends to peel upon itself. ElectroLess Cu does not contain any brighteners or levelers which are essential for a good deposit which is a lot less porous and thicker.

Mark Baker
Engineering - Mesa, Arizona, USA

Second of two simultaneous responses -- March 28, 2012

Dear Abhiraj Naik,

The major difference in plating a metal by electro- and electroless route is the uniformity of the coating.

Coatings deposited by electroless deposition method is uniform irrespective of the geometry of the job

In electrodeposition process, there will be overgrowth at the edges, which requires post-finishing

Plating rate, bath stability and number of turnovers are good in electrodeposition whereas these aspects are relatively poor in electroless deposition

T.S.N. Sankara Narayanan
T.S.N. Sankara Narayanan
- Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
(ed.note Nov. 2017: The good doctor has a fascinating blog at https://advancementinscience.wordpress.com)

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