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Need mirror finish electroless nickel plating on inner walls of holes

(-----) February 5, 2008

My name is Anand Palkar ( Mumbai ).We are in a process of developing a RF Switch. One of our parts (plate of thickness 1.5 mm ) drilled holes requires a smooth mirror like finish, free from scratches after electroless nickel plating.The base metal is Aluminum 6061 T6 .We tried working on improving the finish of base metal aluminum, but could not succeed to have a mirror finish. We tried using various polishing chemicals without any success, these chemicals give only shine to the metal surface without removing any scratches. Is it possible to have mirror finish after plating .The plating thickness specified is 7 to 10 microns . Please let me know how I can rectify this finishing issue.

Best regards
Anand Palkar

Anand Palkar
R & D Engineer - Mumbai, India

First of two simultaneous responses -- February 8, 2008

Electropolishing has it's limitations when it comes to removing grooves and deep scratches. The only thing I could suggest is to address the drilling and countersink methods. The better the fabrication process is, the easier it is for you in the plating process. Good sharp drill bits, correct drill speeds and stack height (if stack height is applicable). I have also seen polishing tips employed in the same drill program used for the parts. Good Luck!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, NY ,USA

Second of two simultaneous responses -- February 9, 2008

Most plating processes, with few exceptions reproduce the substrate as is. What you need to attain, if achieved in a chemical way, would be known as "leveling" and is mostly done by the plate like in bright nickel plating or selectively removing metal around scratches and valleys like in electropolishing (EP). Unfortunately due to your geometry and substrate, bright nickel or EP are limited. In my opinion, you need to improve the hole surface before plating. For that purpose, there are several approaches, lapping, honing, burnishing or vibratory bulk finishing. You may have to add an intermediate finishing step before the final plate.

Guillermo Marrufo
Monterrey, NL, Mexico

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