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Nickel strike before copper coating steel components?

May 27, 2010

Hello All.
I am new to plating so require some sound advice so that's why I am here.
I am currently setting up a process and require some advice as to which way I go. I need to apply a layer of copper plate to a steel component. The problem I have is I understand I will need to apply a strike coat of nickel to the prepared surface. Can anyone advise me the simplest method of applying this initial strike coat. thanks Jason

Jason Carsboult
Process development engineer - Suffok England

May 27, 2010

Hi, Jason. Here's the issue: the copper in a copper sulfate (or other simple salt) plating bath will "immersion" deposit on steel because copper is much more noble than steel. That means it will plate out on the steel without any current applied. These immersion deposits are unsatisfactory for most applications because they lack any real adhesion.

So your choices are to either apply the copper from a bath that complexes it, like copper cyanide (dangerous), or a proprietary copper pyrophosphate bath (available from companies like EPI (Electrochemical Products Inc.) [a finishing.com supporting advertiser] and Zinex), or to plate something else onto the steel first -- and nickel is usually the first choice for that. In this context, "strike" probably only means that the nickel plating can be pretty thin (just enough for full coverage); I don't think that it implies that you need any special chemistry.


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

June 1, 2010


I assume from your question that you do not currently have a chemical processing facility.

Before you expend too much effort on acquiring the necessary technical knowledge you might spend a little time researching the legal and environmental requirements. COSHH regulations, discharge consents, IPCC and the rest.

You need a large and sustained throughput of work to justify investing in the plant, effluent treatment, chemical controls, etc. not to mention employing someone with plating knowledge.

Then I would go to Yellow Pages and call one or two of your local plating companies. Visit them and see what is involved. You will save a lot of money and avoid sleepless nights.

geoff smith
Geoff Smith
Hampshire, England

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