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Palladium activation for EN Problems & Solutions

Current question and answers:

February 22, 2021

Ed. note: Please, please, pretty
no "abstract" questions :-)

Q. Dear sir,
Tell me one thing, my activator (Pd) tank contains chrome and iron impurities. How to reduce it?


Vikram Jhaa
- Chennai Tamil Nadu, India
^ Reply to Vikram Jhaa 's posting ^

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Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:


Q. We are a Job Shop to Plating on Plastic. We have higher consumption of palladium in our Futuron activator. We believe that it can be due to contamination with Sodium-Meta-Bisulfite Our reducer contains 30 gr/liter Sodium-Meta-Bisulfite.

Then we have three counter-flow rinse that let us a dilution of 30000:1

The following step is a Pre-Dip with 30% of hydrochloric acid. Our Drag-out is 0.002 ml/sq. dm. But we don't know which is the maximum Meta-Bisulfite that can support our activator.

Can somebody help us?

Norberto G. Martin


A. Hello Norberto,

The palladium in the activator is present as a colloid. palladium as the ground state metal and stannous tin (keeps the palladium in solution)chloride. The Bisulfite is probable not effecting the palladium directly, but is chemically going after the tin. Is there a little sludge at the bottom of the activator? Using a little stannous chloride in the pre-dip might protect the activator. Do try this off-line first. Don't experiment with production. Three counter-flow rinses is a good thing, but is there any agitation of the rinse water (air) or parts? Might be all you need.

Note: If you're using Electroless Copper you might want to change from 30% hydrochloric acid pre-dip to a lower Normality sodium chloride type of pre-dip (health reasons).


Fred Mueller, CEF
- Royersford, Pennsylvania

How to use Palladium Chloride as activator for ABS plastic


Q. Could anyone guide me how to use PdCl2 as activator for plating ABS Plastic?


Yashar Moradi
HOMA Zarrin - Tehran, Iran


A. PdCl2 is used in conjunction with SnCl2 to help activate an etched polymer surface. I suggest you read a good text book on metallising plastics and all will be revealed.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK


Q. I appreciate your response, but unfortunately with view to the fact that I'm living in Iran, I cannot purchase a book online from amazon ... and in the meanwhile I was unable to find one here in Tehran.

If there are any digital literature regarding finishing plastic objects, would you please be kind enough to inform me.

Yashar Moradi [returning]
- Tehran, Iran


A. Yashar, you live in Tehran, one of the most educated cities in the world; surely there are libraries there that will have books about plating on plastics? If not, try the university, which is one of the best in the Arab world. Other than that, do an Internet search and you should get the answer. However, it is so wide ranging that you will not get a practical answer to meet your needs on this sort of site.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK

To minimize search efforts and to offer multiple viewpoints, we combined previously separate threads onto this page. Please forgive any resultant repetition, failures of chronological order, or what may look like readers disrespecting previous responses -- those other responses may not have been on the page at the time :-)

January 20, 2011

Q. Hello all,

I work in a PCB manufacturer which involves working with an electroless nickel / immersion gold plating line.

I have a question regarding the palladium activator that my chemical supplier is failing to make clear for me. I am hoping that the knowledgeable experts in this forum could possibly shed some light on the topic.

We are currently monitoring the acid concentration in the palladium activator bath and is discovering of its tendency to hover around the upper limit as per our supplier's data sheet.

We understand too low of an acid concentration will (drop the palladium colloids out of the solution?), but our main concern is not knowing the consequences of a HIGH acid concentration.

What are the risks of operating with too high of an acid concentration?

Thank you in advance.

Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Andrew Lee
PCB manufacturer - Shenzhen, China

January 24, 2011

A. Hi Andrew,

Not sure you are using H2SO4 or HCl base catalyst. For HCl base catalyst, too high acid concentration might accelerate Cu dissolution and shorten bath life. Both HCl and H2SO4 base catalyst might face difficulty of Pd adsorption and cause EN skip plating when acid concentration is too high.


David Shiu
David Shiu
- Singapore

January 24, 2011

Q. Thank you for your response David. Your insight is much appreciated!

1) The catalyst consists of sulfuric and phosphoric acid; Does it share the same outcomes as you listed above for operating with a high acidic concentration with a HCl based catalyst?

2) Could you share any common and well-accepted methods to lower the acidic concentration?

3) We do experience the EN skip plating phenomenon but it occurs quite randomly with varying severity. We are still in the process of deciphering the pattern and its possible root causes!

Andrew Lee [returning]
- Shenzhen, China

January 26, 2011

A. Hi Andrew,

Excessive Cu dissolution under high sulfuric/phosphoric acid shall not be a concern as under high hydrochloric acid (due to accumulation of Cupric Chloride which is a kind of Cu etchant). However, high sulfuric/phosphoric acid will still increase chance of EN skip plating to certain extent.

One possibility of high acid content in catalyst could be due to predip acid concentration too high. You may reduce predip acid concentration to avoid acid climb up in catalyst bath.


David Shiu
David Shiu
- Singapore

February 9, 2011

? Are you sure that it is a colloid type of Pd, not an ionic type?

sara michaeli
Sara Michaeli sara michaeli signature
chemical process supplier
Tel-Aviv, Israel

February 15, 2011

thumbs up sign Sara: I have confirmed that it is indeed an IONIC type Pd.

Does this suggest otherwise from the above stated?

Thanks in advance.

Andrew Lee [returning]
- Shenzhen, China

How to formulate palladium activation solution for plating on ABS

May 30, 2013

Q. Dear sir,
I come from Indonesia. I work in plastic electroplating and I want to ask about palladium activator in ABS plastic plating.
Could you give me :
1. the chemical & composition of palladium activator?
2. the process to make it?
3. what stabilizer I should use?

Okay, thank you very much for the information.

Agung Heri
- Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia


Using liquid palladium to make part conductive

October 18, 2017

Q. I have been using silver paint to plate nickel sulfamate on fiberglass. I have been getting good results other that the bath being contaminated by the silver paint and the nickel becoming brittle. I was told that I can use liquid palladium. Is there a certain type to get and can I just spray it on the fiberglass lightly?

Ewald Schuster
hobby - Los Angeles, California

October 2017

A. Hi Ewald. You probably should stick with the silver or copper metallizing approach, although there may be better metallizing solutions than the silver paint you are using.

The palladium method is a different and far more complicated way to go, often used on automotive exterior quality plating, and involving many steps, not just dipping in a palladium chloride solution.


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

October 19, 2017

Q. Is the Graphite Conductive Adhesive 154 an option, and is it less likely to contaminate the sulfamate bath?

Ewald Schsuter [returning]
- Los Angeles, California

December 26, 2017

A. Hello Ewald,
The conductive epoxies are not very suitable for your project imho. I do not recommend plating epoxy substrates or surfaces. Silver paint is not usually very adhesive but it is the best choice. Palladium plating is complicated, as Ted wisely noted, and is no panacea.

blake kneedler
Blake Kneedler
Feather Hollow Eng. - Stockton, California

November 14, 2017

Q. We need to use Palladium Chloride as activator for Electroless plating for Cu and Al sample/Substrate.

Can anybody help for preparing the solution from PdCl2 granules?

Raj Sekhar Chakrabarti
- Kolkata, West Bengal, India

November 18, 2020

Q. Hi. I have palladium solution for plastic plating: PdCl 2g/l, SnCl2 120g/l, HCl 20ml/l -- but l didn't work for two weeks and in this time color of Pd solution changed to black. Why?
I can recover it?

Reza Amini
- Tehran Arka chemical

November 2017

A. Hi Reza. You are certainly very welcome to try to develop any chemistry you wish, and to ask for the readers' help towards doing it (and so are earlier writers Agung and Raj Sekhar).

But for the benefit of readers who might be wondering why a question which has been asked 3 times on this thread hasn't been answered, we should note that production plating on plastic is a complicated process involving the application of many process chemistries which must work together flawlessly in sequence, and the universally accepted procedure is to buy proven, fully developed metallization process sequences from plating process suppliers rather than to try to develop these processes from commodity chemicals yourself.
Good luck with it, but I can't help you because in my lifetime in this industry I don't know even a single shop who attempted making their own palladium activator :-)


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

Recovering contaminated palladium chloride catalyzing bath

December 29, 2017

Q. Hello.
I use palladium chloride solution as catalyzer, but unfortunately this bath became ruined after some days.
Can I reuse this bath again? I mean that is there any way to use the palladium chloride that is used in this bath?

maryam mohammadzadeh
- shiraz.iran
^ Reply to maryam mohammadzadeh 's posting ^

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