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Palladium activation & Plating on Plastic

(to help readers more easily follow the discussion)

You can only electroplate onto conductive surfaces, so plating a leaf or a plastic part requires painting it with conductive paint, or otherwise making it conductive. There are many metallization methods (see the FAQ "How to electroplate flowers, leaves, animal skulls, and organic materials" for explanations of the various ways to metallize.

But most methods offer limited adhesion strength, whereas a chrome plated plastic automobile grill must endure subzero winters, blazing sun, car wash brushes, and gravel strikes. Plating on top of paint can't hang on tight enough against all this expansion, contraction, and abrasion. See "How high quality plating on plastics is done", which explains the special plastics used, the etching to achieve a sponge-like surface, and this "palladium chloride activation" stuff which locks metal into the sponge holes.

Q. Hi all
Anyone can help me to know about the consumption of palladium chloride during activation process on ABS component per sq ft? ... and what will be the approximate consumption during drag out process? Can anyone answer accumulated consumption of palladium chloride/sq ft area on activation of ABS components?

Thanks & Regards

awadhesh Kumar Avasthi
employee - delhi
June 26, 2022

"Plating on plastics"
by Don Baudrand & Gurd Mueller

on AbeBooks

or Amazon

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"Standards and Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics"
by American Society for Electroplated Plastics
on AbeBooks

or eBay or


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Q. Hello Sir.
Hope you are fine?
Sir can you refer me to a good book on metallizing on ABS plastic material
I'm a starter student of Electroplating
I'm interested to start Electroless Copper
Thank you

Iqtadar Hussain
- Gujranwala Punjab Pakistan
October 1, 2022

A. Hi Iqtadar.

Unless you are involved in printed circuitry, electroless nickel is a more common starting point than electroless copper these days. The latest advances tend to be proprietary, and include direct metallization in place of electroless plating, but if these are not available in your area, a good 'standard' book is probably Muller & Baudrand's "Plating on Plastics". Another old standard is "Standards & Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics" by ASEP.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

⇩ Related postings, oldest first ⇩

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

Multiple threads merged: please forgive chronology errors :-)

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 20, 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

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 24, 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

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

sara michaeli
sara michaeli signature
Sara Michaeli
Tel-Aviv-Yafo, Israel

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

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
May 30, 2013


Q. Using liquid palladium to make part conductive?

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 18, 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, it's not a matter of just dipping in a palladium chloride solution :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Graphite Adhesive 154

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

Ewald Schuster [returning]
- Los Angeles, California
October 19, 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

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 14, 2017

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 18, 2020

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 in the West 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 a single shop who made their own palladium activator and other plating on plastic processes :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Recovering contaminated palladium chloride catalyzing bath

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 is there any way to use the palladium chloride that is used in this bath?

maryam mohammadzadeh
- shiraz.iran
December 29, 2017

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
February 22, 2021

Q. Dear sir how are you?
I want to know how to make high quality palladium activator solution for plastic surface plating, kindly requested. Sir please give me good idea for palladium activator solution making. I am a platinum group refining experience 25 years, so I hope you understand my problem, so please advise me, Thank you.


Mohsin khan
Making plating solution - Mumbai, India
August 11, 2021

A. Hi Mohsin. Yes, chemical solutions based on palladium chloride are one of the important preplate steps in plating on plastic. After etching & neutralization the parts are dipped into a solution which contains palladium chloride. After further steps involving tin chloride these palladium ions are subsequently 'reduced' to 'seeds' of palladium metal on the parts and in the etched recesses of the parts, and catalyze the later electroless nickel step.

All questions are welcome here ... but there are questions which probably cannot or will not be answered for various reasons such as:

• the answer cannot be offered in the couple of paragraphs suitable to a public forum, and books or technical articles must be read instead, as Trevor has said;

• or it isn't realistic to offer a chemical for one step in such a complex multi-step process where proprietaries from a different vendor are used for the other steps. Trying to discuss the palladium chloride step independent of the tin chloride step reinforces what "Standards & Guidelines for Electroplated Plastics" says:

"Due to the complex nature of the preplate system, which involves many interactions of the various chemical steps, it is recommended that a complete system be chosen as recommended by the chemical supplier"

• the internet, and especially "no registration" sites like this one offer competitors and disgruntled employees the opportunity to blow trade secrets. We've offered generic information about palladium chloride catalyzation solutions, but questions about the fine details of improving them offer an opportunity for essentially anonymous crowd sourcing of industrial espionage, so this site cannot post those non-generic details.

For more detail on formulation you must consult books or published articles. Apologies.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

RFQ Dear sir how are you?
I want to make palladium activator solution, so kindly say if you can help me, I can pay money -- what is your charge, I hope you understand my question, I can't speak English fluently, perhaps you're understanding my problem?


Mohsin khan [returning]
Making palladium solution - Mumbai, India
August 17, 2021

Ed. note: Sorry, this RFQ is old & outdated, so contact info is no longer available. However, if you feel that something technical should be said in reply, please post it; no public commercial suggestions please ( huh? why?)

A. Hi Mohsin. Sorry, I can't help, but hopefully others will contact you.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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