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What and how to formulate electroplating baths?

Q. My concerns are: how to prepare a gold bath? a silver bath? a nickel and zinc bath? What are their chemicals and the processes to mix it? thanks ... ernny.

Ernesto Belangoy
local electroplater/hobbyist - Philippines
June 8, 2012

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A. Hi Ernesto

Hobbyists and researchers sometimes remember a chemistry class from high school or college and assume that the user makes plating solutions by mixing raw commodity chemicals. In a very few cases there may be some truth to this, but electroplating is an industrial science, and in general you buy the formulated plating baths from specialists. Just as you buy Citgo or Exxon or Shell gasoline for your automobile, rather than making gasoline from crude oil, you buy brand A, B or C nickel plating process or brand X, Y or Z zinc plating process.

The Metal Finishing Guidebook or Electroplating Engineering Handbook will often give you the overall ratios of the chemicals, but efficient and robust plating processes usually depend upon proprietary additives. In those books you will discover that there are often many alternate formulations for plating baths, e.g., zinc plating can be done from an acid bath, a cyanide bath, or an alkaline non-cyanide bath, and each of those three approaches has further alternatives. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
June 8, 2012

A. Ernesto, the first thing you must do is to take a professional course in metal finishing and especially electrodeposition; without this basic knowledge you will never succeed in producing consistently good deposits.
A good course will also tell you how to produce, maintain and operate the electroplating baths so that you work in a safe manner and do not harm, or even kill, yourself, your family and your neighbours.
Thirdly, a good course will tell you how to avoid polluting your area and the local water supplies and hence it will teach you how to avoid being sent to jail.
In other words, electroplating is a skilled technology that should only be carried out by people who know what they are doing; it should not be treated as a "learn as you go along" operation.
You will find there are some excellent books on how to electrodeposit metals such as the ones mentioned. However, you will need a lot of fundamental knowledge to make the baths work properly and this will only come by being taught how to do it.

trevor crichton
Trevor Crichton
R&D practical scientist
Chesham, Bucks, UK
June 12, 2012

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