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topic 6206

New to Electroless Copper Plating, need specific info


I am new to copper plating and am looking to plate some metallized plastics in my laboratory. I'm having difficulty locating specific information about copper plating solutions and what they contain. I'm planning to use the following process.

1. Clean and degrease with acetone/h20 (suggestions for cleansers welcome)

2. acid etch

3. activate in palladium catalyst

4. dip in 2:1 formaldehyde/Copper Sulfate Solution to plate

5. Rinse

Is this an appropriate methodology? Specific information for concentrations of each solution and for cleansing processes would be very welcome. Hopefully you experienced guys can help out a newbie to the copper industry!

Nikolas Uhlir
- Washington, D.C., USA

Electroless Copper and Nickel-Phosphorous Plating
from Abe Books


Electroless Plating
bt Mallory & Hajdu

from Abe Books
info on Amazon


As a newbie, what you perhaps haven't yet heard is that in the plating industry in America virtually all plating is done from proprietary plating baths and plating sequences.

The cleaning sequence probably would profit from an alkaline soak cleaner. The etch will depend of what kind of plastic you are plating, but a strong chromic-sulfuric is most common. It's possible to go right from a palladium catalyst to an electroless copper, but some proprietary sequences include a tin chloride.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


I appreciate the fact that most of this stuff is done from proprietary sources, if someone would be kind enough to list a few sources where I could purchase relatively small volumes of these solutions I would be more then happy to use them. Thanks!

Also, I'm new to Copper plating, not plating in general. I have significant experience with electroless nickel plating and alloy plating, and have developed my own solutions which are successful for those purposes. However, everyone I talk to about copper plating says I will not get good adhesion unless I use a proprietary solution, which may or may not be true. I'm simply trying to avoid wasting a lot of money on catalysts and chemicals if I can avoid the experimentation phase. I'm not interested in developing a new process for plating copper, I'm interested in what I can do to it afterwards, so I just need something that works, hopefully electrolessly.

Nik Uhlir
- washington D.C., USA


Another step usually required is an accelerator. The normal tin/palladium catalyst requires a step to strip the surface tin to expose the palladium. Other systems require a solution to reduce the palladium compound to palladium metal. This step usually is the last process step prior to the electroless copper bath.

Ted is absolutely correct in that what usually happens is that a proprietary process is purchased. This will usually include the preplate clean/etch baths along with rinsing requirements.

James Totter
James Totter, CEF
- Tallahassee, Florida


Please look in our Worldlink directory of Chemicals & Equipment; there are a number of suppliers who offer this listed there. And they are the companies who make this forum possible. Thanks.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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