What is electroless nickel plating?

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Plating is a popular form of surface treatment, but it comes in multiple forms. Most obvious is the distinction between electroplating and electroless nickel plating. One relies on electrical currents, the other is a chemical process utilising a reducing agent. To decide which is most appropriate to your needs, you need to understand how electroless nickel plating works, and its advantages and disadvantages.
How does electroless nickel plating work?

To plate a substrate with electroless nickel, you dip your piece (usually made of metal or plastic) in a solution that contains a reducing agent, most commonly hypophosphite salt, plus nickel salts. Depending on the reducing agent, the resulting coating could contain between 4% and 14% phosphorus. The benefits of this type of coating have been investigated in a range of scientific studies.

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of electroless nickel plating?

Electroless nickel provides a completely even coating that spreads in equal thickness across the entirety of the surface, even if it is a strange shape or has awkward corners or recesses. This gives it an advantage over electroplating, which tends to be more uneven. It is also preferable to electroplating when dealing with non-conductive materials, as it does not use electricity. The plating is less porous than electroplating, making it highly resistant to corrosion and other forms of wear, and its bright, silver colour creates a pleasing appearance.

This combination of features means electroless nickel plating has a wide range of applications in many industries. Different formulations are available from various suppliers, such as at www.poeton.co.uk/standard-treatments/electroless-nickel-plating/, and are tailored for specific uses. The main disadvantage of electroless nickel plating is continuously sourcing the necessary chemicals, which can increase the expense.

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There are several reasons that you may choose electroless nickel plating over electroplating, most notably its ability to create an even coating, the fact it works without electricity, its resistance to corrosion and other damage, and its bright finish. You just need to ensure you have the correct supplies for the process, which involves a chemical reaction between nickel salts and a reducing agent containing phosphorus.

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