Electroless Plating

Definition - What does Electroless Plating mean?

Electroless plating is a method of plating metal by chemical rather than electrical means, in which the piece to be plated is immersed in a reducing agent that, when catalyzed by certain materials, changes metal ions to metal that forms a deposit on the piece.

A major expansion of electroless plating has come in the area of plastics, as in the plating of printed electronic circuits. Numerous consumer goods are coated by this method to create durable and attractive surfaces.

The most common electroless plating technique is electroless nickel plating, although silver, gold and copper layers can also be applied in this manner.

Electroless plating is also known as chemical plating or auto-catalytic plating.

Corrosionpedia explains Electroless Plating

Electroless plating is a non-galvanic plating method that involves several simultaneous reactions in an aqueous solution, which occur without the use of external electrical power. The reaction is accomplished when hydrogen is released by a reducing agent, normally sodium hypophosphite (the hydrogen leaves as a hydride ion), and oxidized, thus producing a negative charge on the surface of the part.

Because electroless plating allows a consistant metal ion concentration to bathe all parts of the object, it deposits metal evenly along edges, inside holes and over irregularly shaped objects which are difficult to plate evenly with electroplating. Electroless plating is also applied to deposit a conductive surface on a nonconductive object to allow it to be electroplated.

Advantages of electroless plating include:

  • Does not use electrical power
  • Even coating
  • No sophisticated jigs or racks required
  • Flexibility in plating volume and thickness
  • Chemical replenishment monitored automatically
  • Complex filtration method is not required
  • Matte, semi-bright or bright finishes available

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