Electroless nickel plating v electroplating: the differences

Electroless nickel plating v electroplating: the differences

Applying nickel to a surface gives it extra resistance to corrosion and wear. There are two main ways of applying a nickel coating: electroless and electroplating. Let’s explore the differences between the two.

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Nickel electroplating uses an electric current to coat the surface of an object, which is known as electrolysis. According to Britannica, electrolysis creates a chemical change in a substance when electricity is passed through it. Using a nickel salt solution, the object is immersed and an electric current is applied. This causes the nickel to stick to the surface of the object, giving it its coating.

The thickness of the layer can be controlled by the length of time an object is submerged and the strength of the electric current.

Electroless plating

Electroless nickel plating is where nickel ions are applied using a solution; it does not require an electric current. One of the main benefits of electroless plating is that any object can be coated with nickel rather than just conductive metals. The layer is also thinner, making it particularly suitable for small components. While the layer is thinner, it is of a higher quality than when applied using electrolysis. This means it is durable and resistant to corrosion. More information about electroless plating is available from specialists such as poeton.co.uk/standard-treatments/electroless-nickel-plating.

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Is electroplating or electroless plating best?

Choosing between electroplating and electroless plating will depend on the needs of your project. If you are looking for a faster and cheaper option, electroplating may be the right option; however, you can only coat conductive metals in this way. In some instances, ions can gather and lead to an uneven finish.

If you need a durable nickel coating, electroless plating has the advantage. You can be sure of an even coating without the possibility of ion build-up and while this type of plating is more expensive, you get a high-quality finish.

Both types of plating offer protective qualities to the object to which they are being applied, so you should always consider the pros and cons before deciding which is the best option for your application.

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