Copper Plating Troubleshooting Tips

Copper Electroplating

Did you know that copper is used in industrial plating processes with greater frequency than any metal other than nickel? Copper is so popular as an electroplating option because it is relatively inexpensive and is always available in abundance. Because of its natural electrical conductivity, copper is usually the metal of choice in the manufacturing of products such as circuit boards and other electronic components. It also provides excellent protection against corrosion — it is considered less hazardous to the environment than many other plated metal types.

As with electroplating with any metal, successful copper plating requires precise execution to achieve the desired result. The following troubleshooting tips can ensure the best possible outcome during the copper plating process:

  • The right bath chemistry — A copper plating bath can be alkaline (cyanide or non-cyanide) or acid-based in composition. Choosing the most appropriate composition for the desired plating result can eliminate many common copper plating issues. An acid-based bath is usually the preferred choice when a brighter finish is required.
  • Elimination of contaminants in cyanide baths — Cyanide copper plating baths are especially susceptible to contaminants such as organic residues from rack materials and cleaning compounds. Continuously filtering the plating solution can eliminate many common contaminants and prevent the need for additional purification.
  • Agitation of acid baths — Proper agitation of an acid bath can prevent high-current density burning and ensure maximum brightness of the finished product. Air agitation is the best choice for decorative copper plating processes, while mechanical agitation is better suited for the plating of circuit boards.
  • Contamination control in acid baths — Contamination control in acid baths is typically easier to achieve than with cyanide baths. However, the presence of a green tint indicates that purification is necessary. A light carbon treatment can remove contaminants such as oil, grease or cleaning product residue. Any remaining contaminants can usually be removed with carbon/hydrogen peroxide treatment.
  • Reliable plating of through-holes and blind vias — A common issue when using a copper acid bath to plate circuit boards is that the plating may not be deposited uniformly in through-holes and blind vias. This phenomenon is known as poor “throwing power.” Increasing the acid concentration can enhance the throwing power, although it could result in the precipitation (solidification) of the copper in the bath.

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Sharretts Plating Company has developed an efficient copper plating process that can be used with various metal substrates. We can also plate copper onto non-metallic materials such as plastics. We can even create a customized copper plating procedure for your company’s specific metal plating requirements. Contact us today for more information about copper plating troubleshooting techniques. Have more questions about metal plating? We offer plating consulting services!