When to Choose Electroless Nickel Over Nickel Electroplating

Nickel is one of the most versatile metals used for plating applications. A nickel coating can be applied via the traditional electroplating process, which requires the use of an electric current. Another option is to employ an electroless process where deposition occurs via autocatalytic reaction. While both offer a number of important metal finishing benefits, there are certain situations where electroless nickel can prove to be the better option.

Enhanced Corrosion Resistance

If rust formation is a major issue in the types of products you manufacture, then electroless nickel can provide the advanced corrosion protection your need. The typical electroless nickel solution is actually a fluid alloy of nickel and phosphorous — the phosphorous component is what provides the enhanced corrosion resistance. In contrast, nickel electroplating relies on the use of 99-percent pure nickel. This offers adequate, but not superior corrosion protection.

Uniform Coating Distribution

Do you manufacture parts filled with deep grooves or recessed areas? Do you produce parts featuring complex shapes or configurations? The immersion process used to apply an electroless nickel coating provides much better surface coverage than could be achieved with nickel electroplating. This is due in part to the autocatalytic reaction that occurs upon immersion — the nickel-phosphorous coating will adhere to any area of the substrate surface where contact occurs.

Controlling Coating Density

Electroless nickel offers greater flexibility in terms of coating density. The amount of phosphorous in the alloy determines the overall density and thickness. The plating bath can be low phos (1-4 percent phosphorous content) mid phos (6-9 percent) or high phos (11-14 percent). The lower the phosphorous content, the greater the density of the coating. An extremely low phos coating can approach electrolytic nickel in terms of high density.

Increased Surface Hardness

If you require an extremely hard, durable surface on your finished products, electroless nickel can normally provide a more acceptable solution than nickel electroplating. The surface will also be more resistant to the forces of wear, abrasion and friction.

What About Appearance?

If you are hoping to achieve the bright, shiny appearance that is similar to a hard chrome coating, then electroless nickel is not the best option. Electroless nickel is primarily used for functional as opposed to aesthetic purposes. However, black electroless nickel coatings are now available for applications where a darker, light-resistant surface is required.

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Contact Us to Learn More About the Differences Between Electroless Nickel and Nickel Electroplating

Sharretts Plating Company offers nickel electroplating and electroless nickel plating options that can help you achieve your specific metal finishing objectives. Contact us today to learn more about the two processes. We can also help you determine which one is better for your needs and budget requirements.