Tinning is often referred to as the "poor man's" alternative to more expensive plating processes such as gold, platinum and palladium, due to this post-transition metal's relatively low cost. However, this designation belies the significant value offered by tin plating. In addition to helping to keep operating costs low, tin plating offers key benefits such as excellent corrosion protection, a high level of solderability and good contact resistance.

Enhancing the Effectiveness of Tin Plating

Alloying tin with other metals can improve the results obtained with tin plating. For instance, alloying tin with nickel and cobalt improves hardness, while a tin-zinc combination enhances corrosion resistance. When solderability is a primary concern, a tin-lead alloy can prove beneficial, while a tin-silver alloy, still in the testing stages, has shown promising results for a variety of applications.

When Is Tin Plating Used?

Speaking of applications, tin plating has many! Tin's ductility and non-toxic nature, as well as its corrosion resistance, makes it a top choice for food service-related industries, particularly in the manufacturing of fast food equipment, as well as in the production of cookware. Electronics is another industry in which tin plating is pervasive, primarily due to its ability to preserve solderability. As solar power continues to increase in popularity, tin plating has carved out a significant niche in the housing industry.

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Tin Considerations

Tin plating is not known for its thermal protection properties so it should not be used for any application involving high temperatures. Tin "whiskers", which are hair-like protrusions approximately 1-2 mm in length and 1-3 micrometers in diameter, can cause damage to electronic components. Tin whiskers do not form immediately upon plating; it may take several weeks or even months for whiskers to develop. Whisker formation can often be reduced by modifying the crystal structure of the tin deposit.

The Right Plating Company Makes the Difference

SPC is widely recognized as an industry leader in the development of top-quality tin plating processes that also offer a cost-effective metal finishing solution. Our scientifically developed methodology, backed by more than 80 years of metal finishing experience, includes a finely honed pre-plating process to improve longevity and eliminate surface weaknesses. Contact us to learn more about the advantages of tin plating from SPC!

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"I would like to thank you for the help you have provided us in developing an electroless nickel plating technique on an unusual substrate. The sample platings you provided show that we should be able to reach our goals. I especially appreciate your willingness to take on an unusual job, with the uncertainties that that entails...We are looking forward to working with you in the future on our plating needs."

– Robert K.