How Does the Nickel Plating Process Work?

Nickel is a valuable metal. It is often used to protect other metals and enhance their properties and by using a coating or plating process, one can save a great deal on costs. The easiest way to coat something with nickel is to give it a bath in molten nickel. However, this is not the best method and in some cases, it is not possible. In fact, a process called electroless plating is often used and should meet certain AMS 2404 (previously Mil-C-26074 standards. Let’s check out the process of electroless plating and why it is so important today.

Electricity or Electroless?

There are two main methods for nickel plating today. One uses electricity and the other works with chemicals. So, which is best?

Electroplating

This process is relatively simple. By passing an electric current from nickel to another metal, the nickel will slowly form a thin and protective coating. How does this happen? Nickel atoms are removed during the process and transferred to the other material.

Electroless

Electroless nickel plating processes like Mil-C-26074 or AMS 2404 do not use electric current. They rely on a chemical reaction brought on by an acidic or alkaline based solution. The results are similar, but there are advantages to not using electricity. For example, more phosphorous is added to the coating and this provides the following benefits:

  • Better resistance to corrosion – with some parts, maximum corrosion resistance is essential.
  • More uniform deposits – creates a smoother and more attractive surface.
  • Magnetic properties can be lowered or raised – some parts (like machinery) need low magnetic properties.
  • Increased hardness – longer wear
  • Lubrication properties can enhance resistance to wear and tear.

Meeting Standards

It’s important for plating services today to conform to standards and specifications like Mil-C-26074 and MS 2404. This produces higher quality parts with fewer defects and problems.

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