Nickel - Plating PCBs

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Shagas, Feb 11, 2014.

  1. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
    Hello

    I tried plating a small pcb that I made yesterday with nickel and it failed. The copper accumulated absolutely no nickel and I am trying to find out why.
    ( I obviously cleaned and re-cleaned the pcb before using the bath )

    I have previously silver and tin plated pcbs and i'm used to heating up the ready solution in a pyrex dish and then plopping in the pcb and watching the magic happen but with the nickel bath , there was no reaction.

    The bottle says that the operating temperature of the nickel bath is cca 95
    celcius. I heated it up to only 70-80 celcius with no results. Could that be the problem? I doubt it becauseif I remember anything from chemistry class is that even at lower temperatures one would expect it to work if only very slowly. The instructions also mentioned some other stuff including iron touching the copper or something but I couldn't understand that part well , it's not in english.
    It also says that a 10um layer takes about an hour. I held it in the bath for about 15 mins and had absolutely no result so i'm obviously doing something wrong.

    So has anyone plated copper with nickel and can give me a few tips?
    Thanks in advance
     
  2. t06afre

    AAC Fanatic!

    May 11, 2009
    5,939
    1,222
    Is not nickel quite hard(almost impossible) to solder with common electronic solder?
     
  3. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
  4. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    4,769
    969
    Nickel is a bad choice.. "fair" is what you will get.
    It requires stronger fluxes/increased contact time to get anything to stick "properly"

    Not sure why you plate any DIY PCB's in the first place though..
     
  5. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
    Because it's easy and looks good :)

    The reason why I want to plate this one is because it's a power circuit and a little bit of current handling increase can't hurt.
    I was considering nickel because it's the only plating bath I have at the moment and my tinning bath is about 4 months past expiration.
     
  6. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,498
    507
    We useed to plate the copper PCBs to make it easier to solder. Copper oxidizes so fast it's a pain to solder. We had some tinning solutions to soak the boards in that left them dull silver looking and easily solderable. Those solutions did not have to be heated they worked at room temp.
     
  7. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,498
    507
    Then you are much better off solder tinning it with an iron. Scrub the copper perfectly shiny with scotchbrite pad and then spray coat with clear sealer (urethane spray will work). Let dry then tin plate with solder. The clear coating keeps the copper from oxidizing as you heat it.
     
  8. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
    You mean plate it through the spray coating right? I'm guessing it just melts away when heat is applied.
     
  9. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,498
    507
    Correct. It's a slick trick I learned way back: the clear coat burns off as you tin the copper but it prevents the copper nearby from oxidizing until you get to tin it. Works great.

    If you just clean the copper perfectly clean and try to tin a large copper area without coating, it will stop taking solder as the adjacent areas oxidize. Royal PITA.

    The other technique I used to use was to clean the copper then rub some paste flux all over it to tin it but clear coat is so much easier and works better.
     
    Shagas likes this.
  10. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    2,449
    428
    for a power supply, why not use "cool amp" a dry silver plating product. they will usually sample a bottle for free, and it actually plates a thin layer of silver. we use it around here to increase the conductivity when stacking buss bars on high current supplies. I have also used it to plate the inside of rf cavities.
     
  11. Dr.killjoy

    Well-Known Member

    Apr 28, 2013
    1,190
    156
    How does that stuff work and look? ??
    Do you have pics ??
    whats price on it and how long does it last? ?

    How would you melt the paste? ??
    I find this really helpful because I want to coat the copper with tinning solutions but its costly and most likely to expire before get used again..I was thinking about using old solder and a large tip to coat the traces but the paste idea is really neat and might work in a toastet over better than using an iron...


    THANKS
    Jason Sr
     
  12. alfacliff

    Well-Known Member

    Dec 13, 2013
    2,449
    428
    cool amp doesn't shine up much, looks kind of white on copper. I havnt priced it for a while, b ut they do sample a fair sized bottle for free. it really does improve eonductivity, and is easily solderable.
     
  13. Shagas

    Thread Starter Active Member

    May 13, 2013
    802
    74
    Thanks for the suggestion , well I've already made the pcb and populated it so it's too late for me to plate anything . I'm just going to solder-fortify some key traces and that's it.
     
  14. shortbus

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 30, 2009
    4,003
    1,521
    Here you go - http://www.cool-amp.com/cool_amp.html
     
  15. bountyhunter

    Well-Known Member

    Sep 7, 2009
    2,498
    507
    The past melts as you tin the traces. It is just there to keep the copper from oxidizing as you go.
     
Loading...