Guide to the Advantages of Nickel Plating for Sheet Metal Parts

Table of Contents

Nickel plating, also known as nickel electroplating, is a process in which a layer of nickel is deposited onto the surface of an object. It is a commonly used method for coating various materials to enhance their properties and appearance.

Nickel plating offers several advantages. It provides corrosion resistance, making it suitable for protecting metal objects from environmental factors that can cause rust or degradation. Nickel plating also enhances the hardness and durability of the substrate, increasing its resistance to wear and abrasion. Additionally, it can improve the appearance of an object, giving it a shiny and lustrous finish.

This plating technique is found in various industries. It is commonly used in automotive manufacturing for components such as bumpers, grilles, and trim. It is also used in the electronics industry to provide corrosion protection to connectors, contacts, and printed circuit boards. In the decorative industry, nickel plating is utilized for jewelry, watches, and other accessories. 

SendCutSend also provides plating services on machined parts. We currently offer both zinc and nickel plating

Deep Diving into the Nickel Plating Process

In general, nickel plating, or nickel electroplating, involves immersing the object to be plated, called the substrate, into an electrolytic bath containing a solution of nickel salts. The substrate acts as the cathode, while a nickel anode is also present. When an electric current is applied, metal cations from the nickel anode are reduced and deposited onto the surface of the substrate, forming a thin layer of nickel. This deposition process occurs due to electrochemical reactions, with the nickel atoms accumulating on the substrate’s surface. The plating thickness can be controlled by adjusting the duration of the process. Nickel plating provides benefits such as corrosion resistance, improved durability, and a decorative finish.

The most suitable materials for nickel plating include steel, copper and copper alloys, brass, aluminum, zinc and zinc alloys, and iron or cast iron. Nickel plating provides these materials with benefits such as corrosion resistance, wear resistance, improved appearance, and protection against tarnishing. It is important to consider the composition, surface condition, and intended application of the material to determine its compatibility with nickel plating. Pre-plating processes like cleaning may be necessary to ensure proper adhesion and quality of the nickel plating.

Nickel vs. Zinc Plating

SendCutSend offers both nickel and zinc plating. The best type of plating may vary based on the intended use of the part. Below is a table providing a brief comparison between nickel and zinc plating from the standpoint of corrosion resistance, uses, materials. 

Nickel PlatingZinc Plating
Corrosion ResistanceExcellent corrosion resistance, especially in alkaline environments. Suitable for applications where corrosion protection is critical.Good corrosion resistance, particularly in atmospheric conditions.
UsesWidely used in various industries, including automotive, electronics, and decorative applications. Provides corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and aesthetic appeal.Commonly used for corrosion protection of iron and steel surfaces. Suitable for applications such as fasteners, screws, and galvanized steel products.
MaterialsSuitable for plating on steel, copper, copper alloys, brass, aluminum, and iron or cast iron.Primarily used for plating on iron, steel, and zinc substrates. Zinc plating on copper or copper alloys can cause galvanic corrosion.

Electroplating vs. Electroless Nickel Plating

Although common, electroplating is not the only type of nickel plating process that exists. Electroless nickel plating is also another popular method for coating metal surfaces with a layer of nickel. While they both achieve a similar outcome, there are significant differences in the processes and properties of the resulting coatings. Here at SendCutSend, we use electroplating in our nickel plating process.

Electroplating involves the use of an electric current to deposit a layer of nickel onto a substrate. Electroplating offers precise control over the thickness and composition of the coating, making it suitable for applications requiring specific coating characteristics. It provides a dense, uniform, and adherent nickel layer, which offers excellent corrosion resistance and wear resistance. It is also generally the less expensive option. However, the process requires careful preparation of the substrate and often involves multiple steps which can be time-consuming and more complex than electroless nickel plating.

On the other hand, electroless nickel plating does not rely on an external power source. Instead, the deposition of nickel occurs through a chemical reaction on the surface of the substrate. The process involves immersing the substrate into a solution containing a reducing agent and a source of nickel ions. The reducing agent initiates the reaction that deposits a uniform layer of nickel onto the surface. Electroless nickel plating provides excellent coverage and uniform thickness even on complex shapes and hard-to-reach areas. It also offers good corrosion resistance and wear resistance. The process is simpler compared to electroplating, requiring fewer steps and reducing the risk of damage to delicate components. However, precise control over the coating thickness and composition can be more challenging to achieve.

Advantages of Nickel Electroplating and Electroless Nickel Plating

Both electroplating and electroless plating have unique advantages. Below is a summary:

Nickel Electroplating

  • Precise control: Electroplating allows for precise control over the thickness and composition of the nickel coating by adjusting the parameters such as current density, plating time, and bath composition.
  • Enhanced adhesion: The electroplated layer forms a metallurgical bond with the substrate, leading to improved bonding strength. 
  • Faster deposition rates: The use of an electric current in electroplating facilitates a higher rate of metal ion deposition, resulting in shorter plating times. 
  • Cost-effectiveness: The equipment and chemicals required for electroplating are often less expensive than electroless plating, and the process can be more efficient for certain applications. 
  • Versatility: Electroplating can be used to deposit nickel coatings on a wide range of substrates, including various metals, plastics, and ceramics.

Electroless Nickel Plating

  • Uniform coating thickness: Since the plating occurs through a chemical reaction, it allows for a more even distribution of the coating, ensuring consistent thickness across the entire surface. 
  • Simplicity and ease of use: Electroless nickel plating does not require the use of an external power source or complex equipment, making it a simpler and more accessible process compared to electroplating. 
  • Improved corrosion resistance: The uniform composition contributes to their enhanced resistance to corrosion, oxidation, and environmental degradation. 
  • High chemical stability: Electroless nickel coatings have excellent chemical resistance and thermal stability. They can withstand exposure to a wide range of chemicals, including acids, bases, and solvents, without significant degradation. 
  • Improved surface finish and hardness: Electroless nickel plating can provide a smoother and more uniform surface finish compared to electroplating. Additionally, electroless nickel coatings can achieve higher hardness levels, providing improved wear resistance and durability. 

It’s important to consider the specific requirements of the application, the coating properties desired in the coating, and the use cases when choosing between electroless nickel plating and electroplating. Each method has its own advantages for different scenarios. At SendCutSend, nickel electroplating is offered along with fast turnaround time, cost-effectiveness, and high quality.

Things to Consider When Choosing Nickel Plating

When opting for nickel plating a part with SendCutSend, there are a few things we recommend to keep in mind. First, there are two materials available for nickel plating with SendCutSend: mild steel and high-purity electrolytic copper. Nickel-plated copper offers excellent conductivity and an increased operating temperature range.

Secondly, some imperfections or raw material may be visible through the plating, as die protection is not available and plating can scratch. Color finishes may vary from batch to batch and amongst different alloys. Nickel plating will typically add 0.0002″ per side to the surface of your parts, while zinc plating will typically add 0.0003″. 

Finally, we recommend that parts requiring welding should not be plated. If parts require welding after plating, you will need to remove the plating in the area you will be welding

Applications and Uses of Nickel Coatings

Nickel plating finds applications in various industries due to its desirable properties and versatility. Here are a few industries where nickel plating is commonly involved:

Automotive

Nickel plating is extensively used in the automotive industry for various applications. It is used to provide corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and aesthetic appeal to components such as engine parts, fuel systems, electrical connectors, and decorative trim.

Electronics and Electrical

The electronics industry utilizes nickel plating for its excellent conductivity and corrosion resistance. It is employed in the manufacturing of electrical contacts, connectors, printed circuit boards (PCBs), and semiconductor components.

Aerospace and Aviation

Nickel plating is used in the aerospace and aviation industries due to its ability to provide corrosion resistance and improve the durability of critical components. It is used for parts such as turbine blades, landing gear components, fasteners, and fuel system parts.

Medical Devices

Nickel plating is commonly used in the medical device industry due to its corrosion resistance. It is employed in surgical instruments, implants, orthopedic devices, dental tools, and various medical equipment.

Oil and Gas

The oil and gas industry relies on nickel plating for its resistance to harsh environments and chemicals. It is used in components like valves, pumps, connectors, and various tools and equipment exposed to corrosive fluids and high temperatures.

Jewelry and Fashion Accessories

Nickel plating is frequently used in the production of jewelry and fashion accessories. It provides a shiny and durable finish to items such as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, belt buckles, and metal watch bands.

Military and Defense

Nickel plating is utilized in military and defense applications for its corrosion resistance, wear resistance, and ability to improve the performance and longevity of components. It is used in firearms, ammunition, military vehicles, optics, and various defense equipment.

Transform Your Metal Parts with Nickel Plating

Nickel plating is important and beneficial for a variety of reasons. It provides excellent corrosion resistance, protecting metal surfaces from degradation in challenging environments. Nickel-plated components also exhibit improved wear resistance, extending their lifespan and reducing maintenance needs. Furthermore, nickel plating offers enhanced electrical conductivity, making it valuable in industries such as electronics and automotive. Its aesthetic appeal and versatility further contribute to its usefulness. Next time you want to include nickel plating as part of your project, consider SendCutSend for your nickel plating needs! 

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We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Zinc plus Clear Chromate

Aluminum: 5052, 6061, 7075 Steel: Mild, G30

SKUSO-440-8
Thread Size4-40 x .250″
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).168″
Minimum sheet thickness0.040″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener materialSteel
Minimum distance hole C/L to edge0.230″
When determining the distance between two or more fasteners, you can calculate the distance by the formula, C/L to edge + 1/2 the diameter of the second mounting hole..345″
Recommended panel materialSteel/Aluminum
Coating typeZinc
Length.250″
Aluminum material ranges (5052, 6061, 7075)0.040″-0.125″
Steel material ranges (CRS, HRPO, HR)0.048″-0.119″

We proudly use hardware by PEM

Flush Standoff, 4-40, .250" Passivated

Stainless Steel: 304, 316

SKUSO4-440-8
Thread Size440
Hole size in sheet (+0.003/-.0.000).166″
Minimum sheet thickness0.04″
Maximum sheet thickness.125″
Fastener material400 Stainless Steel
Minimum distance hole C/L to edge0.230″
When determining the distance between two or more fasteners, you can calculate the distance by the formula, C/L to edge + 1/2 the diameter of the second mounting hole. Example shown with x2 of the same hardware..313″
Recommended panel materialStainless Steel
Coating typePassivated
Length.250″
304 Stainless Steel material ranges0.048″-0.125″
316 Stainless Steel material ranges0.060″-0.125″