Electroless Nickel Plating, corrosion resistance and surface technology specialists

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NiTEC (UK) Ltd, Hardwick House, Hardwick View Rd,
Holmewood, Chesterfield, Derbyshire S42 5SA, UK

Technical Information for Electroless Nickel Plating Services

As the deposit formed by electroless nickel plating is based on a chemical reaction, the action to form the deposit is equal over all the part, regardless of its shape. The deposit formed is therefore of equal thickness over all the part. This is unlike electrolytic plating which relies on an electrical current passing from an anode to the component, the cathode, which is then subject to changes in current density, applicable to its shape. Variations in current density result in variations in deposit thickness.

The Importance of a Uniform Coating 

Electroless Nickel Plating - Technical figure 1

The uniformity of the coating obtained from electroless nickel plating, makes it highly suitable for use on engineering components as the machined tolerances of a component are not deformed by the plating process. The uniformity of the coating and the fact that it is a chemical reaction, give the electroless nickel deposit a number of properties which are advantageous to many applications.

Electroless nickel deposits are excellent for corrosion prevention. The deposit exhibits electro-negative or 'noble' behaviour with respect to the corrosion protection mechanism and therefore relies on total encapsulation of the substrate to be effective. As the deposit is a uniform coating, provided the substrate is of good condition and has been properly prepared, long term corrosion resistance can be achieved in many different environments. The chemical reaction that forms the deposit however, means the deposit is not pure nickel, but an alloy of nickel and phosphorus. Read more about the process of electroless nickel plating here.

Types of Deposit

The phosphorus is present in small quantities and can vary in content from 1 - >12% by weight. The variation can be controlled and therefore results in a number of deposit types.

The choice of deposit type depends on the environment to which the component will be exposed. Most conditions in the highly corrosive oil, gas and coal industry require deposits with a high phosphorus content (>10%). Conventional medium phosphorus systems (6-11%) offer excellent corrosion protection for a large majority of applications, while low phosphorus systems (2-5%) are best suited to the chloro-alkali industry, such as the transportation of liquid soda.

The chemical formation of the deposit and the alloying element, also affect the deposit structure, further altering the deposit properties. The 'as plated' deposit has an amorphous structure, but if high temperatures are applied, the deposit becomes crystalline. This can alter the deposit hardness.

As plated deposits of electroless nickel plating can have hardness values in the range of 450 - 750 VHN, depending on the phosphorus content in the deposit. Generally, the higher the phosphorus content, the lower the as deposited hardness.

Wear resistance is usually a secondary requirement, after corrosion prevention. A common assumption is that hardness is synonymous with wear resistance. It is actually dependant on the wear mechanism involved, but in most cases true.

Replacing hard chrome with electroless nickel plating

Electroless Nickel Plating - technical diagram 2Hard chrome is frequently used where there is a requirement for hardness and wear resistance. It can offer as deposited hardness figures in the region of 800 - 1100 VHN. The deposit however, is applied electrolytically, giving an uneven coating which may require post plating machining. Electroless nickel deposits therefore have the advantage of uniformity, but as plated, do not achieve the hardness values of chrome. This can be overcome with heat treatment.

Unlike hard chrome, which tends to soften with heating, all types of electroless nickel plating can be heat treated to increase the hardness. With the correct heat treatment, some electroless nickel deposits can achieve in excess of 1000 VHN, making the deposit hardness comparable to that of hard chrome.

Electroless Nickel vs. Stainless Steel

Electroless Nickel Plated componentDespite its name, stainless steel is not really fully stain proof. It doesn’t corrode, rust or stain easily with water as ordinary steel would do. But under conditions where there are low levels of oxygen, high levels of salt or poor circulation, stainless steel will stain and even corrode.

There are many advantages to using electroless nickel plating as an alternative to stainless steel. Stainless steel can be used in environments where corrosion resistance is important and where the levels of hardness of the metal are also important. However, electroless nickel plating mild steel can achieve the same effect, with properties of hardness and corrosion resistance exceeding the benefits offered by stainless steel.

Stainless steel is a lot more expensive than mild steel or cast iron that has been electroless nickel plated. It is far more cost effective to electroless nickel plate parts made of mild steel or cast iron for the ultimate levels of corrosion resistance.

Electroless nickel plating is an auto-catalytic reaction and is used to deposit a nickel coating onto a substrate. To form this deposit, no electric current is needed to pass through the solution, so unlike electroplating, electroless nickel plating has the advantage of being free from problems with power supply.

Electroless Nickel Plating Prevents Corrosion and Wear

Electroless nickel plating prevents corrosion and wearElectroless nickel plating is also an excellent preventative of corrosion and wear. An electroless nickel coating provides an even deposit whatever the shape of the component. It is also possible to deposit electroless nickel on non-conductive surfaces when the right catalyst is used before plating.

Other advantages of electroless nickel plating include:

  • Lower porosity
  • Non-magnetic
  • Less prone to staining
  • Pit-free deposits
  • Hard deposits
  • Very uniform thickness
  • Excellent corrosion protection


Electroless Nickel Plating

The electroless nickel plating process is a high quality, cost effective solution for coating metals such as mild or stainless steel.

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Diffused Nickel Plating

The simple process of diffused nickel plating is the most effective coating to ensure the highest levels of corrosion resistance.

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SeaTEC 100 Marine Corrosion Prevention

SeaTEC100 is a cost-effective way of extending the life of mild-steel operating in marine environments.

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Ni-PTFE Self Lubricating Coating

Nitec's specially developed Ni-PTFE self lubricating corrosion resistant coating is perfect for sliding wear applications.

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Copper Plating

NiTEC offers a copper plating service that is suitable for both functional and decorative purposes.

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NiTEC has the capacity to shotblast components of up to 20 tonnes in weight.

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Heat Treatment

The heat treatment solutions at NiTEC can be used for stress relieving and de-embrittlement as both pre-plate and post-plate treatments.

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Aqua Blasting

Aqua blasting is a wet blasting process that's perfect for gently removing surface dirt and grime from metal components.

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Nickel Boron Plating

Nickel boron plating is a good alternative to chrome for coating a variety of steels to enhance corrosion resistance.

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Case Studies

From corrosion resistance for oil pipes to plating vacuum chambers, our electroless nickel plating is second to none.

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NiTEC is committed to the highest levels of quality and standards.

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From marine to mining, gardens to artwork, we've got your surface technology needs covered.

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Special Projects

NiTEC have many years' experience working with special projects; from art installations to architectural features.

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Technical Information

As the deposit formed by electroless nickel plating is based on a chemical reaction, the dispersion of the deposit is equal over part, regardless of shape.

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Marine corrosion resistance product, SeaTEC 100 - corrosion resistant coating

Corrosion resistant coating withstanding salt-spray conditions for at least 3 and a half years

NiTEC's SeaTEC 100 provides unprecedented corrosion resistance extending the life of components and reducing maintenance costs.

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Surface Technology

Electroless Nickel Plating - wear and corrosion resistance, cost-effective and wear resistance - find out more about our Nickel Plating services

Diffused Nickel Plating - the gold standard in corrosion resistance - great for a marine environment - find out more about our Diffused Nickel Plating services

SeaTEC 100 - increases the longevity of components in subsea environments reducing maintenance costs and increasing strength of components - find out more about SeaTEC 100

Copper plating - an excellent conductor providing EMI (Electro Magnetic Interference) and RFI (Radio Frequency Interference) shielding - find out more about Copper Plating

Shotblasting and Heat Treatment - thorough surface preparation is acheived using Shotblasting and Heat Treatment in addition to the standard chemical cleaning and activation process - find out more

Special Projects - Electroless Nickel Plating has been used in many special projects throughout the world where corrosion resistance is required such as art installation and archictectural application - find out more about special projects

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