A Quick Guide to Copper Plating

Few decades back, metal finishing was used as an experimental craft, but it has transformed into an important technology based on scientific theories within few years. This finishing is given to metal by making use of a process called electroplating. It is a process used by various industries like electronics industries and metal related industries. There are different types of electroplating are in use, however nickel plating is the most used one along with copper plating.

Copper is a chemical element which possess high thermal and electrical conductivity, it is tough, ductile, non-magnetic as well as antibacterial element. This is the reason why it is widely used in electroplating.

What is copper plating?

Copper plating is the process of carefully depositing thin layer of copper on the top of metallic surface of solids by making use of strong electric current. This is done for functional and decorative purposes. Copper plating is a kind of electrochemical process useful for certain industries ranging from automobile to medical. Copper produces dull or shiny, glossy or satin finish and hence it primarily works effectively as undercoat for other types of plating.

The process of copper plating

As mentioned earlier, copper plating is most widely used form of electroplating after nickel plating. In this process, a thin layer copper is deposited onto base metal by making use of a strong electric current. Copper plating can be done to various metals like gold, silver, aluminium etc. It can also be done on plastic. However, any of the metals which are iron based require a nickel based coating because passivated surfaces cannot get coated properly by copper, says one of the electroplating chemicals manufacturers.

At the initial level, the material which is to be plated is cleaned in order to avoid imperfection. After that, the process of electroplating is applied by passing the electric current through electrolyte solution of copper salt. The electricity flows through the circuit which is formed by adding two terminals in the solution and connecting them to power source. As the electricity flows, the layer of copper is deposited on the metal.

Which solutions are used in copper plating?

There are three different types of copper solutions; alkaline copper, acid copper and semi alkaline copper. Alkaline copper is considered to have the best throwing power, but it is impossible to plate it with high current densities. Additionally, it works with combination of cyanide. Acid copper can be plated with high current densities. It is very simple to control and commonly available. It is also comparatively cheaper in rate; but it doesn’t have throwing power as high as alkaline copper. The third type of copper, i.e. semi alkaline copper is used on printed circuit boards as it is less corrosive and regarded as non-toxic. But, this also requires to get combined with cyanide in order to get deposited directly on metal surfaces, reports one of plating chemical suppliers.

What is copper plating used for?

Copper plating is the most popular among metal finishes and used for different types of applications. They are as follows:

  1. As primary undercoating for nickel or silver plating processes.
  2. Copper is an excellent conductor, hence copper plating is used for shielding purpose in Radio Frequency interference and Electromagnetic interference.
  3. Due to its bright and leveling characteristics, copper plating is used in big aerials fixed under railways.
  4. It is used for medical and laboratory materials as it is antibacterial.
  5. It is commonly used for renovating old pans and pots.
  6. In ancient days, coins were made entirely using only copper. Since, the market value of copper have increased, coins are being made of steel with copper coating. The reason behind this is the easiness and durability of copper plating.

Benefits of copper plating

After knowing about the process of copper plating and its uses in various applications, let’s have a look at its benefits.

  • Copper is a great conductor of electricity. Therefore, even its thinner layer can work as an excellent conductor for different electrical equipment.
  • Copper is known as the flexible and soft metal. Therefore, it can be used in electrical parts and equipment which require great flexibility. Additionally, copper sticks to the surface on which it is applied, even if the surface is bent. It gives away uniform coverage and never shells out.
  • Copper is least corrosive among all metals in existence today. Therefore, copper plating protects other metals from corrosion.

Copper plating is really a simple but effective method of metal finish and hence it is popular among all the concerned industries.

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