Copper Plating (Electroplating)
Copper is a popular plating metal across many industries because of its favorable characteristics, including corrosion resistance, malleability, and high electrical conductivity. The copper electroplating process involves utilizing a direct electric current to deposit a layer of dissolved copper onto an item’s surface. This results in a part that exhibits the properties of the underlying substrate as well as the beneficial characteristics of copper.
Properties and Benefits of Copper Electroplating
The properties and benefits of copper electroplating make it favorable for a wide range of applications.
Copper is able to fill surface imperfections and sharp corners, providing a smooth finish with uniform coverage of the underlying metal. Since copper exhibits good leveling and throwing properties, it ensures that pinholes and blistering of finish metals are avoided. Copper is also an excellent undercoat for other metals, and its ductility allows for easy polishing to ensure a shiny and bright final finish.
Because of copper’s favorable properties, it gives parts manufacturers several different advantages compared to working with other metals for electroplating. Some of the key benefits of copper electroplating are:
- Conductivity. Copper is highly conductive, second only to silver. This makes it ideal for use across a broad array of electronic and electrical applications.
- Malleability. Copper is flexible, allowing it to flex without cracking. Properly formed, copper layers can bend and stay fixed to the surface of the underlying part.
- Adhesion. Copper layers don’t just adhere to the underlying base component. They can also adhere to additional layers of nickel, aluminum, or tin that might create a surface layer on top of the copper.
- Corrosion Resistance. By itself, copper does provide some degree of corrosion resistance. However, its key benefit here is that it can be paired with even more corrosion-resistant materials like nickel to ensure it can withstand extremely corrosive environments.
- Cost-Effectiveness. Due to copper’s ease of availability, it is much lower in cost compared to other metals like silver, gold, and platinum. This makes it ideal for applications where cost savings are a concern.
Copper Plating Considerations
To get the most benefit from copper electroplating, there are a few things to consider. For example, copper doesn’t plate well to iron surfaces. To get around this constraint, manufacturers can nickel-plate the base metal first and then apply copper electroplating.
You may also need to use a cyanide solution along with the copper solution to ensure optimal adhesion. Since cyanide is highly toxic, it’s crucial to exercise caution throughout the copper electroplating process. Other additives can be included to enhance other properties, such as finish brightness.
Copper Electroplating Applications
Copper electroplating is a versatile process that’s used across multiple different industries. Some of the most common applications for copper electroplating include:
- Metalizing plastic parts. Copper electroplating processes can bind copper to plastic parts, imbuing them with strength and shine. The materials that respond best to metalizing include polycarbonate, mineral-reinforced nylon, and more.
- Electrical components. Due to copper’s high degree of conductivity, it is a popular choice for electrical components, such as circuit boards, magnetrons, heat sinks, and more.
- Automotive. Copper increases the efficiency of electricity consumption, making it important for applications within hybrid vehicles and electric motors.
- Oil and gas. Copper electroplating is common in the oil and gas industry because it prevents galling and provides a corrosion-resistant underlayer.
Copper Plating From New Method Plating
Copper plating adheres a thin, uniform coat of copper to metal (and plastic) substrates. This gives the components additional conductive, aesthetic, and corrosion-resistant properties. At New Method Plating, we specialize in precision metal finishing processes. Contact us today to learn more about our capabilities, or request a quote to get started on your copper electroplating solution.