Electroless nickel plating (EN) is a key part of the metal finishing industry. Its properties are widely recognized and used in an array of industrial applications.

Also known as autocatalytic plating or electroless plating, this chemical process is based on catalytic reduction and deposition of nickel in an aqueous bath and requires no electrical energy.

Benefits over electrolytic forms of plating (chrome, for example) include lower porosity, zero or low compressive stress, good ductility, hardness or wear resistance, as well as inherent dry lubrication and anti galling.

But it is the inclusions of particulate matter within EN deposits that have significantly modified their typical surface characteristics. In many instances, entirely new, synergistic properties can be realized.

These composites of EN using lubricating particles such as PTFE (also known as nickel Teflon) are widely recognized and used throughout the world. So too are coatings that integrate wear-resistant particles for hardness, wear resistance, uniformity, and thermal transfer.

All varieties can be applied to metals, alloys, and non conductive materials with outstanding uniformity over complex geometry and internal surfaces -- an important distinction between electroless and electrolytic methods. This means that, unlike chrome, these coatings require no re-machining or rework to ensure dimensional tolerances.

As with conventional EN, composite forms of EN can be heat treated to enhance their hardness and adhesion to the substrate. Most can operate at continuous temperatures of 750 F. They have a shear strength of 20,000-45,000 PSI applied on aluminum, and 30,000 to 60,000 PSI over steel.

Composite forms of EN designed for increased wear resistance have been developed with particles including diamond, and ceramic like aluminum oxide or carbide forms of silicon, boron, and chromium.

Hybrid combinations of two or more particle materials in the composite plating layer can significantly reduce wear while lowering friction too, for example.

Many of these chemistries are in compliance with ELV and other environmental directives. Some are regarded medically bio-compatible or non-objectionable with the FDA.

Many conform precisely by nature. So, be sure your surface finish is very good, free of imperfection or irregularities, and that your base material is structurally relevant.

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