Highly Cost Effective Surface Finishing Technology: Electroless Plating with Extremely Low Catalyst Loading

Technology Overview

Electroless plating is a major surface finishing and metallization process, which has been widely used for automobile body parts, electronics, ornamentals and jewelleries. Unlike electroplating, electroless plating can be carried out solely in aqueous solution and does not require external power source. Plating on any substrates (conductive or no-conductive) can be accomplished by dipping the work piece in the solution. However, in electroless plating, palladium (Pd) catalyst is need for the plating reaction to take place. Pd, which is more expensive than platinum, is a major cost component in electroless plating and it has become a key hinderance to the widespread use of this surface finishing and metallization process.

This technology offer presents a novel method to reduce the amount of Pd nanoparticle catalyst. The new method significantly reduces the amount of Pd nanoparticles catalyst (down to 1/50) needed for electroless plating. This will significnatly reduce the cost of the plating process. The method is simple and easy to implement in the existing electroless plating line with minimum changes to the process flow.

Technology Features & Specifications

The method is primarily a wet pre-treatment of the work piece. It is most suitable for electroless plating of plastic and ceramic substrate. Electroless plating of Nickel (Ni) on polyimide and ABS substrate has been demonstrated. In the case of ABS, a reduction of Pd loading from 160ppm to 3.2ppm has been achieved while maintaining the high catalytic activity. The plated surface also possesses sufficient adhesion and abrasion resistence on polyimide and ABS subtrates.

Potential Applications

Electroless plating has been widely used in various industries for surface coating of automobile body parts, ornamental, jewelleries and ceramic metalization of electronics.

Market Trends and Opportunities

The growing popularity of electroless plating is challenging the growth of the more established electroplating technology. The global world market for electroplating was around $13.64 billion in 2015 (according to GIA report). Ceramic metalization in the production of electronic circuits is another market for electroless plating.

Customer Benefits

Ease of implementation on existing electroless plating line. With the wet pre-treatment method, the Pd loading can be significantly reduced for the metalization of non-conductive substrates of various geometry.

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