Plating On Beryllium/Copper Alloys

Ask an Expert From: Products Finishing, ,

Posted on: 5/1/2011

We are using the same cleaning process that’s used for other copper alloys that we plate. Invariably with the copper beryllium alloys, we see etching on the parts. How can we solve this problem?

 Q. You probably have answered this question many times before, but I need a solution. I have difficulty plating copper on heat-treated beryllium copper alloys. We are using the same cleaning process that’s used for other copper alloys that we plate. Invariably with the copper beryllium alloys, we see etching on the parts. How can we solve this problem? J.W. 

 
A. You’re correct; I have addressed this problem in the past. However, there are always new readers that haven’t read every one of my 160-plus columns and it never hurts to ask a question. 
The culprit here is a mixture of beryllium and copper oxides that form during the heat treating process. These oxides are tough to remove and require special acid treatment. They can be removed by pickling with the following dip:
 
Component/Temp. | Concentration/Operating Range
Sulfuric acid  |  15–20%
Peroxide (stabilized)  |  3–4%
Temperature  |  120–130°F
 
 
Another formulation for removing these oxides is as follows:
 
Component/Temp. | Concentration/Operating Range
Phosphoric acid  |  38%
Nitric acid  |  2%
Acetic acid  |  60%
Temperature  |  150–165°F
 
 
The concentration of water and nitric acid control the removal rate. After suitable rinsing, the parts are ready for the plating bath. Follow all safety precautions when working with these baths.
 


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