SMALL-SCALE PLATING LINE

I am a hobbyist who wants to set up a small scale plating for copper and nickel. I’m thinking in terms of one- or two-gallon tanks. Can you give me details on how to go about doing this?


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Q. I am a hobbyist who wants to set up a small scale plating for copper and nickel. I’m thinking in terms of one- or two-gallon tanks. Can you give me details on how to go about doing this? K.W.

 

A. This question shows up in my e-mail in-box on a fairly regular basis. I am not a strong believer in garage plating shops. They can be dangerous and can pose an environmental hazard to their surroundings.

Assuming you are aware of the potential problems/issues, I will make a few general suggestions.

In general, plating in one or two gallon tanks is a non-starter because controlling small amounts of a solution (temperature, concentration, agitation, etc.) is more difficult than in larger tanks. What is meant by this? An analogy is useful here. I have a six-ounce glass partially filled with warm water. Adding a few ice cubes to this glass brings the temperature of the water significantly. If I have a one-gallon pitcher partially filler with warm water, the same number of ice cubes will not reduce the temperature significantly. With small tanks (the six- ounce glass) small amounts of impurities or metal plate-out will cause big changes in the plating bath. With larger tanks, the same amount of impurities or metal removal will have a much smaller influence on the plating bath.

With any type of plating setup you will have to deal with waste disposal. Proper disposal of rinse water, diluted acids and spent plating solutions is required. More than likely, you will have to obtain the services of an individual who is familiar with the rules and regulations in your location.

Last but not least, if you do not have experience with plating, you must get assistance from a chemical vendor or a consultant that can help you set up your plating line. 

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