Hard Chrome or Electroless Nickel?
Q: I work for a company that outsources all of its electroplating. We currently have a number of components that require hard chromium plating. One of my fellow engineers has suggested that electroless nickel can be substituted in most cases for hard chrome. What are your thoughts on this? I. N.
A: The short and simple answer to your question is that electroless nickel cannot be substituted for hard chrome plating in every situation. Each situation has to be considered on its own merits.
To start with, electroless nickel is an alloy that has different characteristics than those of hard chrome. Hard electroless nickel deposits generally are not as hard as hard chrome. In addition, the coefficient of friction of electroless nickel is different from that of hard chrome. Generally speaking, baking an electroless nickel deposit will increase its hardness. In addition, additives can be added to the electroless nickel plating bath that will change the coefficient of friction.
There are many different electroless nickel plating baths. Some are based on boron chemistry, while the majority are based on phosphorus chemistry. Within each of these two categories, you can find many different variations.
In order to make intelligent substitutions of electroless nickel for hard chrome you should obtain information from vendors who sell electroless nickel chemistry. You can find vendors of electroless nickel chemistry at PF Online's www.pfonline.com/plate/suppliers.html under Electroless Nickel.