There are many ways to protect a metal’s surface. For example, when exposing a metal surface to the elements or other harsher conditions, it’s beneficial to apply a protective coating that will help to prevent that metal from being damaged or corroding as quickly as it might under normal circumstances.
This article explores how electroless plating acts as a protective metal coating. You will learn more about what electroless plating is and how this kind of plating process differs from other processes used for surface-coating metals.
What Is Electroless Plating?
Electroless, or nickel, plating is a process that uses a chemical reaction to deposit a thin layer of metal onto a surface, which differs from electroplating, another process used for surface-coating metals, where an electrical current deposits a thin layer of the same metal onto a surface. In a nutshell, electroless plating uses chemical reactions to deposit metals onto surfaces, whereas electroplating uses electrical currents to deposit metals onto surfaces. When using electroless plating as a protective coating, completed in two stages.
The first stage is electroless deposition, where an electroless chemical reaction is used to deposit a protective coating onto the surface of a metal that will protect that metal from corrosion and other damage.
Once this first deposition has occurred, a second electroless plating stage is used to add a decorative layer that protects the surface from scratches and other damage.
How Does Electroless Plating Protect?
Applying a protective coating made from electroless plating to the surface of a metal comprising many layers, with each layer contributing to the overall protection of the metal. The first layer of the coating functions as a barrier preventing water and other substances that cause corrosion from coming into contact with the metal.
The second layer of the coating is a sacrificial layer that prevents the first coating layer from wearing away prematurely. The third coating layer is a corrosion-inhibiting layer that prevents the other coating layers from rusting and keeps the coating functional for as long as possible.
The fourth and final layer of the coating is a decorative layer protecting the surface of the metal from scratches and other damage.
Why Electroless Plating?
Companies use electroless plating as a protective coating for a wide range of applications because electroless plating is versatile and protects various metals from corrosion and other damage. Electroless plating protects it from damage, whether the substrate is stainless steel, copper, or another type of metal.
Although electroless plating coats many metals, it is useful for protecting stainless steel surfaces. Stainless steel is a very sturdy metal often used in applications where durability and corrosion resistance are important.
However, stainless steel is not naturally corrosion-resistant, making it difficult to protect using other methods.
Differences Between Electroless & Electroplated Metal Coatings
Although electroless plating and electroplating both apply thin layers of metal to surfaces, these two processes have several key differences. These include:
- The metal coating layers: The metal coating layers created by electroless plating differ from those created by electroplating because depositing the metal layers is completely different.
- Coating thickness: The thickness of the resulting metal coating layers is also different between these two processes. Electroless plating is slower than electroplating, creating much thinner than those created by electroplating.
- Surface preparation: Electroless plating typically requires less surface preparation than electroplating.
Electroless plating is a process used to apply a thin layer of metal to the surface of a metal, which differs from electroplating. Coating companies use electroless plating in many industries to protect stainless steel from corrosion and other damaging conditions.