Understanding Electroless Nickel Plating

Electroless plating is all in the name! It is the method of applying a plate layer without using electricity. This method of plating creates a thin coating of metal that is uniform and bonds to another material.  With electroless nickel plating that is using nickel, but you can use gold, copper, and silver this way too. This method of plating was found in 1944 by Riddell and Brenner. Here is a look at the difference between this and traditional plating methods and the process itself, as well as why people use it.

The difference between electroless plating and traditional methods

There are actually a few differences that separate traditional methods of plating from electroless plating. The two main ones though are that it does not use electricity and the material does not have to then be conductive. While several other efforts were made to create plating that did not use electricity the results were nowhere near as good as electroplating. Electroplating uses an electric current to form the plating. When working with electroplating the piece being worked on needed to be metal, as they need to be conductive. With electroless nickel plating, the material can be fiberglass, plastic, or rubber, not just metal.

The process itself

Electroless plating uses a chemical solution in which the material is submerged. The metal, be it nickel or one of the others, is suspended in the bath and then someone adds in a reducing agent. This starts a chemical reaction where a negative charge is created in the metal. The metal ions that are positively charged are attracted to the reducing agent. This leads to the metal bonding to the material in a thin and uniform hard layer.

Advantages to electroless plating

Advantages to using electroless plating instead of traditional options are many but they include;

  1. The thickness of the coating is more uniform.
  2. You can coat any material even non-conductive ones like plastic or rubber. That means you can manufacture with anything from car trim, to toys!
  3. Using electroless services will give better corrosion protection to the material being coated. Compared to pieces that are electroplated, the end result is less porous.
  4. It works better on irregularly shaped pieces then electroplating does.
  5. There is no need for electricity, it just needs the right chemical reaction.


When you need to find the best electroless services make sure you find a company that has a few years of experience, is reliable, professional and knowledgeable. Look for a company that has a good reputation with their customers. Look online for customer reviews. Check into things like turnaround, quality of work and price. If you are from an unusual industry see if they have had experience with it. If you have special requests find a company that is happy to talk to you about what you need.

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