Top 5 FAQs:

1. What is the difference between Hard and Soft Gold?

In a nutshell, gold in its normal state is considered to be "soft" and therefore pure gold deposits are often called soft gold because it has little if any grain refiners or additives that could make the deposit hard.  Hard gold is made when you combine soft gold with either nickel or cobalt which increases the hardness.

Here are some of the technical specifications:

Hard Gold - For gold contact were some sliding wear is required.

Knoop=  hardness   130 - 200
Purity=   99.7%
Hardening agents=  cobalt or nickel

Soft Gold – is for touching type contacts were no wear is required, or wire bonding applications
Knoop  hardness=   91 – 115
Purity=   99.9%
No hardening agent added

We hope that this helps. If you need more assistance, please contact us at asktheexpert@ppc1904.com and we can get more specific as it regards your gold plating application.

2. Electroplated Tin vs. Nickel Plating

One of our vendors is planning to start plating the copper bus bars in their assemblies, to which we connect our bus bars, with nickel. We are unfamiliar with the properties of nickel, and are considering whether we should change from Tin plating to Nickel plating for any reason. Can you advise me on any concerns about long term effects between nickel and tin plated materials clamped together, and any significant differences in cost between the 2 methods?

Tin vs. Nickel
Nickel is not solderable, so any items that may need to be soldered to the bus bar wouldn’t stick to electroplated nickel. Forming, nickel is not as ductile as tin would be and therefore may crack under stress if bent. Tin is better than nickel as far as conductivity is concerned. Nickel can and will grow a heavy oxide that may prevent conductivity over time as the oxide is more difficult to break through than tin.

Plating Costs
Nickel may cost more than tin to plate due to the efficiency of the bath and the value of nickel as a commodity is more than tin and increasing.

Lead Free Tin Plating
Tin is now available as a lead free finish as well so it is becoming a better alternative to move to lead free tin and stick with it. Nickel plating is fast becoming more and more of an environmental hazard as the EU and China are starting to view its properties as not ideal for many applications. Some people are allergic to nickel and this is gaining some potential that it will be more regulated in the next few years.

3. How does nickel plating work with other plating technologies?

Nickel acts as a barrier layer between the base substrate and the finish that is applied over the nickel layer. The nickel prevents the base metal composition affecting the performance of the final finish.

Nickel is a critical part of soldering and wire bonding process and there are many different types of nickel. Choosing the correct nickel will make the difference in part performance and cost.

4. Is precious metal included in the lot charge?

As a rule, Precision does not include the charge for precious metals in our Minimum Lot Charge. Our Minimum Lot Charge covers the cost of labor and materials, not including precious metals.

All quoted jobs requiring precious metals during plating will receive a precious metal factor which is calculated by multiplying the factor times the price of the precious metal the day the product is shipped. See how do I calculate my factor?

5. Are there any alternatives to gold plating?

That is a great question and in fact there are a couple of alternatives to Gold and these are Palladium and Palladium Nickel plating. Both of these finishes have been offered by Precision Plating for the last 20 years and we can even design a specification that will equal or outperform your current Gold deposit.

Palladium and Palladium Nickel are denser at lower thickness and harder than Gold so you can use less and save even more. We offer and often time recommend Palladium plating with a Gold cap so that the end product looks like Gold.

Learn more about alternatives to Gold Plating.

Existing or Potential Customer FAQ

Are you a NADCAP qualified facility?

Unfortunately, Precision Plating Company, Inc. is not NADCAP Certified. We are certified to plate certain specific products/processes for Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon but we are not NADCAP certified.

Does Precision offer visual inspection?

Yes, Precision has the capability to offer you 100% visual inspection off-line where it can be detailed for distortion or plating location variations. We are currently working on in-line systems that will allow us to 100% inspect product on line for assurance that it meets your specification.

Do you utilize vision systems in your plating process?

Yes, Precision monitors pin counts using optical counters and for pin perpendicularity or missing pin detection we offer more sophisticated vision system options.  If you have specific vision requirements please contact us to discuss them in greater detail.

Does Precision have an ISO certification?

Yes. Precision holds both ISO 9001 and TS16949 certifications

Do you plate wire?

Precision does not plate on wire.  Our plating cells and transport tooling does not support plating on wire.

Do you plate on plastics?

Precision does not plate on plastic substrates.

Does Precision plate chrome or black oxides?

Precision does not offer chrome or black oxide finishes.

Customer Service and Expedites

How can I cut my lead times?

Precision likes to think of itself as an extension of your process. We do not mean this as a buzz word, but in fact metal finishing is the final process for you to sell your product so we are much more than just another "vendor". If scheduled into your production process after you order or release raw material, we can adhere to your desired schedule.

Pre-planning is the most cost effective and efficient way for us to provide you with accurate delivery dates. Lack of planning for the metal finishing process is a costly and common mistake that should be avoided if at all possible.

We know that it is not always possible, but this should be the exception and not the rule.

Can you plate in 24 hours or less?

Of course! Precision prides itself on impeccable service and turnaround is an area where we can always to better and most times all we need is your help! Call one of our Chicago plating customer service representative as far in advance as possible of your need for next day or same day service.

At this time, we will pre-schedule your item and provide you with a best case scenario that you can now use in your production plan. In some extreme cases expedite or interruption fees may apply.

Precious Metal Questions

What is the difference between hard and soft gold?

In a nutshell, gold in its normal state is considered to be "soft" and therefore pure gold deposits are often called soft gold because it has little if any grain refiners or additives that could make the deposit hard.  Hard gold is made when you combine soft gold with either nickel or cobalt which increases the hardness.

Here are some of the technical specifications:

Hard Gold - For gold contact were some sliding wear is required.

Knoop=  hardness   130 - 200
Purity=   99.7%
Hardening agents=  cobalt or nickel

Soft Gold – is for touching type contacts were no wear is required, or wire bonding applications
Knoop  hardness=   91 – 115
Purity=   99.9%
No hardening agent added

We hope that this helps. If you need more assistance, please contact us at asktheexpert@ppc1904.com and we can get more specific as it regards your gold plating application.

How do I calculate the precious metal factor in my metal plating estimate?

The precious metal factor is a calculated constant that indicates how much gold, silver, or palladium is on your product. The factor will appear on your quotation and tells how many troy ounces of precious metal are on each unit of product, either pound or individual piece.

Here are the steps you must follow to determine the dollar value of gold on a product:

  1. Locate daily market prices for the precious metal you want to calculate on our home page.
  2. Daily gold price as of April 7, 2006 is $635.76
  3. Your gold factor is .000125 per each piece/pound.
  4. Calculate gold per piece/pound (Au Factor X Daily Au Price) = Metal Per Piece/Pound or 635.76 X .000125 = $0.07947 each piece/pound.
  5. If you are dealing with pieces and wish to get the price per thousand, then do the following: (0.07947 * 1000) = $79.47 per thousand.

This will also work for Silver and Palladium plating pricing. You only need to substitute the appropriate precious metal factor and daily precious metal price in the formula shown in step 4. If you are in need of further assistance, please call us at 888-621-1292.

What is the difference between regular metals and "fabricated" gold, silver and palladium?

Regular precious metal pricing is precious metal in its natural state. In order to electroplate these various precious metals, the metal is "fabricated" in order to make it work within our plating solutions. Gold and Palladium is created as a salt and added to a chemical bath.

Is precious metal included in the lot charge?

As a rule, Precision does not include the charge for precious metals in our Minimum Lot Charge. Our Minimum Lot Charge covers the cost of labor and materials, not including precious metals.

All quoted jobs requiring precious metals will receive a precious metal factor which is calculated by multiplying the factor times the price of the precious metal the day the product is shipped. See how do I calculate my factor?

The price of gold has increased since my last order with you.  Can you revise my quote to reflect the new price of gold?

Precision’s quotes are comprised of a base rate and a precious metal price.  To calculate the new part price simply take the per piece volume of gold and multiply by today’s gold price.  Add this to the piece part price and you now have your per piece cost.  Multiply this by the number of pieces you will be sending in for plating and you can estimate a ball park for your next order.  Keep in mind that if the number of pieces you are sending is lower than the “min-lot” quantity than you will be charged a “min-lot” price plus the precious metals.  Please note: Final invoice calculations will be made using the price of gold on the day the products were shipped so some variance may exist.

Material Handling

Can I request plated samples to be sent with each order?

Yes, this service is especially helpful for wire-bondable product which is sealed prior to shipping. Precision can attach a sample to the outside of each reel eliminating a need to open any reels for testing.

Can Precision handle specific splicing requirements such as max number of splices per reel or a minimum coil weight?

Precision is happy to discuss specific requests. We can reduce splice counts or limit coil sizes for better integration into your manufacturing process.

Do you stock various interleaf sizes?

Precision stocks interleaf paper from .003"-.007". Our standard is non-bleached natural craft paper. If your needs fall outside this range please contact customer service to discuss specifics and we are happy to special order an interleaf to meet your needs.

Should I send empty reels to you with my order?

PPC requires at least one empty reel per order. We are happy to store empty reels here at PPC for any recurring product runs.

Does Precision offer welded splices?

Yes, typically we utilize tape, rivet or wire-tie splices.  However, if your job requires welded splices Precision is has welding equipment to facilitate these requests.

Can Precision handle specific reel quantities for dock to stock requirements?

Yes, Precision can manage specific part quantities per reel.

Common Finishing Questions

How do you measure plating thickness of plating on my parts?

We use fluorescence x-ray measuring devices that use a beam to find the base metal and determine the thickness of the meat on top. It has a very accurate result and is very reliable. There is of course some margin of error when you are dealing in micro inches/meters but this can be overcome with proper calibration and maintenance.

Can you plate on aluminum?

Yes we sure can! Precision does have the capability of plating Aluminum and then placing any finish that we plate directly over that finish. Please send your quote to sales@ppc1904.com or fax it to (773)685-7777.

Specifying nickel underplate

Can you indicate what nickel plating is most efficient for this system with regard to roughness, ductility and wear resistance of the contact. For the moment we are discussing about bright or semi-bright Ni (1-2 microns), but we don’t know all about the influences of brighteners on the mentioned aspects.

Electroplated gold coatings for electrical contact applications should always be applied over a sulfamate nickel underplate. A sulfamate nickel underplate provides a diffusion barrier that will inhibit the diffusion of base metal constituents (i.e. copper, zinc, etc.) to the surface of the gold where they can oxidize. A sulfamate nickel underplate will also serve as a mechanical support for the gold coating and increase its durability. The thickness of this sulfamate nickel underplate should be at least 1.3 micros (50 micro inches). Bright nickel deposits, while they are generally harder than sulfamate nickel, can contain relatively large amounts of co-deposited organic materials that can be detrimental to other function requirements of electrical contacts such as solderability. Generally, bright nickel is not used as an underplate in connector applications.

Electroplated tin vs. nickel

One of our vendors is planning to start plating the copper bus bars in their assemblies, to which we connect our bus bars, with nickel. We are unfamiliar with the properties of nickel, and are considering whether we should change from Tin plating to Nickel plating for any reason. Can you advise me on any concerns about long term effects between nickel and tin plated materials clamped together, and any significant differences in cost between the 2 methods?

Tin vs. Nickel
Nickel is not solderable, so any items that may need to be soldered to the bus bar wouldn’t stick to electroplated nickel. Forming, nickel is not as ductile as tin would be and therefore may crack under stress if bent. Tin is better than nickel as far as conductivity is concerned. Nickel can and will grow a heavy oxide that may prevent conductivity over time as the oxide is more difficult to break through than tin.

Plating Costs
Nickel may cost more than tin to plate due to the efficiency of the bath and the value of nickel as a commodity is more than tin and increasing.

Lead Free Tin Plating
Tin is now available as a lead free finish as well so it is becoming a better alternative to move to lead free tin and stick with it. Nickel plating is fast becoming more and more of an environmental hazard as the EU and China are starting to view its properties as not ideal for many applications. Some people are allergic to nickel and this is gaining some potential that it will be more regulated in the next few years.

What is the difference between pure tin and tin?

In the days before the electronics industry was forced to remove all lead from its process, the use of lead in a tin deposit was a standard practice. There was only one type of tin plating back then and that has changed as of the last 24 months. There are now Pure Tin's on the market that are resistant to forming whiskers AND are ROHS compliant.

Pure tins are now available and they are compliant with ROHS regulations. That is great news, but with the loss of lead, now the risk of whiskering is back unless you take specific steps to reduce the occurrence of them. We can help you with this.

The important item to remember is that "Tin" does contain some trace amounts of Lead (.05%) where as "Pure Tin" contains little or no lead and is ROHS compliant.

Can you plate door knobs, hinges, faucets and antiques?

Precision is NOT really in the business of plating hardware such as door knobs, faucets, antiques or old cabinet hardware. Our processes are set up for finishes used in electronics and aerospace.

We highly recommend Al Bar - Wilmette Platers as they have been providing silver plating, restoration and repair on fine pieces of sterling and silver plate for nearly 100 years. We like the old guys, here is their web site: http://albarsilver.com/

Can you restore antique silver tea sets and or silverware?

Precision is not really set-up to do a lot of work as it relates to the restoration of antiques or family heirlooms. Locally we highly recommend Al Bar - Wilmette Platers as they have been providing silver plating, restoration and repair on fine pieces of sterling and silver plate for nearly 100 years. We like the old guys, here is their website: http://albarsilver.com/

Electro-less copper plating on flexible plastic substrates

You will first need to work with a supplier of metal finishing processes. I would suggest Shipley Lea Ronal or Rohm Haas they are on the Internet and you will need to know the plastic substrate material. They can tell you if it possible to plate that particular plastic substrate. Each plastic needs a different or altered pre-plate cycle.

As for the thickness or 20 to 30 microns, that would need to be electroplated to that thickness. The electro-less copper is used only to make the plastic conductive and then electro plate to desired thickness.

Most chemical suppliers to the plating industry would carry plating on plastic systems and or processes.

How can I plate baby shoes and other non-platable substrates?

This is a special process…you must metalize the shoes or object with some conductive coating or media and then electroplate.

Search the Internet for "Bronzing Baby Shoes" That should bring you a lot of sources. Good luck!

How does nickel plating work with other plating technologies?

Nickel acts as a barrier layer between the base substrate and the finish that is applied over the nickel layer. The nickel prevents the base metal composition affecting the performance of the final finish.

Nickel is a critical part of soldering and wire bonding process and there are many different types of nickel. Choosing the correct nickel will make the difference in part performance and cost.

What are Anodes: Soluble and Insoluble?

With a soluble anode, the anode is comprised of the metal to be plated onto the part which is dissolved in a chemical solution.  Common soluble anodes are gold and palladium and have an appearance similar to common table salt.   In this form, the anode metal is actually suspended in solution.

When plating with a soluble anode, both the anode and the cathode (in this case the part) are submerged in solution containing the metal salts and other ions that enable the flow of electricity throughout the solution.

A rectifier supplies direct current to the cathode (the part) causing the metal ions in solution to lose their charge and plate (or adhere) onto the part or cathode within the solution.  As the electrical current flows through the solution, the anode dissolves in a controlled manner and replenishes the ions in the bath.

Other electroplating finishes may use “non-consumable” or insoluble anodes such as tin or nickel. When using these techniques, the bath is maintained by adding back ions of the plated metal periodically as they are “plated out” of the solution.

Basics of Electroplating: Plating 101

Electroplating is a metal finishing process that utilizes electrical current to deposit a thin layer of metal on an electrical contact or component. The application of electroplating deposits has a desired property that enhances the base material such as wear resistance, corrosion protection, lubricity or even aesthetics. The electroplating process is also known as electro deposition.  It is simply a galvanic or electrochemical cell acting in reverse; whereby the substrate being plated becomes the cathode of the circuit.

ROHS Compliance Questions

Does Precision offer reflow tin plating?

Precision offers reflow tin and has the flexibility to do that in-line or as a secondary procedure. Precision has unique selective reflow plating capabilities. Customers have combined precious metal zones for contact with tin reflow zones for compliance. This depends on the application and part type, but Precision does offer a process to reflow lead free tin.

Does Precision offer sulfur free interleaf after plating?

Yes, Precision has the capability to wind material in a "pancake" take up and Precision does offer the option of Sulfur Free Interleaf after plating if you request it.

Ask the Expert

If you have copper, plated with nickel, then a flash of "hard" gold topped with "soft" gold, should the gold ever lift off when using a gold ball bonder?

It depends on what type of nickel you are using, it should always be a clean sulfamate nickel solution. Never sulfate. You also should not need a hard gold strike under the soft gold, this could cause problems. The gold strike solution needs to be as pristine as possible with no to low metal contamination. The soft gold thickness is also something to pay attention to and depends on the wire bonding process as well as how the substrate is processed before bonding.

Finding Chemical Suppliers

How can I buy plating chemicals and solutions?

Precision buys the chemicals and chemistry systems we plate with from many different sources, some local and some international. Below is a listing of the International chemistry suppliers that should be able to help you with your needs. Below are the direct links for contact information, please copy and paste these into your browser or print out this page for your files. Tell them Precision sent you!

Enthone Inc.
www.enthone.com
Tel: (203) 934-8611

Technic Inc.
www.technic.com
Chemicals: 401-781-6100

OMG Fidelity
www.omgi.com

Rohm and Haas Company
electronicmaterials.rohmhaas.com/contact/findcontact.asp

Financial Related

Do you take credit cards?

Yes, we take Visa, MasterCard, and American Express and prefer payment on new accounts to come via a credit card when you do not have credit approval with us yet. This is an excellent way to try our services and get the fastest turnaround on your product. It is best to make sure that you contact us with the credit card information at the time or before you send in an order.

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