Nickel plating is one of the oldest and most common metallic coatings, used for decorative and protective purposes. It has naturally excellent resistance to corrosion, is long-lasting and is easy to deposit in a uniform layer – and is even used for plating on plastic. Nickel also provides an excellent base for brazing, wire-bonding and soldering, and is widely used in the electronics industry as the first layer deposited over the copper substrate of printed circuit boards. It also has excellent shielding characteristics.
Two of the most common surface finishes in the electronics industry are the electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) deposit and the electroless nickel electroless palladium immersion gold (ENEPIG) surface finish. In both cases, nickel is the first layer to be deposited over the copper substrate. The thickness and composition of the nickel layer must be controlled carefully to maintain the quality of the part and ensure it has an adequate shelf-life in the field. To help ensure quality, the IPC have published the IPC-4552A and IPC-4556 guidelines for ENIG and ENEPIG coatings respectively. These guidelines (available from IPC) specify the use of XRF to control each plating thickness and keeping to these guidelines helps to create products that meet a shelf life of at least 12 months.
The FT160 XRF benchtop analyzer from Hitachi High-Tech meets the IPC specifications and can be used in PCB manufacture to verify nickel-based coatings. The FT160 includes advanced detector technology and polycapillary optics that allow you to reliably and accurately measure coating thickness on features less than 50 µm. And with pattern recognition software and automated feature finder, it’ll speed up your XRF analysis.
Another application for nickel coatings is plating on plastic. This is to provide a decorative finish on plastic components and nickel is either used as the finish, or as a layer beneath chrome. Driven by the need to provide lightweight components, plating on plastic is a growth industry, especially in the automotive market as automotive manufacturers are cutting vehicle weights to increase efficiency. It’s also an inexpensive alternative to stainless steel.
XRF is an excellent technique to verify the thickness of plating on highly decorative parts as it’s completely non-destructive. The FT160 is the ideal analyzer for measuring a wide range of parts due to its large sample stage. One-touch automated focusing speeds up measurement throughput and ensures accuracy is maintained when measuring parts of different shapes and sizes.
In addition to advanced optics and detector technology, the FT160 has other features that helps to control quality in nickel plating facilities. Crucially, it’s easy to get an accurate result. The FT160 offers precise analysis and when used with traceable calibration standards, routine production samples can be accurately measured by anyone with only a little training. The software interface is intuitive, making it easy to use, and results are presented clearly, reducing mis-interpretation of the results.
An important part of any quality control program is record keeping. The FT160 allows for easy, configurable data export for long-term storage, or analysis by teams working on improvement projects.
Want to know more?
To find out more about how the FT160 XRF benchtop analyzer can support your nickel plating quality control, get in touch to arrange a demo.