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Plating on Ceramics

Plating Ceramics for Advanced Manufacturers

Nickel, Steel, Aluminum, these are the typical substrates that come to mind when thinking about surface finishing, but they are not the only materials that can be plated or anodized. At AOTCO, we specialize in providing finishing services for a multitude of metals and metal alloy substrates, as well as non-metallic substrates such as ceramics, glass, graphite, and plastic.

Ceramics are one of the more commonly plated non-metallic substrates in the industry. This is due to the wide range of benefits that a ceramic substrate can gain from a proper surface finish. For example, most ceramic materials are very poor conductors of electricity, but when given the correct surface finish they can become excellent conductors.

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Plating for Non-Conductive Substrates

A key part of the electroplating process is the use of electricity to deposit the desired material onto the surface of a substrate. However, if the substrate being plated is non-conductive (glass, plastic, and ceramics), then the desired coating will not be deposited. 

In order to properly electroplate non-conductive materials, their surface must be made conductive. This is why non-conductive substrates require an electroless nickel base layer (or another autocatalytic material) to be plated first, allowing subsequent surface finishes to be applied.

In the case of Ceramics, a layer of electroless nickel is deposited to the surface as a base layer. This makes the surface of the ceramic substrate conductive. Once conductive, any subsequent material can be applied through the traditional electrolytic plating process. 

Note: Due to the complexity of the non-conductive substrate plating process, it is important to account for thickness, dimensional variation, and component draining ability (through hole).

Common Surface Finishes for Ceramics Include:

Once the surface of a ceramic substrate is made conductive (through the application of an Electroless nickel layer), the possibilities for subsequent layers are essentially endless. Depending on what qualities are desired, there are multitude of finishing solutions for ceramic substrates. Some of the most common finishes for ceramic substrates are:

  • Copper
  • Tin
  • Gold
  • Zinc
  • Electrolytic Nick
  • Electroless Nickel
  • And more!

Frequently Asked Questions

Benefits of Plating Ceramics
Traditional ceramics are easily breakable, highly susceptible to cracking and other consequences that come from constant wear.  However, when properly plated, ceramics can gain a wide range of new physical and chemical qualities that are desirable in a variety of industries. Some of the most notable benefits of plated ceramics are: 
  • Increased Thermal Conductivity/Resistance 
  • Increased Corrosion Resistance
  • Increased Strength
  • Abrasion Resistance
  • Aesthetically Pleasing and Smooth Finish
  • Can make non-metallic materials appear metallic
  • And many more!
Common Industry Applications of Plated Ceramics
While one’s first thought when they hear ceramics may be a wash of clay pots and vases (or maybe the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody”), there are actually several practical manufacturing uses for plated ceramics as well. Due to its great thermal resistance, ceramic components are often plated with a highly conductive layer of copper, giving the substrate a wide range of applications in the electronics industry. Some of the most common industry applications for plated ceramics include: 
  • Circuit Boards / Electrical Circuits
  • Catalytic Converters 
  • Dental Implants
  • Semi-Conductors
  • Television and Radio components
  • Insulators
  • Capacitors 
  • And many more!
For more information about plating on Ceramics and other surface finishes, including Military Specs, AMS Specs and ASTM Specs, visit AOTCO Military Plating Specs page.
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