Copper electroplating end of aluminum pill

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WarHawk-AVG
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Copper electroplating end of aluminum pill

Crazy idea, we all know those aluminum pills, practically IMPOSSIBLE to get solder to stick to the end where the driver ground ring needs to be connected

I was thinking if the end of it was coated in copper, maybe using Acid Copper / Electroforming and make just the last bit copper coated if it would allow easier tack soldering to hold the driver in

Might just be more cost effective to drop the whole darn thing in a bucket and coat the whole pill (I know it won’t do anything for thermal conductivity) but might make it easier to finally get solder to stick to these daggum aluminum pills with ease

http://www.caswellplating.com/electroplating-anodizing/copper-plating-ki...

Quote:
Flash Copper™ Plating Kit

DOES THE IMPOSSIBLE – Plates Directly onto POT METAL, STEEL, ZINC, BRASS, ZINCATED ALUMINUM, ELECTROLESS NICKEL, STAINLESS STEEL AND COPPER

Edited by: WarHawk-AVG on 03/12/2014 - 20:12
Sirius9
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Mass production of copper pills would probably be cheaper than plating the aluminum ones! Just a thought…

 

bushwhacked
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Drill a very small hole in the edge of the pill and cram some copper wire that’s bigger inside. Solder a bridge and hope it stays in.

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WarHawk-AVG
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Sirius9 wrote:
Mass production of copper pills would probably be cheaper than plating the aluminum ones! Just a thought…
Have you seen the price of copper lately?

Yeah, I know…pipe dream but just another crazy idea, probably would never implement…but was pondering it

Pregulla
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In your quote it’s ZINCATED ALUMINUM

WarHawk-AVG
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Pregulla wrote:
In your quote it’s ZINCATED ALUMINUM

yup you are right..would have to zinc plate before applying copper…2 step process…would require two kits

bleh

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WarHawk-AVG wrote:
Pregulla wrote:
In your quote it’s ZINCATED ALUMINUM

yup you are right..would have to zinc plate before applying copper…2 step process…would require two kits

bleh

Yes, aluminum in contact with copper causes Galvanic corrosion so I suppose the zinc is there to prevent it. In electrical equipment you must install an intermediate piece between copper and aluminum cables

Mooooooo

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WarHawk-AVG
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And while searching “youtube” ran across 500F dissimilar metal solder, aka solder aluminum to copper

http://www.ebay.com/itm/P4KD9S-Aluminum-Copper-Brass-Soft-Solder-Flux-Ki...

http://www.weldingtipsandtricks.com/uniweld-uni-4300.html

I’m thinking in order to prevent overheating the driver, take the pill, clean the lip, apply the flux, run a spot or two of the uniweld, put in the driver, then use a high heat soldering iron and tack down to the pre-existing uniweld

Who knew?

leaftye
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Copper electroplating aluminum isn't as easy as I thought.  Getting the plating on is easy enough.  The problem is getting it to stay there.  Supposedly nickel plating before copper plating works, but nickel plating could be used by itself.  I'm not sure if a nickel ion solution is required.  Hopefully not since nickel ammonium sulfate isn't as easy to find as copper sulfate.  Vinegar seems to work.  Pure nickel will be needed.  That's somewhat uncommon too.  Some guitar strings are pure nickel, and these solder tabs I bought a while back are too.

While vinegar may work as the solution for both, use separate solutions for nickel and copper plating or both will plate poorly.

I should know soon if this is a viable solution.  Hopefully it is because it's pretty easy.  Plating other surfaces seems to work well.  I'll try copper plating some springs.  If the coating gets thick enough, and it stays on, I'll use that instead of the spring wire mod.

 

Anyhow, that Uniweld doesn't have much in the way of good review.  I suspect it'd ball up like regular solder instead of tinning the surface like we want it to.  Solder-It looks like a better bet.  This product should work more like solder paste. 

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WarHawk-AVG
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Yeah…no go on the solder kit…it balls up and falls off…and only way to get it to stick is to get it REAAAAAAALY hot

Cereal_killer showed a method of using a small drill, drill thru the lip, press a plug of copper thru (like a chunk of romex) swage it in so it holds, then trim it up and solder to that little slug of copper

He has the pics…maybe he can post em up

leaftye
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That should work great on some pills, but could be a problem on pills that have threads all the way to the end.  With threads to the end, you can do kind of the same thing, but instead of drilling sideways through the wall, drill vertically into the wall of the pill from the bottom.  Hopefully both types of plating works though since it's so easy and can look very nice.  I'm hoping to make some aluminum pills that look like some sexy copper pills, and be just as easy to solder.  That'll probably be as close as I get to making real copper pills since I don't see how I can fit a lathe in my future...although there is a metal lathe at the new maker space in town.

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WarHawk-AVG wrote:
…Cereal_killer showed a method of using a small drill, drill thru the lip, press a plug of copper thru (like a chunk of romex) swage it in so it holds, then trim it up and solder to that little slug of copper

He has the pics…maybe he can post em up

I did this quick so I didnt take pic’s of each step

drill a hole, I use a #51 bit and 18 gauge wire, swage the wire out to expand into the hole (aka beat it with a punch)
 photo BD6CA277-CE05-439C-8D25-89873D4A6E1B.jpg

 photo 5E1BE2B4-96D7-4350-B714-C5EA1FFB896C.jpg

smooth the outside of the copper so it doesnt get in the way of the threads
 photo E6712F0A-3BB3-4128-9E83-5EA36EAFB7DA.jpg

solder to it (the solder connection is on the bottom of the driver so you dont see a solder bridge but its there), I do this by applying paste and heating with an iron from the outside
 photo 8816D9AA-72E9-42C6-9E47-CDA714831B34.jpg

I’d love to see this copper plating method work out!

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WarHawk-AVG
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Can you solder to nickel?

Found this
http://www.caswellplating.com/electroplating-anodizing/copper-plating-ki...

Flash plating copper to aluminum..but it’s not cheap

Perhaps a small tray to just hold the tail end of the pill in a shallow bath of the solution, then flash plate extra long some copper where the pill sits…then see if maybe it can handle soldering a few blobs to it…but it’s $170 bones for the kit

leaftye
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WarHawk-AVG wrote:
Can you solder to nickel?

Tentative yes. Nope. There are solder bumps on the pill and they have the strongest bond I've tried so far.  They're ugly though.  The pill must be pulling enough heat that it hardens in a jagged bump instead of smoothing out.  Next time I do it to this type of driver, I'll probably make a flat copper wire for the bridge, mostly to hide the solder.  I'll see if it holds up later when I try to solder bridge to a driver.  My nightmare is that the solder balls up and rolls off.  

I won't be copper plating this pill since I want to get that light functional.  I'll try refining the process with some scrap metal before doing it to another pill.  

 

Edit: They appeared to bridge fine.  Got three bridges, then they all came off.

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leaftye
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I'm looking at a source that recommends a tin plating after the nickel plating.  Now I need to see if I have any pure tin in the house.

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leaftye
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I think I may have spoiled my solution by letting the alligator clips sit in solution.  I'll try again, if possible, with copper sulfate for copper plating, and nickel acetate for nickel plating.  If that doesn't work, hopefully the chemist in my family can help...and I'm not talking about meth.

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leaftye
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SUCCESS!

 

I plated a block of aluminum with nickel, then copper.  As a test, I soldered the plated aluminum to one end of a copper wire, and soldered the other end to a 1/2 pound block of lead.  The solder joint held the weight with no problem, and did fine when I tried pulling it apart with much more force than a driver should ever encounter.  

 

I followed a mix of procedures from Instructables and Youtube.

Here's the nickel plating procedure.  I used solder tabs from laptop battery packs.  They were tested with a magnet to make sure they weren't the aluminum that are sometimes used. The power source used was initially a bike battery power supply which has 8.4V, but I later replaced that with a 13V laptop power supply.  Electrolyzing nickel into the electrolyte took a long time, probably because I was using small nickel tabs with very little surface area.  I highly recommend using longer strips, multiple strips, or whatever it takes to increase surface area...or let it sit for half a day.  I went back down to the 8.4V power supply for electroplating the aluminum block.

 

Here's the copper plating procedure. I used Root Kill (copper sulfate) from Home Depot for the electrolyte.  Here's how I made the electrolyte with Root Kill (copper sulfate).  I tried using a single AA for the power supply during electroplating, but it was too slow.  I switched to a 14500, which was much faster, but still quite slow, although this voltage appeared to give a nice plating.  Then I switched to a 8.4V power supply, which was a mistake as it coated too quickly and that part of the coating had a poor bond.  Next time I'll use a usb charger for the power source.

 

In both procedures I made sure to keep the alligator clips out of the electrolyte.

 

From now on I'll use this to nickel & copper plate aluminum pills that don't have driver retainer rings.

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WarHawk-AVG
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pics please!!?!?

Oh wow…totally stoked, thanks!

leaftye
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Here you go.  The 1/2 pound piece of lead is hanging from it in this picture.  The copper was bright until I used the 8.4V power supply.  Dark plating is weak, but still strong enough even though I didn't scrub it back down to the bright copper.  It's only partially plated because I didn't feel like rotating it while plating.  With a pill, it would be fully submersed because a copper wire could be put through the holes leads.  

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http://www.ebay.com/itm/280651340670?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3...
Also works for alu on copper.
Solder-It alu-solder paste would be better / easier, but i found the price too high..

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It might be better to use aluminum wire than copper. It may be that the copper sulfate solution would plate out first onto the copper wire instead of the pill. This is a cool project. Nice work.

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leaftye
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The effect of current on electroplating came up in another discussion.  While trying to find out how to estimate the thickness of the copper plating, I found this reference to a software/app calculator.

http://industrialmacdermid.com/category/platers-calculator/

To get the calculator, you can to provide your email so they can email the link, and presumably put you on a to-spam list.  Whatever, it's worth it imo, especially if you set up an email account specifically for spam or use a temporary email address.  

According to the calculator, increasing current does increase the rate of plating, but it also increases the unevenness of plating.  At edges and points, plating is thicker, and possibly weak, and the unevenness appears to have a direct 1:1 relationship to current.  Sometimes that unevenness works in our favor.  I found when plating a pill that it plated quicker on the bottom of the pill, which happens to be where we'd solder too.  Perfect!  

Unfortunately it's looking like plating enough copper to the springs to make it a good alternative to the wire spring mod will take so long that it's impractical.

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leaftye
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Still no pill, but here's a copper plated spring. This mod doing the spring mod easier because helped solder flow onto the spring better than it usually does.  The brass cap is not plated.  The copper plate finish is a bit rough, probably because I left it sitting in the electroplating bath for about half an hour without moving it around, but it's still a strong plate.  This time I stripped a usb cable and used a cheap usb charger, which gave about 5 volts and is supposed to put out 1 amp.  Plating was very quick this time.  I think it's because I only put a little copper wire in the bath with the spring.  So Rufusduck has the right idea.

According to the calculator I linked to in the previous post, this plate should be about 0.1 microns thick.  If anyone would lend me an electron scanning microscope and a very tiny ruler, I'll confirm this. Wink

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You should take 2 cheapest springs, copperplate one and then test them both in high draw light, without braided wiring of course, and let us know your conclusions Smile
BTW, do you know how strong is the bond between base material and plating material, spring is moving part,could it happen that copper layer flakes of like it can happen with nickel plating?

 

leaftye
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Sirius9 wrote:
You should take 2 cheapest springs, copperplate one and then test them both in high draw light, without braided wiring of course, and let us know your conclusions Smile

They'd have to be attached to the driver, but I'll probably do that.  I don't think copper that thin is going to be enough for high levels of current though, but I'd love to be wrong.

 

Sirius9 wrote:
BTW, do you know how strong is the bond between base material and plating material, spring is moving part,could it happen that copper layer flakes of like it can happen with nickel plating?

It's strong enough that it survived while pulling hard on the solder wick to get it through the top of the spring.  The previous weak coatings could be wiped off easily by hand.  

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wight
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Good work leaftye, thanks for posting your progress so far.

Electroplating for looks or solder-ability makes sense. As you mentioned, it’s just not feasible to put a thick enough plating on the spring. If that technique made sense we’d be swimming in copper-coated springs with nice spring-steel cores.

I’m looking forward to either trying the method you described or maybe some of the stuff Jerommel linked to in post #20 (which Hank says is probably “Lumiweld” or “Technoweld” or “Uniweld” in post #9 of another thread). Maybe I’ll play with both! In any case being able to solder to aluminum would be sweet.

Still fine, still on a break. One day I’ll catch up with you folks! previous wight catchup Wink
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leaftye
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Hopefully my experience makes it easier to start getting good plates.  The other thread I mentioned about about using a hobby charger for a power supply.  Unfortunately I don't have one of those voltage/current adjustable regulated DC power supplies, so I wanted to get some opinions about using a hobby charger instead since some can adjust voltage and current.  It sounds like that should work.  A hobby charger with motor drive would be best.  My new hobby charger that does that arrives tomorrow, so for now I've been using various wall warts and that usb charger.  

As far as looks, it'll probably oxidize quickly.  If you copper plate the body of your light for looks, then you should protect it somehow.  A thread about that came up last week...hell, you were probably in it.  The one that sounded the best was a wax that museums favor.  Renaissance Wax.  Don't wait for me to try it though.

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Yeah, I can’t really see myself copper plating something for looks right now. I did read that thread. Flashlight thermal characteristics are already bad enough without a wax coating ;-). Now if someone came up with a good way to give a nice, thin, strong black coating to copper hosts (with the idea of boosting the emissivity) I’d be interested in hearing about that.

EDIT: OTOH oxidized copper can look good (patina) and has better emissivity than clean copper. Similar to anodized aluminum according to the charts. So that might be an asthetic option with little performance sacrificed.

Still fine, still on a break. One day I’ll catch up with you folks! previous wight catchup Wink
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That's one reason I'm not crazy about it either.  Aluminum has great thermal emissivity, and being black helps even more.  I don't know how much a copper plating would hurt, and I'm not in a rush to find out.  I do have a lantern project that I might give it a shot with though.  It's a tiny lantern, but a copper coating would lend a retro feel to it, or some might even call it steampunk-ish after the copper coating gets a nice tarnish going.  

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