Electroplating bus-bar

upnorthandpersonal

Administrator
Nickel was the unmentioned alternative to the plating shop but I did want to make sure there were some good DIY experiences with it.

These are my Nickel plated bus bars:
 

Micky

New Member
After all the unsuccessful messing around with tin I tried nickel using a $35.00 commercial solution. Thanks 'Upnorthandpersonal'. A bit of experimentation showed me that the higher voltage and current parameters I had seen on a few videos/articles were not going to work. I got what I can only describe as burn marks on areas of the buss bars that were poorly adhered and friable. (And of course one cannot re-plate over existing nickel plate so into the HCL they went and I then thoroughly cleaned and replated them). I bagged the anode in tightly wrapped cotton, then plated them one bar at a time in a small container using 2-2.5V and +- 0.5A. Had them in the center of the container hanging on a copper tube, 30 minutes facing the anode then turned them the other way for another 30 minutes. The resultant coating is bright, extremely hard, seems to be really uniform, including inside the holes and looks like it will work.

I still have two more sets of buss bars to do and will try two pieces of nickel opposing each other in the container and see if that will give me uniform coverage without having to turn them. If anyone's interested I can post some photos of the end result.
 

Micky

New Member
Thanks Upnorthandpersonal. Nickel worked well!

After all my failed experiments at tin plating I decided to buy a quart of (cyanide-free), bright nickel electroplating solution and a nickel anode made by Krohn Industries from one of their retail outlets. I also did a little more reading to ensure the method I used was going to work. Didn't want to waste yet more time. From commercial sources it seems that a stable, warm solution is important, as well as some method to keep the solution circulating. Hydrogen bubbles form on the surface and unless removed with agitation, can cause pits to form around them. The pits become areas for corrosion to start, undermining the rest of the coating.

A couple of online sources suggested higher voltage and amperage than I settled on but in my small container the higher settings resulted in grey to black 'burn' marks in the plating that were soft and rough. Unfortunately I discovered that you can't plate over an existing nickel coating.... Reversing the polarity to unplate the failed bars didn't seem to work, perhaps just so slow that it appeared that way. I then tried sanding it off but realized that removing nickel plating by sanding is not really practical, even on small pieces. So I put the failed bars in concentrated HCL for a few days, which stripped them back to bare copper. Then I repeated the cleaning process to prepare them for replating.

The plating method that worked for me was as follows: The copper was 110 series from McMaster-Carr, cut and drilled by me. To prepare the copper I handled them with rubber gloves, prepping one at a time before plating that one cleaned piece. I washed them in hot soapy water with a clean, dedicated kitchen scrubber, rinsed thoroughly in distilled water, washed in acetone, rinsed in distilled water again and then began plating immediately. The buss bar was completely immersed in the solution, suspended on copper wire hanging from a copper pipe in the center of a 500ml plastic container. The anode was bagged by being tightly wrapped in multiple layers of cotton cheese cloth kept in place with rubber bands. A $10 aquarium heater kept the solution at 72 degrees F and a $10 aquarium bubbler kept it circulating to prevent pitting. Voltage was 2 to 2.5, Amps at 0.5. The three sizes of buss bars were 2"x4"x1/8", 3"x3/4"x1/8" and 9"x 3/4"x1/4". There are six, two and one of each of those sizes for my pack. The difference in surface area didn't seem to matter at the voltage/current settings I used; they all plated uniformly. Each bar was immersed for 30 minutes, turned 180 degrees without removing them from the charging source and then immersed for another 30 minutes. The plating is bright and uniform, including in the holes, and with my attempts at removing it by sanding, I can tell you that it's very tough and very adherent.

The nickel anode was about 1x5 but paper thin and was completely depleted by the amount of plating I did, which included the ones that didn't work. I have one more identical set and a smaller set of buss bars to go, so bought a piece of Ni 200 (99.6% pure nickel) from a metal supplier, rather than the more expensive tiny pieces sold as anodes. While I could use that to make a larger quantity of nickel solution, the comercial one with it's brighteners worked so well I'm loath to mess with it. It's slow doing it this way, though I set a timer and did other things in between so it's not bad. Since I had quite a few buss bars to do, if I were I to do it again I'd buy a gallon and use two or more anodes in a larger tank to allow multiple pieces to be plated together. I will try making some of my own solution for some copper test pieces at some point just to see if it will plate acceptably without the additives in the Krohn's solution. And I'm sure I will have plenty of nickel left over so if anyone wants to try nickel plating let me know.

Was it worth it? Cost wise and time wise probably not. I would have just bought bus bars had I been able to find them but couldn't find anything that had the correct hole size and spacing for the Navitas 25 A/h cells I have. I'm sure a commercial plater would have done it for not much more than it has cost me and certainly a lot faster, but once I realized I had to make my own, I was inclined to do this part myself too. Overall it was an interesting process that turned out to be quite satisfying and enjoyable.

On a slightly different topic, the studs are not long enough on the Navitas cells to allow for a heavy battery terminal on top of the buss bars. I looked at ways of extending them but ultimately made the end bars longer so that I can attach the battery terminals separately. It's not ideal but hopefully will work ok. And if anyone has experience with doing it this way, please feel free to comment

And since this America, I think I have to put in a disclaimer that this is not a recommendation or set of instructions, just a description of what I did that worked for me. The chemicals involved, including nickel, and the process itself can be hazardous. Do not attempt this at home.
 

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fhorst

making mistakes so you don't have to...
Looks great!

No BMS?
I don't see where you want to add the wires without untighten the nuts?
 

Micky

New Member
Thanks, that picture was just the test set up to confirm everything fits and will work in the box. I will be using an SMBS0 for management. Not sure what you mean by "I don't see where you want to add the wires without untighten the nuts?". If you mean making the main connections, there is an open hole on the end of the left and right bus bars where I will use a bolt for the battery connections.
 

fhorst

making mistakes so you don't have to...
The BMS will need wires to the cells.
Without it, it can't sense the voltgae :)

Tighting nuts to its required torque (with full terminal cover +4Nm on M6)

I did a lot of remounts, what I can assure you, the weak aluminium threads will not like.

As result I can only advice everyone to mount just one time, tight enough.
Use torque meter ($30 for digital, 0.1 Nm)
And use Loctite red + primer (7649) on the grubscrews.
Primer is mandatory, both stainless steel as aluminium need to he activated.
Without primer it will increase a little bit in total strength, just a fraction what it can be with primer.

You made them really nice!
Compliments for that.

I assume you will add the wires from the BMS under one of the cell grubscrew nuts, or are you going to drill and tap separate contact points for the BMS wires?

Keep up the good work with sharing your progress!
 

Zwy

Solar Addict
Thanks Upnorthandpersonal. Nickel worked well!

After all my failed experiments at tin plating I decided to buy a quart of (cyanide-free), bright nickel electroplating solution and a nickel anode made by Krohn Industries from one of their retail outlets. I also did a little more reading to ensure the method I used was going to work. Didn't want to waste yet more time. From commercial sources it seems that a stable, warm solution is important, as well as some method to keep the solution circulating. Hydrogen bubbles form on the surface and unless removed with agitation, can cause pits to form around them. The pits become areas for corrosion to start, undermining the rest of the coating.

A couple of online sources suggested higher voltage and amperage than I settled on but in my small container the higher settings resulted in grey to black 'burn' marks in the plating that were soft and rough. Unfortunately I discovered that you can't plate over an existing nickel coating.... Reversing the polarity to unplate the failed bars didn't seem to work, perhaps just so slow that it appeared that way. I then tried sanding it off but realized that removing nickel plating by sanding is not really practical, even on small pieces. So I put the failed bars in concentrated HCL for a few days, which stripped them back to bare copper. Then I repeated the cleaning process to prepare them for replating.

The plating method that worked for me was as follows: The copper was 110 series from McMaster-Carr, cut and drilled by me. To prepare the copper I handled them with rubber gloves, prepping one at a time before plating that one cleaned piece. I washed them in hot soapy water with a clean, dedicated kitchen scrubber, rinsed thoroughly in distilled water, washed in acetone, rinsed in distilled water again and then began plating immediately. The buss bar was completely immersed in the solution, suspended on copper wire hanging from a copper pipe in the center of a 500ml plastic container. The anode was bagged by being tightly wrapped in multiple layers of cotton cheese cloth kept in place with rubber bands. A $10 aquarium heater kept the solution at 72 degrees F and a $10 aquarium bubbler kept it circulating to prevent pitting. Voltage was 2 to 2.5, Amps at 0.5. The three sizes of buss bars were 2"x4"x1/8", 3"x3/4"x1/8" and 9"x 3/4"x1/4". There are six, two and one of each of those sizes for my pack. The difference in surface area didn't seem to matter at the voltage/current settings I used; they all plated uniformly. Each bar was immersed for 30 minutes, turned 180 degrees without removing them from the charging source and then immersed for another 30 minutes. The plating is bright and uniform, including in the holes, and with my attempts at removing it by sanding, I can tell you that it's very tough and very adherent.

The nickel anode was about 1x5 but paper thin and was completely depleted by the amount of plating I did, which included the ones that didn't work. I have one more identical set and a smaller set of buss bars to go, so bought a piece of Ni 200 (99.6% pure nickel) from a metal supplier, rather than the more expensive tiny pieces sold as anodes.

I used these rods to get my solution started and then only use one rod once the solution is green in color. I followed the instructions provided under the Download link on this page. https://diysolarforum.com/resources/tin-plating-nickle-plating-or-solder-plating-bus-bars.163/

I used 30 seconds per side and did each side twice. I don't know why you needed 30 minutes per side, doesn't make sense to me. I used around 6 to 8v on my power supply.
While I could use that to make a larger quantity of nickel solution, the comercial one with it's brighteners worked so well I'm loath to mess with it. It's slow doing it this way, though I set a timer and did other things in between so it's not bad. Since I had quite a few buss bars to do, if I were I to do it again I'd buy a gallon and use two or more anodes in a larger tank to allow multiple pieces to be plated together. I will try making some of my own solution for some copper test pieces at some point just to see if it will plate acceptably without the additives in the Krohn's solution. And I'm sure I will have plenty of nickel left over so if anyone wants to try nickel plating let me know.

Was it worth it? Cost wise and time wise probably not. I would have just bought bus bars had I been able to find them but couldn't find anything that had the correct hole size and spacing for the Navitas 25 A/h cells I have. I'm sure a commercial plater would have done it for not much more than it has cost me and certainly a lot faster, but once I realized I had to make my own, I was inclined to do this part myself too. Overall it was an interesting process that turned out to be quite satisfying and enjoyable.

On a slightly different topic, the studs are not long enough on the Navitas cells to allow for a heavy battery terminal on top of the buss bars. I looked at ways of extending them but ultimately made the end bars longer so that I can attach the battery terminals separately. It's not ideal but hopefully will work ok. And if anyone has experience with doing it this way, please feel free to comment

And since this America, I think I have to put in a disclaimer that this is not a recommendation or set of instructions, just a description of what I did that worked for me. The chemicals involved, including nickel, and the process itself can be hazardous. Do not attempt this at home.
 

Micky

New Member
The BMS will need wires to the cells.
Without it, it can't sense the voltgae :)

Tighting nuts to its required torque (with full terminal cover +4Nm on M6)

I did a lot of remounts, what I can assure you, the weak aluminium threads will not like.

As result I can only advice everyone to mount just one time, tight enough.
Use torque meter ($30 for digital, 0.1 Nm)
And use Loctite red + primer (7649) on the grubscrews.
Primer is mandatory, both stainless steel as aluminium need to he activated.
Without primer it will increase a little bit in total strength, just a fraction what it can be with primer.

You made them really nice!
Compliments for that.

I assume you will add the wires from the BMS under one of the cell grubscrew nuts, or are you going to drill and tap separate contact points for the BMS wires?

Keep up the good work with sharing your progress!
Thanks Horst, I hadn't thought about repeated tightening but of course on aluminum studs with stainless nuts that could be an issue. Those were only done finger tight to make sure it all fit together though. But when I'm ready to put it all together, (I currently have a question on Electrodacus forum about the BMS wires), will be sure to do it only once. I plan to mount the BMS wires on ring terminals under the nuts, with lock washers. I also didn't know that red loctite needed primer so will add that to my list. I do have a small torque wrench so no problem there.
 

Micky

New Member
I used these rods to get my solution started and then only use one rod once the solution is green in color. I followed the instructions provided under the Download link on this page. https://diysolarforum.com/resources/tin-plating-nickle-plating-or-solder-plating-bus-bars.163/

I used 30 seconds per side and did each side twice. I don't know why you needed 30 minutes per side, doesn't make sense to me. I used around 6 to 8v on my power supply.
Well Zwy, I'm happy that method worked for you. I tried it that way first, but as I noted, it didn't work for me. The failures I had using the suggested settings was why I posted the detailed explanation of what did work. Hopefully others will be able to add my experience to the available data and perhaps save themselves some time and hassle.

BTW, what volume of solution and container size did you use? It seems logical that the small volume of my container (500ml) would explain the 'burn' marks at 4-6 volts even with the bubbler to keep the solution circulating. Again, if I need to do any nickel plating in the future I would try it using a lot more nickel solution in a larger container, two or more evenly distributed anodes and plate multiple pieces at the same time. Perhaps I'll do a Patton and nickel plate my .45 to test my theory. Dunno where I'd get the ivory grips these days though. (Yes, that is a joke, though no-one under 60 is likely to get it 😏) Incidentally, today I got an email from Krohn's, where I got my plating solution. They note that it is often a small volume of solution that creates problems and recommend no less than a liter/quart at a time.

As for the time I used, there is a relationship between the voltage and current density and the amount of material deposited. Don't remember what the formula is offhand, but it should be easy to find if you really want to understand it. Consistent with that relationship, the lower voltage and current took a while for the plating to appear uniform. It's certainly possible that my plating is thicker than required but with no easy way of measuring the thickness of the nickel deposited, I erred on the side of caution. And it worked, what I ended up with is a uniform, smooth, hard and tenaciously adhered nickel plate. Which after all, is really the only important thing.
 

fhorst

making mistakes so you don't have to...
My experience as well, more copper surface needs higher voltage/ longer time.

I've tried to do several at a time and failed.... Glorious.

For me a LiFePO4 cell worked perfectly, as the higher capacity improved the quality and speed.
After plating 100 Bus-bars or so, the voltage hasn't dropped at all...

I didn't not do capacity test before and after, bit it didn't use a lot of power :)

Tin / nickel / zinc, all work about the same, where Nickel is the most lovely.
Tin makes it more easy to solder a wire if needed, but will get dark gray over time.
(Nickel stays lovely)
Zinc... I tried from old batteries..
That did work, but looks terrible.
For resistance, they are all about the same.
(I have micro ohm meter)
Funny to see how a car key, tip to base, will have higher resistance then a LiFePO4 cell, with correct mounted Bus-bars :)
Apparently chromium doesn't work well with electricity 😜

I plated over the Zinc ones with Nickel, just to see if it works.
No problems!!
And strong bond.
Like the copper, the older layer needs to be clean, no fingerstains or other issues.
I didn't notice difference in resistance.

My copper bus-bars are about 115mm long, 17mm wide and 0.6mm thick

Loads of mass...

@Micky , I did not see your cells without nut and bus-bar.
Some of the new sellers laserweld studs inside the aluminium terminals.
If they do, the studs are usually galvanised iron.
(Check with small magnet)
Seldom aluminium!
And, according to local laser welding company, can not be stainless steel studs, as you can not weld aluminium and stainless steel together.
I know this is for TIG, not sure it that still holds up for laser, and if a pre-treatment would make it possible.

Probably for LiFePO4 cells, they don't go that far in developing for end users :)

Most just drill a hole, tap, and that's it.
Some drill, tap and laserweld.

CalB cells have incert for studs and is build for this type of mounting.
Even have a nut on the edge of the terminal to be able to tighten, without stressing the housing of the terminal. 👍

Anyways...
If you have stainless grubscrew, and you use them in the aluminium terminals, do use Loctite red and primer.

For the nuts.. if you are afraid they will vibrate loose..
Spring washer or Loctite blue.
You probably don't want those to be absolutely permanent....
You might need to replace one of the parallel cells if it goes bad.
Nuts and Loctite red (+primer)..
You need grinder or apply 250-300c heat. Last one will kill the joining parallel cells as well :)
 
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nate_syd

Solar Enthusiast
I've done some DIY small scale plating in my time...
If its all black - then ease back your current, too much current will make it bubble & go black. There should be minimal bubbling from the surfaces when plating. You also need some water flow if possible - use an aquarium bubbler or pump to move the solution around in the tub.
Heat - get it between room & body temp for best results.

Also what to plate with - https://www.galvanizing.org.uk/sacrificial-protection/ I shouldnt have used nickel & should have used zinc. Nickel & copper are close: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronegativity so zinc could be *better* but you shouldnt have issues.

Bench supply, aquarium heater, aquarium pump - will help results a lot.
 

fhorst

making mistakes so you don't have to...
@nate_syd
Thanks!! For sharing!!

That's indeed what happened to my Zinc!! Black :)
Looks ugly, but didn't affect the grip to the copper or resistance.

But... Ugly :)

Just retested.
Zinc 0.002micro ohm
Tin 0.003 micro ohm
Nickel 0.004 micro ohm

This is 6-8 weeks after plating, without cleaning.
(Tin, Zinc and nickel do oxidite)

Probably after a fresh scrub I can no longer measure.
(Clean copper bar, I wasn't able to measure the resistance, 0.000 m ohm)

The difference is not a lot!
 
Last edited:

nate_syd

Solar Enthusiast
Sorry - here's a good link for Zinc:
 

fhorst

making mistakes so you don't have to...
Thank you once again!
I wish I knew all this before starting the tin plating route...

Learning curve..
Now it's simple, once I've done it several times...

And indeed... Always wear protection!

(In the link provided by Nate, they warn several times, with good reason)

Glasses, gloves, respirator with matching filter for what you are doing.
Outside for enough fresh air, and tell the people around you what you are f**cking with.
Doctors really like to know what type acid is in your eyes, and that knowledge might just safe some of your sight...

Searching for electroplating bus-bar, I didn't get a ton of information.

Electroplating bike parts...
That's a good find :) 👍
 

Zwy

Solar Addict
Well Zwy, I'm happy that method worked for you. I tried it that way first, but as I noted, it didn't work for me. The failures I had using the suggested settings was why I posted the detailed explanation of what did work. Hopefully others will be able to add my experience to the available data and perhaps save themselves some time and hassle.

BTW, what volume of solution and container size did you use?

Used a small wide mouthed glass jar, about 3 inches in diameter.

It seems logical that the small volume of my container (500ml) would explain the 'burn' marks at 4-6 volts even with the bubbler to keep the solution circulating.

The closer the work piece is to the anode, the more amps it will draw. Much like using electrolysis to remove rust. This might explain why you saw burn marks.

Again, if I need to do any nickel plating in the future I would try it using a lot more nickel solution in a larger container, two or more evenly distributed anodes and plate multiple pieces at the same time.
Local factory here does plating, I can tell you they don't use a huge amount of time in the vat.

Perhaps I'll do a Patton and nickel plate my .45 to test my theory. Dunno where I'd get the ivory grips these days though. (Yes, that is a joke, though no-one under 60 is likely to get it 😏)

I'm under 60 and know what you refer to. :)
Incidentally, today I got an email from Krohn's, where I got my plating solution. They note that it is often a small volume of solution that creates problems and recommend no less than a liter/quart at a time.

What color was your solution? If it isn't a light green, then there is contamination of anode and it isn't pure nickel.

One more thing was I think the download link they used salt or something to improve conductivity to make the solution. I did not do that, I merely used my power supply and 2 anodes. Turned the voltage up enough just to get some current draw and let it go for 20 minutes or so.

As for the time I used, there is a relationship between the voltage and current density and the amount of material deposited. Don't remember what the formula is offhand, but it should be easy to find if you really want to understand it. Consistent with that relationship, the lower voltage and current took a while for the plating to appear uniform. It's certainly possible that my plating is thicker than required but with no easy way of measuring the thickness of the nickel deposited, I erred on the side of caution. And it worked, what I ended up with is a uniform, smooth, hard and tenaciously adhered nickel plate. Which after all, is really the only important thing.
I think the plating doesn't need to be very thick for what we are doing. Take the supplied bus bars that come with the cells. The plating on those is not very thick, my plating is about the same thickness. Thickness needed is just enough to prevent copper oxide from forming.
 

Zwy

Solar Addict
Thank you once again!
I wish I knew all this before starting the tin plating route...

Learning curve..
Now it's simple, once I've done it several times...

And indeed... Always wear protection!

(In the link provided by Nate, they warn several times, with good reason)

Glasses, gloves, respirator with matching filter for what you are doing.
Outside for enough fresh air, and tell the people around you what you are f**cking with.
Doctors really like to know what type acid is in your eyes, and that knowledge might just safe some of your sight...

I don't know if you are using HCL, but you will not get any of this from vinegar solution.

I had no fumes.

I do see you refer to tin plating in second sentence, but we were discussing nickel plating.

Searching for electroplating bus-bar, I didn't get a ton of information.

Electroplating bike parts...
That's a good find :) 👍
 
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