One of largest maintenance requirements of the electroplating industry is met by the replacement of damaged equipment. According to the World Corrosion Organization, the annual cost of corrosion accounts for over 2.57% of the world’s GDP, representing approximately USD $2.10 trillion. One of the most common techniques for reducing the corrosion of metals is by coating them with thin layers of less reactive metals or alloys. Unfortunately, most metallic coatings are inherently porous and are of little value as barriers against corrosion.
Electroless plating is an auto catalytic reaction plating technique involving several simultaneous reactions in an aqueous solution. As the name suggests, it doesn’t require electric current to be passed through the solution in order to form a deposit.
The development of electroless plating has largely tackled the problem of corrosion due to its superior, performance enhancing, and corrosion resistant capabilities. Due to the low cost and reliability of equipment, electroless plating is being considered for more and more uses, greatly enhancing its business value.
The electroless plating of metals and alloys serves many useful functions in the electronic devices, such as corrosion protection, conductive circuit elements, via-hole filling for semiconductor integrated circuits, diffusion barriers, through-hole connections for printed wiring boards, and flexible circuits.
One of the main advantages of electroless nickel plating over regular electroplating is that it is free from flux density and power supply issues. This helps in achieving a uniform deposit regardless of the geometry of the workpiece.
Some other advantages of electroless plating:
- It provides high-reliability interconnections during the process of fabrication, where a layer of metallization is deposited on the silicon wafer. These are easy to implement, simple, and of low cost in comparison to other popular methods like vacuum deposition.
- It provides a solderable, wire bondable, and brazable surface. A combination of electroless nickel-phosphorus and electroless nickel-boron provides corrosion protection against the loss of surface conductivity. Using electroless nickel-boron, hermetic brazed seals can be accomplished without fear of cracking or leaks.
- It offers many advantages over conventional shielding. It can be used in plating various plastics as well. Thus, it has the best shielding characteristics of any of the coatings available.
The global electroless plating market consists of various international, regional, and local vendors. The market competition is foreseen to grow at a higher rate with the rise in technological innovation along with the merger and acquisition deals in the future. Based on the quality, reliability, and innovations offered by the international vendors in the technology, new vendors are finding it hard to compete with them.
Companies providing electroless plating services can use smart control systems to regulate the plating and processing cycles, thereby lowering the environment degrading emissions and saving energy during the idle times.
Varied specific application products are being provided by end users industries like the chemical industry, oil industry, automotive industry, electronics industry, aerospace industry, and machinery industry.
The automotive industry is one of the largest users for this market with applications accounting for approximately 26.7% of the market share. The oil and chemical industry is the second-largest end-user base for this market with 19.4% revenue share. The electronics industry comes third with approximately 14.4% of the share. The aerospace and machinery industries, along with other industries such as medical care appliances and consumer products, collectively account for nearly 35.5% of the revenue.
The electroless plating market can be segmented by type into:
- High-phosphorus electroless nickel
- Medium-phosphorus electroless nickel
- Low-phosphorus electroless nickel
- Electroless copper
- Electroless composites
Some of the companies involved in the following industry are Shanghai Xinyang Semiconductor Materials, MacDermid Inc., KC Jones Plating, Atotech, The Bales Company, Coventya, OKUNO Chemical Industries Co. Ltd., Uyemura International Corporation, ARC Technologies, INCERTEC Plating and Metal Finishing, Kanigen Plating, Erie Plating Company, Sharretts Plating Company, Tawas Plating Company, and Japan Kanigen Co. Ltd.
One of the major drivers for this market is the continuous requirement for protection of varied assets against corrosion, currently costing companies billions of dollars. In addition, the investments in the research and development facilities by manufacturers like DOW Chemicals and Atotech Deutschland GmbH to help produce efficient, cost-effective, and environment friendly plating technologies will help the industry grow to its full potential in 4 to 5 years. The restraining factor in the growth of the electroless plating market remains the volatility of the prices of raw metals. Despite levying an impact on the growth of the global electroless plating market, consumers still prefer products coated with a metallic lustre of their choice.
Electroless plating is a mature industry and has stayed in the market for nearly a decade. This market has reached the stage of maturity in North America and Western Europe. There are approximately 1,000 electroless nickel (EN) plating facilities in North America. About 66.67% of them are job shops and the remaining 33.33% are the captive facilities of manufacturing plants. The Asia Pacific is an emerging market as it is anticipated to witness an increase in the automotive manufacturing industry. China, India, Indonesia, and Thailand are major market revenue contributors to the automotive industry in the Asia Pacific region.
Mergers & Acquisitions
There has been significant consolidation via mergers and acquisitions amongst participants across various levels of the value chain. On 15 May, 2015, the global business unit of Albemarle Corporation, Chemetall, announced that it had acquired Chemal GmbH & Co. KG in Hamm, Germany. The Carlyle Group took over DuPont Performance Coatings and Pioneer Metal Finishing Inc., and Green Bay bought Superior Metal Finishing Inc. of Portland.
One of the major challenges the electroless plating industry faces is the need for substantial information on the uses of various substances and exposure. The high probability of requiring an authorization or restriction of the uses also holds back the industry in the European region.
However, with electroless plating playing an important role in the electronics industry, micro and nano devices may be realized using this in near future. Thus, it has high potential to realize high-performance electronic devices with continued movement towards cost reduction, technical innovation, and distribution efficiency.