Industrial-level quality PCB through hole plating

Described method does not use expensive, hazardous or hard to obtain chemicals, provides good adhesion of plated copper and has very good productivity, because all holes are processed at once. Sounds like miracle? But it is not.

Basically the method is very simple to use: just put board into activator solution, then into oven for about a half of hour, then wash it and put into galvanic bath to perform electroplating of the copper layer of necessary thickness. That’t it. Of course the key is the activator solution. You need to prepare it once and then you can process several boards with it. While not in use solution can be stored for a long time without degradation of its properties.

Note, that description below does not include the electroplating step. There are several guides, recipes and detailed descriptions of the process, so I see no need to repeat them again. Especially taking into account, that most convenient one heavily depends on various conditions, availability of chemicals/materials and other things.

Lets begin with a little bit of history. This method uses ability of the some copper compounds to decompose under high temperature with the release of nano-particles of metallic copper. This allows to form a conductive layer on the processed surface and then deposit solid copper layer using regular electroplating. It was developed several years ago at the former USSR as a replacement for expensive palladium based method. After death of the USSR development of this method continued and at the beginning of the 90x group of the chemists leaded by Oleg Lomovsky obtained patent for the industrial PCB through hole plating method (page is in Russian). This method was almost unknown to wide hobbyist audience until about year ago, when at VRTP.RU forum user JIN published his article (page is in Russian) about through hole plating. The article described early version of the method, which has some issues which prevented its use in industry, but most of these issues are irrelevant for home use. What is more important, the article described recipe of base activator solution suitable for repeating in home environment. In fact method described below heavily based on the same recipe. Since then method started quickly gaining popularity in Russian-speaking hobbyist communities.

As mentioned above, to use this method, we need an activator solution. Next step describes preparation of the activator solution in details.

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