Measuring plating thicknesses using the MetaScope 3

Why do we electroplate copper and copper alloy wires?

To improve HF (high frequency) properties, mainly using silver

At higher frequencies electrical conductors experience a current displacement towards the surface called skin effect. In general a thick silver coating is used in high frequency applications. It is important to have a uniform plating thickness without any variations which can alter the conductor cross section and impact negatively on the conductor resistance.

To protect against oxidisation, mainly using tin and nickel

Many conductive materials form an oxide layer when exposed to a normal atmosphere. This can cause problems when the material is further processed especially when it is exposed to high temperatures, e.g. when running conductors through an extrusion line.

To improve solderabilty, mainly using silver and tin

Plated conductors are primarily used in automatic process equipment to ensure a good contact. Avoiding contact corrosion or the build up of local cells improves the fatigue life of crimp connections.

Quality Assurance

Most standards and specifications require a minimum plating thickness. These are acceptance criteria for customers and it may be necessary to demonstrate exact results.

To avoid excessive plating thicknesses

Especially when using high value precious metals it is possible to significantly optimise process costs by tightly controlling plating thicknesses.

The coulometric principle

The coulometric transfer process according to DIN EN ISO 2177

DIN EN ISO 2177 describes the exact process and required materials for the coulometric (electrochemical) measuring of various metal combinations, e.g. tin plated, nickel plated or silver plated copper. Coulometry is a method used to calculate the exact amount of plating material present by removing it using an electric current. It can be regarded as the reversal of the electroplating process.

Measuring system

A probe is immersed into a relevant electrolyte and connected to a measuring device using a test lead. As soon as the power is switched on the plating material begins to separate itself from the conductor.

To conduct the measurement the amount of electrical charge (Q) is required. This can be determined using the following equation: Q = It (As)
where Q is the amount of electricity in coulombs, I is the current in amperes and t is the time in seconds. A constant current and exact time measurement are needed to obtain accurate results.

The graph depicts a typical example for silver plated copper. The abrupt end of the gradual increase signals the total removal of the silver plating. This point, caused by a change in resistance determines the measuring time (t).

Measuring system
Measuring system
Typical graph of gradual increase
Typical graph of gradual increase

The MetaScope 3

MetaScope 3
MetaScope 3

Components and assembly of
MetaScope 3

  1. Power lead connector
  2. Clamp to hold probe in place
  3. Probe
  4. Glass container for electrolyte
  5. Copper cathode
  6. Measuring device with software

The new MetaScope 3

Completely updated and improved hardware

The measuring device has a new brushed stainless steel housing. The introduction of the new 5.7” TFT touch screen has significantly simplified the test process. Following many years of experience the magnetic stirrer has been greatly improved. It now has a black PVC base complete with a “start” button and the stirrer now has a 7 step speed setting. The base is now compatible with 107mm diameter glass containers.

Completely updated and improved software

In contrast to the previous model the Metascope 3 now measures with probes (test pieces) of variable diameters and lengths which are entered before each measurement. In order to ensure a constant current the software compensates for fluctuations by adjusting the current ± 10% of the nominal current of 0.5 Amps. In addition the transfer time is accurately determined using two algorithms. This significantly improves the accuracy of each measurement. The test results along with additional information including customer, job number, name of test, date, etc are recorded and stored on the device’s hard drive and can be exported using a USB memory stick.

Advantages of the new MetaScope 3

MetaScope 3
MetaScope 3
  • Greater accuracy in determining the exact plating thickness
  • Improved plating quality
  • Process control
  • Reduced consumption of high value plating metals during production
  • Cost savings through reduction in usage of materials

For source information


Further information

Technical article in German language in trade magazine "DRAHT" 1/2013: schichtdicke-exakt-gemessen _22365_de/

Contact & orders

LEONI Draht GmbH Sales MetaScope 3 Treuchtlinger Straße 20 91781 Weißenburg Germany Plan travel

Phone +49 9141 918-151
Fax +49 9141 918-101