3M Technical Ceramics
Zweigniederlassung der 3M Deutschland GmbH

Electroless nickel coating with embedded hard particles

In mechanical engineering, electroless nickel dispersion coatings serve to increase or reduce friction, minimize wear and protect the aesthetic value of surfaces. For example, they can be used to reduce maintenance frequency and allow infinite positioning accuracy in CNC machines, marine engineering, wind and water power generators, turbines or profile machine manufacturing. 3M™ offers various electroless nickel composite coatings that are produced under certified processes, for example to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and TS 16949.

Successfully Employed Worldwide

Custom solutions with 3M™ coatings are used throughout the world. They are characterized by:

  • Homogeneous particle distribution
  • Dimensional accuracy of the layer thickness
  • Contour retaining coating of the substrate
  • Reproducibility of the coating
  • Tracing of batches
  • Extremely short lead times
  • Delivery reliability

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3M™ friction enhancing coatings consist of a chemical nickel matrix with defined diamond particles embedded during the coating process. The coated parts are than heat treated to anchoring the diamonds in the nickel matrix.

Friction enhancing coatings

3M™’s mission is to offer the ideal solution for any customer requirement. Besides tried-and-tested 3M™ friction-enhancing coatings, our specialists are also continously developing customized designs and solutions for frictional joint elements. With our extensive industrial facilities and profound experience in this field, we can produce innovations and solutions that can be rapidly commercially exploited.

3M™ Friction enhancing coatings for components

Wherever components must be reliably joined together to transmit forces and torques, 3M™ Friction-Enhancing Coatings provide simple, reliable and technically mature solutions. The 3M™ Friction Shim is a metal foil with a friction-enhancing coating based on electroless nickel with embedded hard material (= electroless nickel composites surface).


3M™ Electroless Nickel Composite Coatings are characterized by:

  • Microscale interlocking with the joint surfaces
  • Adjustable and reproducible surface properties
  • Contour retaining coating of the substrate
  • Enables weight and packaging-optimized designs
  • Static friction increase up to a factor of 4
  • Easy assembly and resassembly

Wear Protection Coatings

3M™ Technical Ceramics has a long tradition of producing anti wear coatings.

3M™ Technical Ceramics offers complete or partial coating of components or combing wires with electroless nickel dispersions with the controlled incorporation of inorganic hard particles. Selection of the incorporated substances for particular applications is one of 3M™ Technical Ceramics core competences as a result of its extensive experience in grain manufacturing, fractionating and classification.

The specified properties are continuously monitored and the processes certified.


  • Homogenity of inclusions
  • Dimensional accuracy of the coating thickness
  • The coating maintains the exact profile of the substrate
  • Reproducibility of the coating

3M™ Technical Ceramics does not process chromiumcontaining systems, which can be hazardous to health. The alternative tried-and-tested binary alloys with incorporated substances can provide tribological properties that are identical, or even superior to such systems.

Wear Reducing Coating with Dry Lubrication Properties

This unique electroless nickel composite layer with incorporated hexagonal Boron Nitride is protecting the substrate as well as the uncoated mating surface from wear. Additionally, this layer system satisfies high demands with respect to anti-adhesion, accurate deposition, corrosion and temperature resistance.


A classical way to protect a surface from wear is to coat the respective surface with a layer of maximized hardness. However, the protection of the substrate will mostly be at the expense of increased wear on the unprotected mating surface. An often rather pointless approach is to coat both of the joining surfaces. With the new electroless nickel/h-BN composite layer from 3M Technical Ceramics the latter is no longer necessary, as besides the substrate itself, also the uncoated mating material is effectively protected from wear. The outstanding tribological properties of 3M™ Boron Nitride were synergetically combined with the merit of an electroless nickel layer by assuring an optimized particle size, a homogeneous particle dispersion and a high incorporation volume. As is known as a remarkable property of electroless nickel layer, even geometrically very complex substrates can be homogeneously coated with a high accuracy. The phosphorus content can be varied in the range of 1 – 12 %, allowing to further adopt layer properties such as hardness, ductility, corrosion resistance, magnetism and resistivity.

Benefits from tribological properties

One strong point of this new electroless nickel / h-BN composite layer is its performance in dry sliding joints against steel ( e. g. 100Cr6 ), where especially the wear on the uncoated mating steel surface is effectively reduced, e. g. by more than 90 % compared to an electroless nickel / 100Cr6 joint. Here, the composite layer itself reduces the wear on the coated substrate by 40 %. A further characteristic is the constant, and compared to electroless nickel/steel pairings significantly reduced coefficient of friction. Also in joints with hard mating surfaces, e. g. tungsten carbide ( WC ), the layer wear is largely reduced compared to hard chromium and electroless nickel / PTFE layers. The tribological properties of the entire system remain constant over the whole layer lifecycle, due to the homogeneous dispersion of h-BN particles in the electroless nickel matrix, assuring a constant ratio of particles and matrix at the joining interface. Additionally, the layer hardness is high as are the possible loads.

Benefits from antiadhesive properties

The antiadhesive properties of h-BN are being implemented also into the electroless nickel/h-BN composite layer, due to the high incorporation volume. Therefore the layer is suitable to reduce adhesion of polymers on molds and components in die casting and extruder applications. Additionally, the contact angle to water compared to electroless nickel is significantly increased ( improved hydrophobicity ).


The potential field of application is dry tribological contacts, in which both mating surfaces have to be protected from wear and simultaneously the coefficient of friction has to be reduced. For this purpose, just one of the two mating surfaces has to be coated. Additionally, the adhesion and sticking tendency of the surface against dirt or formable materials such as plastics in die cast and extruder applications is largely reduced, opening a wide range of applications.

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