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Acid-Copper Electroplating Module Model 1000 Manual
Getting things ready - Dummy Plating

Dummy Plating

By dummy plating, we do not mean throwing dishes at your little brother or the weenie in human resources. It refers to plating a piece of scrap copperclad to electrophoretically scrub the electrolyte of any floating debris that might have escaped capture by the porous anode baskets or the in-line filter. Small particles that plate out onto a board have the nasty habit of situating themselves where they can do the most harm to your circuit so it is a grand idea to get rid of them before that can do their mischief.

Loaded Cathode Clamp
Figure 10
  1. Mount a full size piece of clean scrap copperclad (9" x 12" for 11 gal. systems and 12" x 18" for 22 gal. systems) into the cathode clamp (fig.10). Tighten the 2 hex head bolts until the clamp fingers achieve a firm grip on the board. The handle is designed so that adequate pressure is achieved just as the bolts bottom out. Unless you really try, you cannot damage the clamp by over tightening.
  2. Turn on the sparging air using the air switch and set the copperclad into the plating tank.
  3. Plate this "dummy board" at full current (30 Amps for 11 gal. systems and 60 Amps for 22 gal. systems) for 1 hour to sweep the electrolyte clean of any suspended particulate contamination. This initial plating period also gives your anodes time to break in and a chance for a black anode film to start to form. This film acts to regulate the erosion of copper into the plating bath. The gradual formation of a pitch black film on all of the anodes is a sign of a healthy bath.
  4. Remove the board from the bath, carefully rinse and dry both surfaces. Your dummy board can be used many times before the surface becomes too rough to provide an initial measure of the health of your bath.
  5. Inspect the dummy board. If it is shiny and the deposit is smooth, your bath is properly set up and you are ready to plate your first PCB. If the deposit is dull or rough in texture, you should take a few minutes to analyze the chemical components of the electrolyte before proceeding.
It is a VERY good idea to dummy plate for at least 45 minutes at the beginning of every day that you plan to use your plater.

Another good idea. If you are going to let your bath sit idle for weeks at a time, dummy plate for 2 hours at least once each week to insure that the bath stays in good health. If your system is fitted with the filtration / recirculation option, you can safely leave it on, even when the bath is not in use.

DO NOT TAKE THE ANODE BASKETS OUT OF THE BATH ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED. It is perfectly safe, and preferable, to leave the baskets in the tank, even if the system will be idle for long periods of time. If you feel absolutely compelled to remove the basket, or if your plater will be setting idle for long periods of time, set the baskets into a bucket of distilled (or deionized) water until you are ready to reinsert them into the plater.
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