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On-site Assembly of the GC18 Acid Copper Electroplating Cell
(page 6)


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  1. Rinse the cathode clamp thoroughly under warm tap water. Do not use a detergent or commercial cleaner that might leave a coating or film.
  2. Drop the clamp into the slot provided in the anode hanger plate.
  3. Your plating cell should now look a lot like the lovely thing pictured on the left.
  4. Drop the cell into a frame or into a cut-out table top. Make sure that there is enough space between the drain coupling and the floor so that all of the electrolyte can be drained into 5 gallon (20 liter) carboys if it becomes necessary to service or clean the cell.
  5. Install the rest of the drain hardware, and orient the PVC valve for easy access.
  6. Let the cell set for at least 2 hours before proceeding. This will give the PVC cement used on the drain hardware time to harden.
  7. After the cement is dry, cell is just about ready to use, but be patient and read on for instructions on leaching and preparing the tank to plate your first board.
  1. Fill the tank with hot tap water and inspect all of the fittings for leaks. While hot water is not as invasive as a sulfuric acid based electrolyte, it is much easier to clean up and useful for finding large leaks.
  2. If any leaks are found after 30 minutes or so, empty the tank and repair the breach. Repeat the hot water test until all leaks are found and eliminated.
  3. Drain the tank.
  4. Fill the anode baskets to the top with plating grade copper anode nuggets.
  5. Put on an acid-proof smock, elbow length gloves and safety glasses (or a full coverage face shield if available).
  6. Refill the tank with a hot 10% to 12% solution of sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The easiest way to mix this solution is to add HOT deionized (or distilled) water to the tank until it is about 2/3 full. Top off the remaining volume (just up to the bottom surface of the anode hanger plate) with commercial automotive battery acid (35% H2SO4). The solution may be slow to penetrate the porous walls of the anode baskets, but be patient. The acid solution will leach out all of the impurities and greases that may still remain attached to the tank and baskets. Inspect all of the fittings for leaks. If a small leak is found, leave it alone for now, but note its location for repair after the tank is drained and rinsed. If you find a rather large leak, you will have to empty the tank immediately, rinse it and effect repairs before continuing.
  7. The acid solution should be left in the tank for a minimum of 4 hours (overnight is better) to insure that the all potential contaminants are leached out.
  8. After the leaching is complete, drain the tank completely, being sure to allow all of the leachant to drain out of the anode baskets.
  9. Rinse thoroughly with hot deionized water.
  10. Fill the tank with fresh acid-copper plating electrolyte to a point about 1/2" below the bottom surface of the anode hanger plate. Make sure that all of the anode baskets have also filled before continuing.
  11. Attach the wire from the cathode clamp (board clamp) to the negative (-) terminal of your plating power supply.
  12. Attach the wire from the anode buss coupling to the positive (+) terminal of the supply.
Precautions:
  1. Never leave the cathode clamp in the bath when it is not being used. Lay the clamp on its side on the anode hanger plate.
  2. Always cover the tank with the tank lid after use. This will keep airborne particles from contaminating the electrolyte.
  3. Never add anything to the bath without having run a chemical analysis and Hull cell test plate.
  4. Go to the Acid Copper Electroplating section of the Processing guide.

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