Omega Micro Technologies Inc., www.omegamicrotech.com

A new method of nickel-gold plating uses chemicals rather than the more-commonly used electricity-based approach of passing electric current between a substrate and conductive solution. The new technique could lead to less-expensive ceramic substrates for electronic circuits and modules. The method, which was developed at Omega Micro Technologies, West Lafayette, Ind., chemically puts a coat of nickel over a multilayer ceramic substrate with silver conductors. The next step places a layer of gold plating on top of that. The resulting low-temperature, cofired ceramic substrate performs as well and reliably as if all its conductors were gold, letting electronics firms save 40 to 70% of the cost of using gold conductors. The company has worked with the U.S. Navy to develop a 200-W switch coupler board (shown). The company plans to ramp up production so it can make or plate more than 240,000 substrates annually by next year.