Surface Defect Mitigation of Additively Manufactured Parts Using Surfactant-Mediated Electroless Nickel Coatings

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The emergence of defects during the early production phases of ferrous-alloy additively manufactured (AM) parts poses a serious threat to their versatility and adversely impacts their overall mechanical performance in industries ranging from aerospace engineering to medicine. Lack of fusion and gas entrapment during the manufacturing stages leads to increased surface roughness and porosities in the finished part. In this study, the efficacy of employing electroless nickel–boron (Ni-B) deposition to fill and level simulated AM defects was evaluated. The approach to levelling was inspired by the electrochemical deposition techniques used to fill vias in the electronics industry that (to some extent) resemble the size and shape of AM-type defects. This work investigated the use of surfactants to attenuate surface roughness in electroless nickel coatings, thereby achieving the preferential inhibition of the coating thickness on the surface and promoting the filling of the simulated defects. A cationic surfactant molecule, CTAB (cetyltrimethyl ammonium bromide), and a nonpolar surfactant, PEG (polyethylene glycol), at different concentrations were tested using a Ni-B electrolyte for the levelling study. It was found that the use of electroless Ni-B to fill simulated defects on ferrous alloys was strongly influenced by the concentration and nature of the surfactant. The highest levelling percentages were obtained for the heavy-molecular-weight PEG-mediated coatings at 1.2 g/L. The results suggest that electroless Ni-B deposition could be a novel and facile approach to filling defects in ferrous-based AM parts.
Original languageEnglish
Article number406
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Early online date13 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the Cotutelle Agreement between Coventry University and the University of Mons for the funding. The authors would also like to thank Yoann Paint from Materia Nova for his help with the analysis of the samples using SEM.


  • electroless deposition
  • nickel
  • additive manufacturing
  • levelling
  • filling
  • surfactants


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