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Waterblock Plating Test Seeing which manufacturers plating is worth a shit...

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Old 06-02-2011, 06:01 PM   #1
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Default EK Waterblocks - Nickel Finish Problem Un-Official Test

As the title states, RRTech has taken it upon itself to provide the watercooling community with an un-biased, un-tainted, non-translated, un-abridged, no-holds-barred, Un-Official EK Nickel Plated Waterblock Test.

The particulars of this test will be further explained by our resident guru, Rubidium. A brief listing of Rubidium's qualifying credentials to undertake such an extensive test:

Bachelor of Science:
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics

PhD Docorate:
  • Nuclear Physics

I will hand this over now to Rubidium, but first let me quote one of my favorite scriptures from the Bible, which readily applies to one of the main reasons RRTech is taking the time, trouble and effort:

John 8:32 "Then you will know the TRUTH and the TRUTH will set you free."


**this thread will not be derailed**



Here are the News Releases by EK, regarding their very apparent nickel plating issue. Now remember, Eddy (EK) has been posting on forums around the net, starting in early May, that EK's nickel plating is a non-issue and is just fine. Eddy (EK) has blamed distilled H20, distilled H2O + Silver, distilled H2O + dyes, pre-mixed coolants with corrosion blockers, anti-freeze, etc. Well, all of us shall soon see.



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Old 06-02-2011, 06:06 PM   #2
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As some of you may have heard, but all of you will realize now, Red went and purchased a brand new EK nickel plated block out of Gary’s shop and it's on its way to me to carefully examine and perform some testing on. This testing will probably begin later this weekend, and continue on for a few days after that, depending on what is discovered. I'm thanking everybody in advance for their patience, and for recognizing that I have a real job that I have to make my first priority throughout.

Before getting into any examination/testing of the block, allow me to spend a few moments walking through the process I plan to follow. Years ago, I was trained by some great physicists who all indoctrinated me to begin exploring every problem by first making what they called an ansatz - an initial, simplified, educated, guess that can be verified and refined later by test results. An ansatz allows the establishment of the starting equation(s) to describe, and thereafter explore, a physical problem based on the most fundamental principles believed to be involved and the conditions under which those principles are believed to play out. In this case, those conditions are based upon the many observations I’ve made of failed nickel-plated copper items, and my several months of experience (one summer back in my college days) with the plating industry and the common problems they encounter. After an ansatz has been established, the equations are solved for the general behavior of interest, after which one sets out to verify or refine the predicted behavior with experimental evidence.

What follows now is a little mathematical exploration of my “educated conjecture” of what I believe is happening to the EK nickel-plated blocks. Almost every example of failed plating I’ve ever seen over many years has involved poor surface preparation prior to plating. Failure to remove residual soils from machining of the article is often to blame, but also if regions of the article are allowed to oxidize during the article’s transit down the cleaning/prep line in the plating shop then those regions could be problematic as well. Also poor, or perhaps even a complete lack of, filtration to remove contaminants from the plating solutions can be to blame. The common result of these failures is that the plating will have “pores” over the “dirty spots”, through which the underlying substrate will be exposed. Very often these pores will be microscopic, which makes it tough to even recognize that a problem was encountered before the article leaves the plating shop, and which is why it takes very meticulous preparation and a high level of diligence by the plater to consistently turn out problem-free results with high confidence. Since the exposed region of the substrate is both directly electrically connected to the surrounding plating, when that exposed region is mutually exposed along with the surrounding plating to an electrolyte, then we have the conditions for bimetallic corrosion.

Let’s explore that conjecture further, mathematically, with the following example. Imagine a nickel surface with a single tiny hole that exposes a copper surface beneath it, immersed in a slightly-conducting dielectric fluid. Since the nickel and copper have differing electrochemical potentials, a potential (voltage) distribution will exist throughout the region surrounding the hole that can be visualized by solving a second-order partial differential equation known as “Laplace’s equation” with suitable boundary conditions. I solved this so-called “Dirichlet problem” numerically via a method called “relaxation” using Matlab. Contours of constant potential (“equipotentials”) having values between that of nickel and that of copper are shown in the following images.





The electric field is the gradient of this potential distribution, so that the magnitude of the electric field will be strongest in regions where the equipotential contours are most “congested” and weakest in regions where the equipotential contours are less closely spaced. The electric field strength (shown as colored patches) and the field lines associated with this example problem are shown separately in the following images.





Notice that the highest electric field strength occurs at the periphery of the bottom of the hole – the nickel/copper interface. It is this region where copper (being the anode in the electrochemical cell) will experience the greatest corrosion rate. The field lines also, to first order, provide an indication of the average “trajectories” that copper ions will take as they enter the electrolyte and eventually migrate to the surrounding nickel. As copper preferentially depletes in these interface regions over time, the thin nickel layer will tend to be “undercut” at the periphery of the hole, which implies that the “wound” should expand over time, thus giving us a hint at the mechanism responsible for flaking.

With the predicted consequences of my “conjecture” drawn from that mathematical exploration, I formulated my initial tests as follows:
1.Look closely at the plated surface of a new EK block under the microscope to try to visually identify pores in the plating which expose the copper beneath.
2.Immerse the entire block in a glass container of conducting fluid to which I will add some of the analytical reagent 1-(2-pyridylazo)-2-naphthol, also known as PAN. PAN is a dye that serves as a spectrophotometric indicator for copper in solutions by forming a bright red chelate with copper(II) ions. If the process explored mathematically above is really happening, I would expect to see the electrolyte eventually cause PAN to turn red after a time.

As I perform the tests and gain more insights, whether they agree with my conjecture or not, I'll be posting the results in the reserved sections below.

Remember ... patience …

Last edited by rubidium; 06-06-2011 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 06-02-2011, 06:09 PM   #3
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OK ... received a brand-new EK FC-460-GTX block (with black delrin top) from Gary last night and decided to open it up and take some photos. This is a brand new block, right? It hasn't seen distilled water, PTnuke, dye, or any other additive, right? It's a nickel-plated block, so I shouldn't see any copper, right? Let's have a look...

Note that these images are very large (3884x2592), so I apologize in advance to guys with laptops. At least what I'm posting here are jpegs that have been compressed a fair bit with some reduction in quality from the originals, to ease the bandwidth demand. Yet the quality is still good enough to see a lot of detail in these blocks. First, we have some macro images.

The disassembled block following receipt from Gary:



The "dry" side, trying to get the incident light to capture the tooling marks. I would lay in a good supply of TIM before installing this block on my GPU:



The "wet" side, again showing extensive tooling marks. WTF, I already see exposed copper through the nickel plating, on the tips of the serpentine structure and on the raised barrier between the two G-1/4 ports - all of which will be wet!



Let's look more closely at the serpentine in the next 3 photos. There is some sort of staining of the nickel, along with some exposed copper:







Now let's look more closely at the region between the G-1/4 ports. Again we find staining of the nickel, along with some exposed copper. The exposed copper is particularly prominent along the right-hand curved edge of the raised section. There is also exposed copper on the threads of the ports:



Here's another look at the threads with exposed copper. Keep in mind that these threads will be wet:



So we're not off to a good start: Brand new block. Exposed copper through the nickel plating that's visible to the naked eye on the wet side. Already a recipe for bimetallic corrosion.

Next, to the microscope to look even closer at possible porosity in the plating that's not visible to the naked eye.

Last edited by rubidium; 06-04-2011 at 01:40 PM.
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Old 06-02-2011, 06:09 PM   #4
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Now the "wet" side of the block goes to the microscope. First, this is the Leitz Orthoplan that I built from new-old-stock parts over the years as a hobby. (When introduced in the 1960's a similar setup would have retailed for about $65K.) It's set up with the EX block for so-called reflected light microscopy, i.e. light is incident on the block from above via channels in the periphery of the objective, and reflected back off the block through the objective and rest of the optical train to the view ports and camera port at the top. Based on this form of illumination and the camera exposure, nickel will appear dark gray to nearly black, while any exposed copper will appear to have it's natural color. Also note that, due to the levels of magnification involved, the depth-of-field is very small so that only certain portions of the image can be in focus at any one time while other portions will be blurry.



I'll say right from the start that the entire wetted surface of the block is riddled with a countless number of pores - many of which are clear through to the copper substrate. To catalog them all would be insane, so I'm just going to post a few groups of them.

Below is a small section of that serpentine structure that does not have copper exposure visible to the naked eye as in my last post. There appears to be a very fine scratch slicing through a pit with lots of little pits in the surrounding area - through all of which copper is exposed through the nickel (scale: full width~400 microns):



Closer up (scale: full width~200 microns):



Closer still (scale: full width~80 microns):



We change positions, and take a closer look at the exposed copper region of the serpentine that was visible to the naked eye in my previous post. Some of the copper is exposed through cracks in the nickel plate (scale: full width~200 microns):



Elsewhere in the same area (scale: full width~200 microns):





Still elsewhere in the same area, lots of tiny pores exposing copper in addition to the larger "bald spot" (scale: full width~200 microns):



Moving along to yet another place is a different looking defect in the plating, surrounded by the same tiny pores that are everywhere (scale: full width~200 microns):



A closer look showing copper poking through (scale: full width~80 microns):



Let's try one more place, shall we, where there is a cluster of pores in the nickel through which copper is exposed (scale: full width~200 microns):



A closer look at that clearly shows the making of a cluster of galvanic cells (scale: full width~80 microns):



Pores, pores, pores everywhere. Copper exposed through the nickel plating everywhere you look (scale: full width~200 microns):



And again (scale: full width~200 microns):



And again (scale: full width~200 microns):



Enough. I'm tired. I think the visual evidence is clear. The plating on a brand new block that hasn't gotten wet yet is riddled with pores of all sizes that expose the copper substrate.

Last edited by rubidium; 06-04-2011 at 02:37 PM.
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Old 06-02-2011, 06:10 PM   #5
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Accelerated corrosion testing. For 8 hours, I exposed the block to 1 liter of distilled water to which 50 grams of sodium chloride was added to make an electrolyte. I'm sure plenty of arguments will follow telling me that we don't have salt water circulating in our loops, which is true. However, there WILL be SOME electrical conductivity to the liquids we are circulating. Enhancing the conductivity as I have done for this test will merely enhance the corrosion rate, IF the conditions for bimetallic corrosion are present in the first place. A sodium chloride electrolyte will not of itself cause nickel to be attacked, any more than the lower conductivity fluid circulating in the average cooling loop will.

Here are some photos of the result without annotation. It is important to read the following post, which contains some clarifying remarks.
























Last edited by rubidium; 06-05-2011 at 09:38 AM.
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Old 06-02-2011, 06:10 PM   #6
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Some clarifying remarks regarding the photos in the above post:
1. I want to make it clear that wherever there is nickel on that block, it is shiny and not matte or grossly discolored. In some of the photos in the previous post it appears that the nickel is black, and this is due to the use of a circular polarizer on my macro lens to cut down strong distracting reflections from the nickel that were saturating the images.
2. In some photos, there are occasional blue, green, and red pixels. These are not part of the surface anywhere on the block, but rather occur at random as CCD focal plane array noise on some very long exposures (e.g. 12-16 seconds) in my attempt to maximize depth-of-field with a very small aperture (f22). Anyone who knows about macro photography knows about depth-of-field challenges.

Come clarifying remarks regarding the test results:
1. As I mentioned above wherever there is nickel, it is shiny and not matte. Wherever there is exposed copper, it has a frosted appearance. This clearly indicates that copper was behaving anodically in the electrochemical interaction with the nickel in the electrolyte and thus was the metal being attacked. Nickel was behaving cathodically and was not attacked.
2. Following the 8-hour test, an aliquot of the NaCl electrolyte was treated with 1-(2-pyridylazo)-2-naphthol (C15H11N3O), which gave a bright-red indication, confirming that either copper ions or nickel ions were present in the solution. Next, another aliquot of the solution was treated with dimethylglyoxime (C4H8N2O2), which underwent no color change. Since dimethylglyoxime is a highly-specific indicator for nickel, and experiences no interference from copper or sodium, one can draw the conclusion that the electrolyte did not contain dissolved nickel. Combining the two tests with these reagents, it can be concluded that the dissolved metal in the electrolyte was copper alone.

Both the photographic evidence and the chemical tests support that a bimetallic corrosion situation was present, involving copper and nickel mutually exposed to an electrolyte, resulting in anodic erosion of the copper. I think it's rather pointless to continue debating that this problem is due to anything other than inferior nickel plating.

Last edited by rubidium; 06-05-2011 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:28 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by rubidium View Post
... if I can keep the liquid motionless long enough, possibly see small red fountains above the pores as the electric field lines lead me to expect.

Very interesting ! Matlab charting / plotting ... love it !

I've seen your extreme macro photography capabilities and look forward to seeing your results here. An image of the "fountains" would be fascinating to see.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do these tests.
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Old 06-02-2011, 07:35 PM   #8
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Very interesting ! Matlab charting / plotting ... love it !

I've seen your extreme macro photography capabilities and look forward to seeing your results here. An image of the "fountains" would be fascinating to see.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do these tests.
+1 An image or even possibly a video of the fountains would be really cool.
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Old 06-02-2011, 09:47 PM   #9
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Sounds like an interesting test. I'd take one of RR's custom plated blocks and run it through the sames tests just so that you can say "nah nah! EK's plating sucks... RRT's wins!"
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Old 06-02-2011, 09:57 PM   #10
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Sounds like an interesting test. I'd take one of RR's custom plated blocks and run it through the sames tests just so that you can say "nah nah! EK's plating sucks... RRT's wins!"
Just so you understand, THERE IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN RRTECH PLATED BLOCKS AND THE GARBAGE PLATING FROM EK ! RRTECH HAS ALREADY WON !

Oh, that's right, you have never seen an RRTech plated block in person have you?
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:07 PM   #11
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Seems like a very interesting thread , subd
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:16 PM   #12
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Just so you understand, THERE IS NO COMPARISON BETWEEN RRTECH PLATED BLOCKS AND THE GARBAGE PLATING FROM EK ! RRTECH HAS ALREADY WON !

Oh, that's right, you have never seen an RRTech plated block in person have you?
Just LMK before hand what the cost might be. I have no use for a 5 day old EK 6970 Nickel block. Better two samples than one, would you agree? I'd rather know the real truth than pay the EK lie.
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Old 06-02-2011, 11:54 PM   #13
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I don't have much money since I spent it all on my gear, but I'd be willing to shell out a some cash to contribute to an RRT block for comparison purposes. I don't have any doubt over your workmanship, but to show the rest of the world that "YEs, this is only EK's issue" by providing examples of your own gear will put the nail in the coffin.

Thanks to Red and Rubidium for doing this. I don't own any EK gear (thankfully, this was brought to light before I spent money on my stuff), but I'm always down with seeing a deceitful company die.
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Old 06-04-2011, 02:52 PM   #14
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Eddy is allowing crap like this to pass QA/QC. Does EK even have QA/QC (?), because this looking at this new block, leads me to believe the answer is NO.

Do all the EK Acetal/Nickel blocks look this bad inside? Does EK throw the acetal covers on the really shady stock?

Thank you Rubidium, for the effort put in do far. Even more anxious to see how this turns out now.
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Old 06-04-2011, 03:06 PM   #15
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actually i think it would be much better to use a competitors block for the comparitive test since we know RRTech plating is already topnotch it may cos some ubwanted bullshit amongst different communities.

If another block like EVGayEVGayEVGayEVGayEVGayEVGayEVGayEVGay or whatever is used then they have nothing to argue about then.
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Old 06-04-2011, 03:52 PM   #16
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Wow, this is incredible. EK doesn't even have a leg to stand on with this information.

Rubidium, if I wore a hat, it'd be off to you. Hell, I'm thinking of going out and buying a hat just to take if off to you.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:00 PM   #17
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That looks like one giant piece of garbage. There is zero way that can pass through any type of credible QA.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:00 PM   #18
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Wow...that's crazy that the nickel is already missing and it hasn't hit water yet.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:05 PM   #19
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Sounds like an interesting test. I'd take one of RR's custom plated blocks and run it through the sames tests just so that you can say "nah nah! EK's plating sucks... RRT's wins!"
Doesn't Rubi personally own at least one item plated through RR's plating service?

Even throwing such under the microscope for 20 for a cursory inspection should show the difference between them.


If he doesn't, there's always THIS, and I'm sure that there are plenty of people willing to throw in a dollar to grab one of those to be put under the microscope...
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:05 PM   #20
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that confirms what i must now do.
tear my rig down-no water in it yet,and throw out a gpu and chipset block and order the right parts this time
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:09 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by RedRaider View Post
Oh, that's right, you have never seen an RRTech plated block in person have you?
I don't need to see a RRT plated block in person. I already know for a fact your plating service is top-notch, and is definitely better than EK's plating without even testing it. But just as bragging rights you could say after X number of tests, RRT plating outlasted that of its competitors. Not that we need proof, but *shrug*.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:17 PM   #22
Snyxxx
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Wow, those microscope photos look like something from the Hubble Telescope.

It also struck me that the photo on EK's web site looks strangely like the field of copper pores peeking through the nickel plating under a microscope.
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Old 06-04-2011, 04:55 PM   #23
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Excellent work Rubi. Those pics are fantastic. There's our 'translation' we've been waiting for. Translates out to a lack of caring to put out a decent product and all about just making money.
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:05 PM   #24
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The only thing I can say is what Red said; UnBelievable!"

Now I wish I would have bit the bullet and spread my last order from Gary out. He didn't have any HK blocks and no ETA, so I went with the EK Supreme HF. I was going to get the HK from PPCs, but decided to spend it all at Gary's shop, and try out an EK block.

Well, hopefully Red's plater can come up with a solution for the fix because after seeing Rubi's above pics under the scope, Eddie is definitely in trouble and wont be able to do anything because the scumbag will be out of business and bankrupt.

So Red, have you or can you approach your plater and see if you can get us a good deal if there is a mass quantity? Other than that, wtf do we do with these pieces of Slovenian crap?

'rigger
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Old 06-04-2011, 05:09 PM   #25
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If Rubidium is up to it, I have a proposistion.

Since we have all seen the lack of quality this EK retail block has, I propose to give this particular block (when Rubidium is finished testing it) the full RRTech Nickel/Chrome treatment. Once it has been resuscitated back to life by RRTech, from whatever hell it is about to go to, I will send it back to Rubidium to have the same round of tests preformed on it.
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If you don't like RRTech, then you can lick my
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