PurposeThis study aims to understand the influence of megasonic (MS)-assisted agitation on printed circuit boards (PCBs) electroplated using copper (Cu) electrolyte solutions to improve plating efficiencies through enhanced ion transportation.Design/methodology/approachThe impact of MS-assisted agitation on topographical properties of the electroplated surfaces was studied through a design of experiments by measuring surface roughness, which is characterised by values of the parameter Ra as measured by white light phase shifting interferometry and high-resolution scanning electron microscopy.FindingsAn increase in Ra from 400 to 760 nm after plating was recorded for an increase in acoustic power from 45 to 450 W. Roughening increased because of micro-bubble cavitation energy and was supported through direct imaging of the cavitation. Current thieving effect by the MS transducer induced low currents, leading to large Cu grain frosting and reduction in the board quality. Current thieving was negated in plating trials through specific placement of transducer. Wavy electroplated surfaces, due to surface acoustic waves, were also observed to reduce the uniformity of the deposit.Research limitations/implicationsThe formation of unstable transient cavitation and variation of the topology of the Cu surface are unwanted phenomena. Further plating studies using MS agitation are needed, along with fundamental simulations, to determine how the effects can be reduced or prevented.Practical implicationsThis study can help identify manufacturing settings required for high-quality MS-assisted plating and promote areas for further investigation, leading to the development of an MS plating manufacturing technique.Originality/valueThis study quantifies the topographical changes to a PCB surface in response to MS agitation and evidence for deposited Cu artefacts due to acoustic effects.