Category: LIFE SCIENCES
27. August 2015   3:56 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

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Nondisclosure agreements often prevent me from sharing the details of many of our exciting developments—understandable yet frustrating!—but today I am pleased to talk in a general sense about an application that has the potential to improve the daily lives of countless people (and animals) around the world.

Plasma can improve the “wettability” of microsampling devices used to collect fluids for lab analysis, including well water, waste water, blood, tears, and synovial fluid.

Companies are using gas plasma in manufacturing to develop new devices that can quickly and consistently collect a fixed volume of the fluid to be tested. No special skill is required to collect the sample, and once the fluid’s analyte has dried on the tip, it can later be extracted using common solvents and analyzed—no centrifuge, transfer, or freezing are required.

Samples obtained in this manner are minimally invasive, resulting in less trauma to test subjects (including children and laboratory animals). Additionally, as compared with wet samples, samples obtained in this manner are easy to ship via regular mail as no dry ice or expedited delivery are needed to preserve the samples’ integrity.

This also means that people around the world, even in very remote areas, can participate in groundbreaking—and potentially life-saving—medical studies.

Amazing and inspiring stuff indeed!

Oftentimes, industry engineers are not fully aware of all the options (both in service and technology) Plasmatreat offers. But we have the infrastructure in application support and continue to strengthen it to support solution developments in the medical and life sciences markets—as well as many others.

As always, please feel free to get in touch if we can provide any additional information for you.

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Category: Aerospace
13. August 2015   2:00 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

airplane

 

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately (primarily for work, but some pleasure, too), so airplanes have been on my mind as I’ve been spending much of my time aloft!

Plasmatreat’s Openair technology plays a key role in the safe and stable adhesion of coatings and bondings on aircraft components made of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics, as well as metals and composites.

What’s great about this technology, in addition to its reliability, is the fact that it’s both environmentally friendly and cost-effective. It’s also suitable for treatment of airplane parts of all sizes, from the very smallest (including those with complex geometries) all the way up to huge wings and fuselage components.

How does it work? The process is threefold: Plasma activates a surface via selective oxidation processes, eliminates static charges, and cleans at a microfine level. Our laboratory trials have revealed that surface energy values of more than 72 dyne are achievable, leading to improved bonding and enabling adhesion of water-based adhesive or paint systems to traditionally adhesive-resistant surfaces.

If you’d like more details on the process, please check out our article in the June 2015 issue of Products Finishing magazine. We’re always happy to answer any questions you may have at our end, too.

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30. July 2015   3:29 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

file0001843015840

 

You may be familiar with UV rays primarily in the context of sunshine – which you’ve hopefully been enjoying plenty of this summer.

But UV rays also play a key role in the coatings of many popular plastics, including automotive headlight lenses, commercial eyewear, and consumer electronic devices.

UV-curable powder coatings are of particular interest because they offer many of the advantages of traditional thermoset powder coatings (easy to apply; can be reclaimed and then resprayed) with the speed and low-temp advantages offered by UV liquid. Regular thermoset powder generally requires temperatures too high – around 350-450°F – to coat plastics.

For these reasons, my writing partner Paul Mills likes to refer to UV-curable powder coatings, with their optimal combination of strengths, as the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of coatings!

While the UV curing process provides a number of great benefits – including improved durability and performance, enhanced appearance, and various process advantages – it can also increase the likelihood of adhesion failures. Since these coatings often contain little or no solvent, attaining adhesion is even more challenging.

Happily, as with so many other applications, plasma provides a solution to this problem.

In recent lab tests, we used a UV powder coating on standard test panels of various blends of polypropylene, ABS, polycarbonate, ABS/Polycarbonate, and Nylon blends. Plasma surface treatment was performed identically on each test panel at a line speed of 20 FPM using a Plasmatreat RD1004 rotating nozzle laboratory system, powered by a FG5001 power supply.

Following the plasma surface treatment, a thin conductive coating was spray-applied, followed by an acrylated polyester UV-curable powder coating that was electrostatically applied. The resulting film thickness was 50-60 microns.

The powder-coated test panels were then heated in a 230°F electric convection oven for 10 minutes, allowing the powder coating to melt and flow smoothly over the surface of the substrate. Finally, the powder was exposed to UV, which cured it almost instantaneously.

The results? The polypropylene, ABS and polycarbonate panels – which had no coating adhesion without surface treatment – showed very good adhesion following atmospheric plasma treatment. In three of the four cases, in other words, plasma treatment made the difference between an acceptable and unacceptable process.

While additional work remains, we’re very excited about these results. You can read the full article, co-written by Paul Mills and me, in the upcoming issue of Plastics Decorating magazine.

In the meantime, keep those sunglasses – UV-cured or otherwise – close by, and enjoy the summer!

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16. July 2015   3:31 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Photo courtesy Plasmatreat.

Photo courtesy Plasmatreat.

A fun plasma story for you today: This past April, at an Openair® plasma seminar in Belgium organized by Plasmatreat’s representative Rycobel, participants had an exclusive opportunity to watch a live demonstration of the plasma pretreatment of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the Punch Powertrain Solar Team’s new racing car.

The car, Indupol One, made its debut appearance at the World Solar Challenge 2013 and had just returned from the 2015 Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge in January. In addition to its new design and other advances, the latest model features a very special innovation: For the first time, the CFRP components were pretreated with atmospheric pressure plasma prior to bonding.

The production manager of the 16-strong solar car team – who is just 23 years old – enthusiastically described his team’s decision to use atmospheric pressure plasma in the new car to improve the adhesion of the CFRP components. This approach not only greatly reduced the time taken to pretreat the carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, it also achieved a significant weight savings compared with the previous method.

Next month, the latest model of the solar racing car—treated with Openair® plasma—will be unveiled to the public for the first time. It and its design team will then head to Australia for the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge 2015 in October.

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Dr. K. L. Mittal, Dr. Robert H. Lacombe

Dr. K. L. Mittal, Dr. Robert H. Lacombe

Editorial July 2015

The last two issues of the SURFACE SCIENCE CORNER BLOG dealt with polymer surface modification through plasma processing. One of the main issues dealt with the problem of controlling the resulting surface properties created by the highly aggressive nature of the plasma environment. The large number of chemically active species in the plasma can give rise to unwanted surface chemistries unless special steps are taken to avoid this problem. The use of monosort functionalization and pulsed plasmas as discussed by Prof. Jeorge Friedrich in the previous issue of this blog are two possible ways of approaching this problem. However, the question still remains as to what changes in the surface were actually made after processing? This question brings us to the topic of surface characterization and in particular the use of contact angle measurements to conveniently and rapidly assess the wettability characteristics of a given surface.

In this regard, those who would have an interest in following the latest developments in the overall field of contact angle measurements and wetting behavior will definitely want to mark their calendars for the upcoming symposium:

TENTH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON CONTACT ANGLE, WETTABILITY AND ADHESION; to be held at the Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey, July 13-15, 2016.

Researchers from universities, technical institutes and industrial labs the world over will be presenting some of their latest work on this rapidly expanding technology which is finding applications in a wide range of cutting edge innovations including: self cleaning surfaces, nano and micro fluidics, microbial antifouling coatings, superhydrophobic and superoleophobic surfaces and electrowetting to name just a few of the more active research areas. Interested readers can follow the development of this meeting at the following web site:

www.mstconf.com/Contact10.htm

By way of an introduction to the topic of contact angle behavior, the remainder of this note will present some highlights of work presented at a previous meeting in the contact angle series held at Laval University in 2008. The rudiments of the contact angle experiment were covered in the July 2014 issue of this blog. The following discussion will cover some of the more current topics that were covered at the 2008 meeting in Laval.

Superhydrophobic/hydrophilic Behavior

The topic of superhydrophobic/superhydrophilic behavior was under very active investigation by many research groups worldwide as illustrated by the 9 papers submitted to the symposium. Applications range from self cleaning surfaces to preventing ice buildup on power lines. A most interesting paper was presented by Dr. Picraux from the Los Alamos National Laboratory entitled “Design of Nanowire Surfaces with Photo-induced Superhydrophilic to Superhydrophobic Switching”. The authors claim that they have developed functionalized photochromic monolayers for which the wetting angle of liquids can be reversibly switched optically by more than 100 degrees between superhydrophilic and superhydrophobic states. One would imagine that there would be tremendous applications for this technology in the realm of hand held tablets which are so tremendously popular these days.

Behavior of Water and Ice

During the week of January 5-10, 1998 a severe ice storm ravaged Southeastern Canada. The total water equivalent of precipitation, comprising mostly freezing rain and ice pellets and a bit of snow, exceeded 85 mm in Ottawa, 73 mm in Kingston, 108 in Cornwall and 100 mm in Montreal.   Further details of this horrific storm have been covered in the MST CONFERENCES newsletter and may be accessed at (www.mstconf.com/Vol5No1-2008.pdf). The prolonged freezing rain brought down millions of trees, 120,000 km of power lines and telephone cables, 130 major transmission towers each worth $100,000 and about 30,000 wooden utility poles costing $3000 each. Consequences for the local population were predictably disastrous with about 900,000 households without power in Quebec; 100,000 in Ontario. It is of little surprise then that the surface interactions of freezing water and aluminum power cables is of considerable interest to the Canadian government and of little surprise also that contact angle measurements are playing a significant role in the effort to understand and control these interactions. Thus no fewer than 4 papers were dedicated to this problem.

Novel Applications

It seems that hardly a day goes by but some new application of the contact angle behavior of surfaces arises apparently from nowhere. In fact, Carl Clegg of the ramé-hart instrument company has listed 50 different uses of the contact angle method ranging from the authentication of rare coins to the improved biocompatibility of polymer-based medical devices. For details see:

(www.ramehart.com/newsletters/2010-12_news.htm).

Adding to this there was a most interesting paper by Dr. Daryl Williams entitled “The Surface Energy of Pharmaceutical Solids- Its Importance in Solids Processing” which now adds pharmaceutical processing to the already extensive list. Undoubtedly even more unsuspected applications will surface in the future.

Oil Recovery and Mining Applications

The world’s insatiable thirst for fossil fuel products has lead to the quest to recover oil from progressively less productive sources such as tar sands and heretofore depleted wells. A moments reflection makes it clear that surface interactions between the residual oil and the surrounding rock are what dominates the problem of separating the oil from the rock. Again contact angle measurements are one of the leading methods being used to understand this problem.

Contact Angle in Micro and Nano Technology

The contact angle method is making remarkable inroads into the field of micro and nano technology mainly through the advent of micro-fluidics and micro-patterning of surfaces to control their wetting behavior. In the past I was always amazed at the very significant interest of Mechanical Engineering departments in the contact angle method. Being of the old school I always associated mechanical engineering with roads, bridges, automobiles, aircraft … etc. A moments reflection, however, quickly reveals that fluid flow is also an important mechanical engineering problem and that this problem is beginning to shift toward the micro-fluidics problem of flow in very small channels a micron or less in diameter. At this scale gravity is all but irrelevant and it is surface forces, governed by van der Waals interactions, that dominate. Again the contact angle technique is one of the most useful tools in investigating this behavior. Added to this the extensive efforts now underway in patterning surfaces to control their wetting behavior is bringing the contact angle method to the forefront in the realm of micro and nano technology. The paper presented by Dr. Mikael Järn of the YKI, Institute for Surfaces entitled “Wettability Studies of Selectively Functionalized Nanopatterned Surfaces” is a prime example of this new and exciting development in surface science.

Applications to Wood Science and Technology

Wood and wood products have been a mainstay of mankind since even before the dawn of civilization. Needless to say wood and wood products are still very much with us due to their ubiquity, unique properties and general availability as a relatively cheap and renewable resource. What is perhaps not so obvious is the many new and varied applications that wood is being put to by varying its surface properties through the use of plasma modification. Not surprisingly the contact angle method again comes into the picture in order to characterize the new surface properties. The paper of Dr. B. Riedl of Université Laval entitled   “Influence of Atmospheric Pressure Plasma on North-American Wood Surfaces”, highlights this trend nicely.

We can be sure that the above mentioned topics and many more will be the presented and discussed at the upcoming 10th in the contact angle symposium series to be held next year. Anyone with further interest should feel free to contact me at the address below.

Dr. Robert H. Lacombe, Chairman

Materials Science and Technology CONFERENCES

Hopewell Junction, NY 12533-6124,    E-mail: rhlacombe@compuserve.com

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25. June 2015   2:22 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

IMG_6253Everyone is busy enjoying the summer, so we’ll keep it brief today. Two updates I want to share with you:

1. We’ve been working on some exciting new applications with the UltraKat Corporation, headed by Dr. Karl Massholder. He has developed a permanent plasma nanocoating that can be applied to surfaces with the following effects:

  • Automatic self-cleaning and self-disinfection – light activates the treated surface to kill harmful microorganisms, reduce noxious substances through cold oxidization, and/or automatically remove stains from fabric. Remarkable!
  • Anti-fog coatings – essential for high-performance vehicle components, including safety mirrors and headlight covers
  • Anti-fingerprint coatings that make touchscreen phones look better and more readable
  • Permanent hydrophilicity (liquid beads up and runs off surfaces, leaving no stains behind). This is great for products like kitchen appliances that tend to take a beating on a regular basis.

Customers for these technologies include Philips, Bosch-Siemens, Cherry, Linde, and others.

2. I just returned from the inaugural meeting of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI). IACMI is part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, the presidential initiative for launching new manufacturing-focused institutes in the United States.

This new institute is tied to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Knoxville, TN and will focus on advancements relating to composite materials. Plasmatreat’s technologies can help with critical surface treatment technologies to bond these composites during assembly operations.

The car pictured above is a product of some of the work that ORNL have already done in this realm. The car body is 100% 3-D printed, which we think is just amazing.

Plasmatreat will continue to participate in facilitating leading-edge manufacturing technologies – as always, we are happy to answer any questions you may have!

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Category: Miscellaneous
11. June 2015   2:58 pm
Jeff Leighty

Jeff Leighty
Elgin, IL

Plasmatreat

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Is plasma surface treatment right for you? Maybe. Each circumstance is different, but over the course of my 17 years in surface finishing, 6 with Plasmatreat, I have come to recognize some key situations that tend to indicate a possible fit:

  1. VOC problems. The EPA just left your facility, and you’re nervous. The agency has told you, in so many words, that if you don’t get your VOC emissions under control there will be fines…or worse. Openair plasma is both environmentally clean and worker-friendly—no solvents, no wet chemicals, no waste stream—so it can reduce your reliance on VOC-based cleaning and bonding processes. It can also greatly reduce the necessity for costly removal of hazardous wastes.
  2. Out-of-control scrap rate. Your scrap rate is getting out of control but the root cause isn’t presenting itself (there may, in fact, be more than one problem on the line). Plasma is a highly reliable, replicable process that can eliminate the types of “here today, gone tomorrow” problems that drive a quality manager crazy.
  3. Launching something new. You’re getting ready to launch a new program, and this time you are determined to do it better from the outset: Higher quality, fewer rejects, faster throughput, more reliable process. Plasma could be the “better way” that you’ve been waiting for. While it readily integrates into existing systems, starting from a clean slate is ideal.
  4. Struggling to differentiate yourself from the competition. Plasma, quite simply, allows you to do things your competition can’t—new substrates, new combinations, better quality. You may even be able to achieve a better result than your competitors for less money than you’re spending now.
  5. Maintenance problems. Your maintenance crew is tired of keeping your current process running. Some pretreatments and adhesion promoters can be fussy systems. Downtime for service and repairs is expensive. Plasma treatment is a steady-state process built for uptime. One of my customers said his Plasmatreat system runs in “beast mode.”
  6. Performance issues. Your potential customer just called to tell you your samples didn’t pass their accelerated life cycle testing. Plasma can outperform other pretreatment methods for the application of silicone sealants and polyurethane “form-in-place” gaskets and seals. Because plasma changes substrates on a molecular level, it provides lasting results that other systems can’t achieve.
  7. Formulation frustration. Your supplier just informed you that they will be “reformulating” the product you source from them (primer, adhesive, resin, ink, etc.). While there have been sweeping assurances that the quality won’t be affected, you’re smart enough to take this with a grain of salt. Plasma is different. As long as there is electricity and air, there will be plasma—and it will continue to work for you as well as it does on Day 1.
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Category: AUTOMOTIVE / Cleaning
28. May 2015   2:00 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

As anyone who’s ever tried to clean oil paint off brushes knows, it’s not an easy task – that paint is tenacious!

Paint removal from grates and jigs is a particular challenge in industrial automotive applications, given the volumes involved. Oftentimes, the production lines must be completely halted for multi-cycle, high-water-pressure cleaning of grates, which is both time- and energy-intensive.

The alternative, high-temperature carbonization cleaning, is generally done off-site – leading to lots of production downtime – and can damage the grates’ zinc coating.

But we’ve been working in conjunction with our colleagues at Fraunhofer IFAM to develop a plasma-based solution to this problem, and we’re pleased to let you know that we’ve done it.

PermaCLEANPLAS® coating is a permanent paint release coating that facilitates the removal of overspray that occurs in high-volume paint coating industries (such as automotive):

  • Reduces time and energy needed for paint removal; 500 bar vs. 2500 bar water pressure needed
  • Thorough cleaning in a single cycle
  • Appropriate for complex geometries
  • Zinc coating of grate is not damaged, as it can be with high-temp carbonization cleaning
  • Resistant between pH = 2-12
  • Environmentally friendly, quiet technology
  • Solvent resistant
  • Colorless, transparent
  • Stable up to 300° C
  • Cleaning can be performed inside the factory, which means no contamination and less production downtime
  • Coating remains functional after 1000+ cleaning cycles

PermaCLEANPLAS® is applied via a low-pressure, cold-coating plasma deposition process to clean, rust-free surfaces. It can be used for both aqueous paint coatings and powder coatings (if cured), and on various substrates, including hot-dipped or galvanized steel, stainless steel, aluminum, plastics, and powder-coated components.

Photo courtesy Fraunhofer IFAM. All rights reserved.

Photo courtesy Fraunhofer IFAM. All rights reserved.

It’s a very effective process, one that is already being used by major automotive manufacturers (including Mercedes-Benz) in Germany and the rest of Europe. We’re looking forward to rolling it out to U.S. auto manufacturers soon.

If you’d like more info about the process, please contact my California-based colleague, Khoren Sahagian, at (650) 596-1606, x2233.

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Category: AUTOMOTIVE
14. May 2015   2:33 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

file1991256501710

I was speaking recently with Tim Smith, the Canada-based Vice President of Plasmatreat North America. The focus of our discussion? Engine oil pans.

(I know – it doesn’t sound riveting. But bear with me.)

As you may know, oil pans are now increasingly being made out of nylon (PA66) rather than the traditional steel or aluminum. Lightweighting is a factor for this change, as is cost. The oil pan is affixed to the engine block with RTV silicone … and here’s where things get interesting from a plasma perspective.

Nylon oil pans must be pretreated with plasma, or else the silicone simply won’t adhere properly to them. And poor adhesion in this case means messy oil leaks, stained driveways, and unhappy customers.

It’s also important to note that the plasma pretreatment must take place immediately prior to the RTV silicone dispense in order to be effective – not at the oil pan factory, not 12 months before adhesion, not prior to being handled by several sets of factory-dirty hands. Plasma works well here, but it can’t work miracles under the wrong conditions!

In any event, what I began thinking about after speaking with Tim was the fact that Plasmatreat offers a wide variety of solutions for a wide variety of industrial applications. And some are just inherently more flashy and exciting-sounding than others. But all are important in making our world run better and more reliably.

From lowly oil pans great automobiles are launched, in other words. And, to me, that’s incredibly interesting stuff.

If there’s a manufacturing solution we can help you out with, be it big or small, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

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30. April 2015   2:26 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

tomatoes

If you’ve spent any time in the kitchen – even if it’s just poking through the fridge looking for leftovers – you’ve probably encountered the orange staining on plastic food storage containers that results from hot tomato-based products (either heated in the container or put away while still warm).

In addition to being unsightly, this staining is also disconcerting from a health perspective: If pigments from the food are seeping permanently into the plastic, it stands to reason that some of the plastic is making its way into the leftover Bolognese, too.

As an amateur home cook, I’ve noticed the discoloration myself, and there is simply no way to remove it. But there is now, thanks to Plasmatreat, a way to prevent it.

Working with a leading industry coating specialist, we have co-developed a durable plasma coating for plastic food storage containers (LDPE, PP, and PET).

In our tests, the stain-resistant coating lasted for at least 100 cycles of freezing, microwave heating, and top-rack dishwasher cleaning. In addition to preventing stains, the coating technology makes plastics safer, with little to no material diffusion from the polymer to the food or liquid stored in them – or vice versa.

Additional treatment applications could include baby bottles and large water storage containers.

This is great news for all of us who care about what we eat and try to keep certain things – such as LDPE! – out of our diets. The process is not yet being used commercially, but I will of course keep you posted.

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