2. April 2015   4:03 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

magnifying glassIn some ways, what we do here at Plasmatreat is like a less gory “CSI”: We are often called upon to solve mysteries of the manufacturing persuasion. And, while we don’t usually get it nailed in an hour flat (minus time for commercial breaks), we do manage to crack the case more often than not.

In today’s installment, I’ll explain how we helped Ford Motor Company and The Preh Group, an automotive component supplier, solve a seemingly intractable adhesion challenge.

The new Ford Lincoln MKZ features a sophisticated control panel that combines climate control with various infotainment functions (telephone, navigation, and music), all in a streamlined central console known as the “center stack.”

A laminator is used to bond the interactive PET touch foil, which has an adhesive backing, to the injection-molded polycarbonate panel of the center stack. Everything initially looked good from a manufacturing standpoint – until the climactic test, when the adhesive detached and large bubbles formed in the boundary layer between the plastic substrate and the foil.

This delamination would ultimately cause the control panel to fail, so Preh went back to the drawing board to troubleshoot the problem. Simple adhesives produced large bubbles; high-tech adhesives produced smaller bubbles. But the bottom line remained the same: The adhesive film continued to detach.

With time and money clicking away, Preh decided to take a closer look at the PC panel itself. Preh concluded that the bubbles were most likely being caused by a release of gases from additives in the plastic due to the extremes of the climactic test.

Changing the material used for the panel was not an option – but pretreating its surface was. As Preh was already using Plasmatreat technology for microfine cleaning and activation of sensor circuit boards, it sent the PC panel out to one of its labs for a preliminary plasma test.

When the test panel was removed from the climactic chamber after four days of extreme temperatures and high humidity, the Preh developers breathed a sigh of relief. “There was not a bubble to be seen,” says Markus Ledermann, Preh’s manufacturing technology engineer. “With the foil adhesion fully intact, the adhesive bond had met the stringent requirements.”

Case closed, thanks to Plasmatreat! What manufacturing mysteries can we help you solve, automotive or otherwise? Let us know – we love a challenge.

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