Category: AUTOMOTIVE
8. May 2017   11:05 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Since my days in grammar school, I have been fascinated by chemistry.  Watching two colorless liquids combine to produce a beautifully colored solid, bubbling volcano, on something that explodes was exhilarating.  Magical.

 

Now as work allows me to see some of the great technological advances going on in the world I am still awestruck by the magic of chemistry.  At it’s essence what we do with plasma surface treatment is really a story about changing the chemistry of surfaces to make magical things happen. We make things adhere that would not stick before, or deposit a coating a few molecules thick that stop corrosion.

 

I also get to work with many of the brightest and most talented chemists in the automotive, aerospace, medical device, and electronics industry.  Some of these folks were part of the 150-strong group that participated in our recent Silicon Valley Open House and Surface TechDays in Hayward, California.

 

It was a technology packed two-day event with 18 technical presentations touching on everything from how plasma is enabling engineers to make better giant airplane wings to tiny laboratories on a chip. In addition to these talks, a dozen laboratory demonstrations allowed visitors to see how plasma can enable new applications up close.

 

But what also impressed me was the chemistry happening at the event itself.

 

In the crucible of the applications lab, using the energy of the group, with Plasmatreat’s technology as a catalyst — experts in chemistry, physics, plastics, metals, and composites mixed together.  And this mixture produced a number of exciting new ideas.

 

They say that greatest creative insights come from the synthesis of relatively well understood ideas.  That was certainly true for those at Surface TechDays.

 

I look forward to sharing some of the specific technology and insights with you in upcoming blogs and our plan to organize another Surface TechDays event in another location soon. For now, I wish to thank our industry partners for help proving the the active ingredients that produced such a great reaction in Hayward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: AUTOMOTIVE
21. March 2017   12:45 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Attendees will have the opportunity learn, network, and see hands-on demonstrations in our new Silicon Valley laboratory.

Last week we had to stop taking reservations for our upcoming Open House and Surface TechDays event at Plasmatreat’s new Silicon Valley laboratory facility.  With over 150 people expected to attend, we were at capacity.  As I talked to many who are coming to the event, two reasons for signing up stood out to me. First, is interest in the 18 interesting technology talks being offered at the 2-day event.  This includes expert discussions on topics ranging from bonding to composite substrates to OSEE measurement, and from failure analysis to innovative medical device coatings.  Take a quick look at the current agenda:

  1. Joerg Ihde, Fraunhofer IFAM: Composite repair and improved adhesion for lightweighting applications with plasma
  1. Tim Smith, Plasmatreat: Plasma control characterization & process parameter monitoring in high-value, high-volume manufacturing
  1. Joe Williams, Henkel Adhesives:Advanced adhesive technologies for bonding in critical industrial applications
  1. Stephanie Benight, Exponent :Failure analysis in bonding applications
  1. Paul Betz, KUKA Robotics:Innovative automation solutions for medical, automotive and electronics applications
  1. Lucas Dillingham and Tom Mclean, BTG Labs:The four critical control points for managing surface performance
  1. Uday Vaidya, IACMI/UTK:Enhanced bonding strength of composites and hybrid materials
  1. Alexis Sauer-Budge, Fraunhofer CMI, Boston:Plasma surface modifications for microfluidic and diagnostic devices
  1. David Jackson, Cleanlogix:Improving surface cleanliness in manufacturing through a plasma/CO2 combination
  1. Uwe Lommatzsch, Fraunhofer IFAM:Formulating novel functional coatings such as corrosion protection, anti-stick, and anti-bacterial materials
  1. Khoren Sahagian, Plasmatreat:Plasma surface engineering for complex multi-material bonding
  1. Dan Murad, Chemquest Technology Group:Surprising industry trends for advanced coatings & Launch of the Chemquest Technolgy Institute
  1. Mantosh Chawla, Photo Emission Technologies:Non-destructive, non-contact surface contamination and thin film detection for automated systems
  1. Philipp Holz, Fraunhofer IPM:New inline inspection of surface cleanliness and coatings by quantitative fluorescence Imaging
  1. Gavin Matupang, PVA:Automation in curved displays bonding
  1. Ed Valigursky, LUNA Innovations:Stress sensing technology for measuring performance of bond lines
  1. Ned Saleh, Plasmotica Inc.:Maskless patterning using plasma surface treatment with micron spatial resolutions
  1. Edward Yokley, Thin Film Partners:Designed surfaces by plasma nanoscale coatings

The second reason for attending that people mentioned related to the technical partnerships that Plasmatreat has established with other suppliers. The eighteen talks listed above are not the kind of arbitrary set of disconnected topics you often find at typical industry conferences. Instead, they demonstrate a commitment to coordinate efforts, and make upstream and downstream pieces of the manufacturing process work together to solve problems, or to develop something new.

These talks are often the result of countless hours of engineers and technicians working together to solve surface related manufacturing problems. That might be how to automate plasma treatment for high-volume 3D applications, to improve adhesion of dissimilar materials, or to overcome challenges of bonding curved electronic displays. In these presentations, attendees see first-hand demonstrations of how teamwork has produced impressive results.

I am delighted that this event seems poised for success for Plasmatreat, our partners, and our guests. While this event “sold out,” and we could not accommodate everyone,  the interest in this format has prompted us to plan on taking the Surface TechDays show on the road. So look for a similar event in the future, perhaps in another location, for those who could not make it to our Hayward, CA facility this time. If you want to be kept informed about these developments,  just drop me a note to andy.stecher@plasmatreat.com

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4. January 2017   12:08 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

btg-surface-analyst

 

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan famously quoted the Russian proverb “doveryai, no proveryai”, or “trust but verify” in describing his cautious approach to foreign relations with the Soviet Union.

A few years later, William Edwards Deming, the American engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant famously quipped “In God we trust; all others bring data.”

Deming founded the four-step Plan-Do-Study-Act management method used for the quality control and continuous improvement of manufacturing processes and products. It is widely acknowledged as a cornerstone of Kaizen, Lean manufacturing and the success of the Toyota Way.

With over 6,000 systems in operation using over 20,000 plasma jets, Plasmatreat customers can trust that Plasmatreat technology can provide impressive surface treatment and corrosion protection results.  Still, we recommend that customers work with us to test their application before committing to production, and to monitor their surface treatment process routinely to assure that it continues to perform as specified.

The idea of rigorous process characterization is so important to us, that Plasmatreat manufactures and supplies our own line of Plasmatreat Testtinte dyne inks that offer a quick, simple, and very cost-effective way to characterize a substrate’s surface energy (http://www.plasmatreat.com/test-inks-onlineshop/). However, although dyne inks are great for measuring surface energy and work better than comparable dyne pens, they are somewhat subjective tools to use.  For applications that require a simpler and more quantitative and objective approach to surface measurement, we have also established some strong partnerships with companies that specialize in specialized equipment useful for measuring the efficacy of the plasma surface treatment process.

BTG Labs (www.btglabs.com) located on the Northern edge of Cincinnati, Ohio offers the  Surface Analyst, a fast, easy, accurate and non-destructive handheld instrument for characterizing the surface energy materials based on an automated contact angle measurement approach.  Manufacturers in the aerospace, medical, automotive, electronics and consumer goods segments use the Surface Analyst for critical manufacturing processes. The Surface Analyst can either display the contact angle, or (as pictured above) can be used in a simple “Pass/Fail” mode in production. Data can be downloaded via USB port to a computer for record keeping, SPC, and further analysis.

Photo Emission Tech (PET) Inc. (www.photoemission.com) manufactures and markets non-destructive, non-contact surface contamination, thin film, and coating detection down to the Angstrom level. The PET systems rely on Optically Stimulated Electron Emission, or OSEE, a principle based on Einstein’s Nobel prize winning photoelectric effect.   As a tool for measuring surface cleanliness on conductive substrates, PET’s computer-driven OSEE  measurement system is capable of validating the cleaning quality of parts with extreme accuracy and sensitivity.

Plasmatreat uses each of these tools; dyne inks, contact angle and OSEE in our own process development laboratories, and would be happy to show you how they work, and help answer your questions about surface measurement devices and techniques. We will be speaking about characterizing the efficacy of plasma surface treatment at the 40th annual meeting of The Adhesion Society in St. Petersburg, Florida, February 26 through March1 (see www.adhesionsociety.org/) and at the upcoming Plasmatreat West Coast open-house at our new Hayward, California facility on March 30-31, 2017. For more information about surface measurement or these events contact infoptna@plasmatreat.com

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13. September 2016   2:18 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

nascar-pit-crew

Plasmatreat is a means to end. That end might be building a longer lasting engine, a stronger airplane wing, a safer medical device, or a more reliable printed circuit board. In achieving these feats, plasma is normally part of a complex chain of other upstream and downstream processes that need to be coordinated in order to achieve the intended result.  Examples of the importance of teamwork abound – whether it’s to put a man into space, win a NASCAR race, or perform a delicate surgery, each expert relies the expertise of others on the team, and the result depends on their close coordination, good communication, and problem solving while working side-by-side.

A perfect example of how assembling a team of experts can produce impressive results will be on display in Düsseldorf Germany, October 19-26, when Plasmatreat and AKRO-PLASTIC will join forces with KUKA, ARBURG and Krallmann at the Plasmatreat booth at the K 2016 show to present live demonstrations of a new plasma hybrid injection molding process and turnkey atmospheric plasma unit. The K 2016 show is the world’s leading trade show fair for plastics and rubber technology.

Plasmatreat and AKRO-PLASTIC teamed up to develop a solution to potential delamination and failures at the interface between plastics and metal. These failures pose serious and persistent concerns for injection molding manufacturers who produce components that combine dissimilar materials such as for automotive light-weighting applications. A two year research effort by Plasmatreat and AKRO succeeded in developing a process that customizes the composition of an anti-corrosive plasma-polymerized layer according to the composition of the corresponding plastic compound. The resulting process parameters ensure a reliable, stable, and exceptionally strong bond on the injection-molded part.

The fully automated PT1200 plasma cell can be adapted to suit any conventional injection molding machine. This increases production speed and allows for a continuous production of injection molded plastic-to-metal components. The PT1200 cell includes the plasma generator, robot, control technology, plasma control unit (PCU), plasma jets, cables and consumables. Users can customize the system for their process as required. To process parts, a 6-axis robot, or, for smaller profiles, a 2-axis gantry system, positions the metal inlay beneath a Plasmatreat Openair atmospheric plasma jet. The plasma jet removes contamination from the part’s surface and simultaneously activates the surface chemistry for coating. A second plasma jet applies a thin-film functional coating. The coating application is based on the patented PlasmaPlus process developed by Plasmatreat and Fraunhofer IFAM.

The plasma cleaning and coating process takes only seconds to complete, and provides a dry, environmentally-friendly alternative to the slower and less effective chemical cleaning and priming processes conventionally used in hybrid injection molding. The Plasmatreat process eliminates the need for time consuming intermediate steps such as storage and drying, and allows components to be processed immediately after coating. Coated metal parts are transferred from the plasma cell to an injection molding cell. On entering the injection molding cell, a robot briefly maneuvers the parts under an induction heater before loading them into the mold. The PlasmaPlus coating creates a strong, covalent bond between the metal and the injection molded plastic.

Supported by our trade fair partners KUKA for robotics, ARBURG for injection molding machinery and Krallmann for mold design and construction – Plasmatreat and AKRO-PLASTIC will demonstrate the entire process and provide K 2016 attendees with stainless steel sample parts that have been over-molded with PA6 GF30 plastic.

This new manufacturing process and its impressive debut at “The K” would not be possible without the teamwork of a talented and dedicated group of industry suppliers, I am proud to be part of this great team, and I  hope you will visit our K Show booth G04 in Hall 11, or contact me for information about this new process if you can’t be there to see it.

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1. May 2016   6:04 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

It’s NBA playoff time.  Living in Chicago, I am reminded of the years where arguably one of the world’s greatest basketball players, Michael Jordan could not win a championship. Although the Bulls eventually won six titles in eight years during the 1990s success did not happen until Jordan built a strong team around him. For three straight years the Bulls battled the Detroit Pistons in the playoffs, and for three straight years they left bruised and beaten.  The Pistons were simply the better team. As Jordan himself observed “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.”

Plasma is an all-star in the role of cleaning, activating, and coating surfaces to make them for printing, coating or bonding. But the most successful applications are often those where there is coordination and teamwork with other parts of the manufacturing process such as process  control, material handling, dispensing, or curing.

In a couple of weeks, Plasmatreat is teaming up with two other companies we have had great success with in the past; Precision Valve and Automation (PVA) and DELO Adhesives. Together we are presenting a technical webinar:


 

Fast Optical Bonding:
An Integrated Solution for Flat, Curved, and Flexible Displays
Thursday, May 12, 2016
2 PM Eastern Time
(there is no cost to attend)


 

This webinar discusses the latest trends in electronic display manufacturing such as changes in substrates, flexible and curved displays, and UV LED curing. For our part, Plasmatreat will discuss how plasma excels at cleaning and activating plastic and glass substrates for better performance.  Our partners will discuss advance s in adhesives and sealants, dispensing and curing equipment, and system integration.

But the real benefit of this initiative is in providing customers with an integrated, team-oriented, solution.  Many plant managers have learned the lesson of loyal Bulls fans – even with the best players, it often takes a team to win. Casey Stengel said, “finding good players is easy – getting them to play as a team is another story.”  Teamwork avoids the blame and finger pointing when things go wrong.  I am proud of Plasmatreat, but I am also proud that Plasmatreat has teamed up on so many occasions with leading industry suppliers to produce a successful process.

I invite you to attend this webinar. To register click on the link below:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7488361753958739204

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22. March 2016   11:53 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Plasmatreat is Playing a Leading  Role in Engine Technology

While many of Plasmatreat’s success stories can’t be told because of confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements that protect our customers processes, one story about how plasma is enabling one of the world’s top automakers produce better cars has made it to the small screen.

Since its 1966 debut, the General Motors Chevrolet Camaro has become one of the most iconic high performance cars in America.  The 6th generation Camaro introduced for the cars 50th anniversary, the 2016 Chevy Camaro, is an amazing display of styling and technology. The 2016 Camaro uses engines built at GM’s powertrain plant in Romulus Michigan.

Plasma surface treatment, supplied by Plasmatreat, is used to clean and activate the surface of the engine’s front cover before applying a sealant that helps secure the cover to the aluminum engine block. This seal is critical to the engines performance and longevity.

“How It’s Made-Dream Cars: 2016 Chevrolet Camaro” is airing on national television.  You can watch this fascinating episode by clicking the link below:

http://camarosix.com/how-its-made-dream-cars-2016-chevrolet-camaro/

While the entire video is fascinating for both car buffs and fans of the latest technology, those who want to skip directly to the plasma treatment process can fast forward to the 9 minute and 40 second mark for Plasmatreat’s performance.

Plasma is a proven process, being used widely in automotive and in engine production, to clean and activate surfaces prior to applying adhesives, sealants and coatings. More recently,  Plasmatreat’s pioneering process PlasmaPlus® is also being used to prevent corrosion.  PlasmaPlus® uses atmospheric plasma to apply a functional protective coating by introducing a precursor to the plasma. You can read more about the use of plasma and the PlasmaPlus® process in engine production in The March 15 issue of Engine Technology International magazine (Page 73) available here:

http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/e8c2bb3c#/e8c2bb3c/74

We’re proud to be associated with the 2106 Camaro, GM, and a long list of customers who have proven the value of plasma and PlasmaPlus® in a wide range of demanding applications. We’re glad they think enough of us to share the story on TV. —  Action!

Regards,

Andy

 

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Category: AUTOMOTIVE
28. January 2016   3:15 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

I was intrigued by a presentation I saw by the RAMPF Group. The RAMPF Group, based in Wixom, Michigan supplies polyurethane, epoxy, and silicone for sealing, foaming, bonding, casting, and coating. They also manufacture mixing and dispensing systems for applying single- and multi-component polymers in the automotive, electronics, and other high tech industries. Today, RAMPF ships over 1,000,000 parts a year to automotive assembly lines. So, the people at RAMPF understand the importance of thinking through the whole process.

RAMPF appears concerned about two trends that affect their reactive resins business. First, is the continuous raising-of-the-bar when it comes to performance specifications. Their OEM customers are making products that have better UV stability, offer better thermal and chemical resistance, and provide better mechanical properties.

Second, the increased use of plastics and composites driven by the desire to reduce weight, has also been accompanied by the greater use of more recycled materials to cut costs, and processing new engineered substrates before they are properly tested. This means their customers are often using materials that are more and more “undefined,” and changing substrates without testing the effect on important properties like adhesion. RAMPF claims that 90% of the reported problems relating to joining are due to problems with the process.

Plasmatreat agrees with these observations. And although we recommend thorough process testing before implementing any new process, plasma also provides some safeguard against potential problems from day-to-day changes in process parameters.

In many cases, adding plasma surface conditioning enhances substrate performance and provides more process latitude. Thus plastic and composite part manufacturers have found they can improve the reliability and consistency of their process by using plasma. Our process engineers work customers in our labs, and in their plants lines to establish, optimize and find the limits of their processes.

In the 1970’s, Fram Oil Filter ads featured an experienced car mechanic who told us we should protect our car by investing in a better oil filter rather than face massive repairs by cutting corners. Perhaps the very companies who make those cars should heed the same warning. As the man said – “You can pay me now, or pay me later.”

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Category: AUTOMOTIVE
22. October 2015   11:15 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Photo courtesy Plasmatreat.

Photo courtesy Plasmatreat.

 

The World Solar Challenge, taking place this week in Australia, features hyper-efficient solar cars traveling from Darwin to Adelaide—some 3000 kilometers (over 1800 miles) to the south. The event represents the ultimate in automotive lightweighting. As the World Solar Challenge website notes:

It’s all about energy management! Based on the original notion that a 1000W car would complete the journey in 50 hours, solar cars are allowed a nominal 5kW hours of stored energy, which is 10% of that theoretical figure. All other energy must come from the sun or be recovered from the kinetic energy of the vehicle.

Plasmatreat is thrilled to have a horse in this race, so to speak. Atmospheric plasma pretreatment of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for the Punch Powertrain Solar Team’s racing car, Punch One, is an integral part of the car’s speed and strength.

Stiffening ribs in previous iterations of the car, necessary to protect it from strong race-condition vibrations, had been laminated—but this process required multiple layers and lengths of prepeg strips, a labor-intensive process  that also increased weight. Plasma pretreatment enabled the use of Loctite EA 466 instead, a fast-curing two-component epoxy resin adhesive.

The production manager of the 16-strong solar car team – who is just 23 years old – enthusiastically backs 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 CFRP, but also achieved a 3 kg weight savings compared with the previous method.

CFRP is 60 percent lighter than steel and around 30 percent lighter than aluminum, but extremely stable. The total weight of Punch One is just 165 kg (around 364 lbs.), with the heaviest single component being the solar battery.

Needless to say, we are excited and proud to cheer on our contender as it traverses Australia this week. Go Punch One!

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Category: Miscellaneous
15. October 2015   8:17 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

In 1998, Plasmatreat launched the very first Openair® plasma jet for inline surface treatment. This technology was a revolutionary new approach in industrial assembly operations to improve bonding and facilitate perfect adhesion of materials such as non-polar Elastomers.

Since then, thousands of Openair® plasma systems have been installed and operating around the globe. Systems with up to 16 plasma jets can be positioned around complex profile shapes for complete, fast inline treatment. However, treating job runs of irregularly shaped profiles in small quantities has remained a time-consuming challenge—until now.

The new Openair® Plasma Automatic Profile System, PlasmaXCT, is fully automated and controlled by a high-performance XYZ-axis. All plasma jet positions can be programmed for precise applications and then permanently kept as “recipes” that are easily accessible through the HMI. Calling up these recipes allows any operator to effortlessly precision-adjust the plasma jets in 2 minutes or less.

The result: A reproducible, safe, and high-quality surface treatment. You can see a brief demonstration of how it works on our Plasmatreat YouTube channel .

For a more in-depth presentation, we’d like to cordially invite you to an online Product Feature Exposition on Tuesday, October 20th, hosted by our colleagues in Europe:

  • 11 am Eastern/ 10 am Central U.S. Daylight Time
  • (5 pm Central European Standard Time)

 

Just click here to register. We hope to see you there!

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Category: Miscellaneous
9. October 2015   5:19 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Just a quick note today to let you know about Surface Science Corner, a recurring feature here on the PlasmaBlog courtesy of Professors K.L. Mittal and Robert H. Lacombe.

Drs. Mittal and Lacombe write fascinating, in-depth pieces for us on the science behind plasma technology. Their most recent installment has the dual purpose of presenting a book review on the recently published Adhesion Science: Principles and Practice while simultaneously diving into the ubiquitous world of adhesives technology. It’s an illuminating read.

We are lucky to have the expertise of Drs. Mittal and Lacombe in our corner, in addition to the fine talent we possess in house. As always, please let us know if you have any manufacturing challenges—adhesion-related or otherwise—that Plasmatreat’s technologies may be able to help with.

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