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.










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

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:

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:

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!




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.”

2. December 2015   4:46 am


I recently returned from the BajaMak trade show in Tijuana, Mexico. It was fascinating to get a better sense of the emerging—and rapidly growing—maquiladora manufacturing climate. These geographically desirable Maquiladoras, or “Twin Plants,” have grown with the return of manufacturing from places like China. Even these small trade shows are beginning to see the presence of large U.S. and Mexican concerns like Thermo Fisher and Medtronics.

The trade show was a success from the Plasmatreat perspective in that there were many solid engineering contacts interested in introducing cutting-edge plasma surface treatment to their manufacturing processes. The interest in Openair plasma treatment ranged from medical devices, to electronics, to automotive. In Baja, we’re noticing a trend toward a sophisticated and innovative approach to manufacturing as a whole. What was traditionally dominated by manual processes, is now being automated—a perfect fit for our inline Openair plasma system!

Right now Plasmatreat is actively working on projects with our partners SEI Automation and Bajarep to support both our Spanish- and English-speaking customers along the manufacturing corridor. This is a reflection of global network and our dedication to providing excellent support to all customers. It is exciting to see Plasmatreat as part of the solution in these evolving markets!

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!

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.

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:

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 ( 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:


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:

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!

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.