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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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: 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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Wally Hansen

Wally Hansen
Business Development Manager
Belmont, CA

Editorial April 2015

whirlpool-waves

Water is everywhere…just not always where we want it. This past winter, the Eastern U.S. was inundated with snow and ice, while California and the Western U.S. are suffering from extreme drought. Availability of water is a growing concern around the world as it is a vital resource for the seven billion (and counting) people on Earth.

While representing only a small fraction of water usage as compared to that used in agriculture and for energy production, industrial use of water is on the rise. A staggering 18.2 billion gallons of fresh water are used every day for industrial use in the U.S. – about 4% of the total water used for all purposes.

Manufacturing one ton of automotive steel requires about 75,000 gallons of water. Actual manufacture of the vehicle itself requires an additional 39,000 gallons. Two and a half gallons of water are needed to produce a gallon of gasoline – and 20 gallons are needed to produce a pint of beer!

Critical part cleaning, for adhesion-related applications, represents a significant portion of industrial water use. Since the replacement of Freon and other solvent cleaning processes starting in the 1980s, U.S. industrial use of aqueous cleaning processes has become the norm.

But aqueous cleaning is a cost-intensive process, whether you’re looking at it from an environmental standpoint, a dollars-and-cents standpoint, or a labor standpoint.

Water needs to be delivered; detergents, surfactants and other chemicals are added and need to be kept in balance to control the washing process; additional processing is required to treat the waste water for recycling or disposal. Rinse water must also be clean and controlled. There is an old saying that “You are only as clean as your last rinse.”

Even after the part has been washed, it is still not ready for bonding, coating, painting, or printing. It needs to be dried, requiring additional energy costs, equipment footprint, time, and labor.

Furthermore, as mentioned above, water tends to not always go where we want it. Even with the best washing and drying processes, water’s influence remains at the molecular surface where adhesion occurs, interfering with a strong bond.

Molecular water resides in the oxides of aluminum and other metals. Water is absorbed and bonded within many polymers such as ABS and nylon. However, water molecules are not usually well-bonded and do not provide a robust bonding surface.

What if there was a better way for critical cleaning of organic contaminants? What if a process did not use water or other liquids but instead actually removed water from the molecular surface while vaporizing organic contaminants? It would be even better if this nano cleaning could be accomplished without touching the part and a chemical activation could occur to chemically bond to the adhesive, coating paint, or printing ink.

Save Water

Stay Dry

Plasma Clean

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Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian
Materials Scientist

Editorial February 2015

My colleague, Wally Hansen, and I have just released a new review paper that may be of interest to those of you in the aerospace industry.

As you know, aerospace has had decades of experience with metal bonding, sealing, and corrosion protection. However, many of these methods have not lent themselves well to automation, and they also generate environmental waste.

But new applications are emerging for atmospherically deposited nano coatings that can address these shortcomings. These nano coatings are formed by direct injection of select vapor chemistries into the plasma jet. Such molecular surface modifications yield long-term, environmentally stable interfaces for bonding.

Cleaning

Plasma surface treatment begins with a fine cleaning of the substrate to remove loosely bound organic contaminants (on metal oxide surfaces, the oxide layer is either removed or pre-conditioned for adhesion).

Atmospheric plasma jets provide a multi-faceted cleaning action. First, the charged species within the plasma neutralizes electrostatically bound particles. Next, a vortex of pressurized gas blows away unbound solids and oils. Finally, the substrate is bombarded by reactive gas plasma species.

Low molecule weight contaminants on the substrate surface are efficiently reduced into nascent compounds and removed from the material system. This final phase of cleaning takes place on the molecular scale.

Coating

After cleaning, a different plasma jet technology deposits a functional coating. The coating thickness is controlled by parameters such as distance to substrate and speed. Coatings have been developed that simultaneously provide adhesion promotion and corrosion protection of the bond line. Furthermore, some of these coatings act as reliable tie layers, effectively bridging contact between inorganic and organic systems. There is opportunity to replace liquid primers or otherwise laborious surface pre-treatments used in composite bonding.

So far, atmospherically deposited plasma coatings have demonstrated utility as a release layer, an adhesion promoter, or a corrosion barrier. In practice, the plasma-deposited nano coating combines with conventional protective top coats to amplify corrosion resistance and suppress ingress at damage sites.

The atmospherically deposited plasma coatings show substantial improvement in corrosion performance even at a thickness of less than 500 nm.

Conclusion

Atmospheric plasma cleaning and coating can offer significant advantages in surface preparation of metals and composite systems for bonding and sealing in the aerospace industry. The technology is scalable and amenable to automation as it enables high-throughput material processing.

Furthermore, some plasma implementations are able to combine multiple process steps into a single step while reducing waste and reducing operating costs – without compromising performance.

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12. February 2015   7:48 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

I’m pleased and proud to let you know that Plasmatreat was awarded the “Würth Future Champion Award 2015,” which includes a €10,000 prize, at this year’s Summit Meeting for German World Market Leaders.

The award is presented each year by Adolf Würth GmbH & Co. KG, a specialist in the sale and distribution of assembly and fasting materials for professional use. It recognizes mid-sized German companies that demonstrate rapid and sustainable growth at an international level.

In presenting the award to Christian Buske – Plasmatreat GmbH founder, CEO, and managing partner – Joachim Kaltmaier of the Würth Group’s Central Management Board highlighted Plasmatreat’s accomplishments:

The company has discovered a niche market for atmospheric plasma surface treatment using plasma nozzles and has set global standards. Above-average, annual growth rates in double figures are testimony to their outstanding entrepreneurial spirit.

Christian is truly a pioneer in the world of atmospheric plasma treatment, developing technology that can be conveniently incorporated into existing production lines. Since 1995 he has built Plasmatreat to become the global leader in this technology. Many of you are already existing Openair customers, so you know how it works.

Targeted nozzles issue blasts of supercharged air that has been calibrated to a precise degree of ionization in order to effectively clean and modify the treated surfaces. The Openair process eliminates the need for wet chemistry processes and prepares the surfaces for optimal adhesion of subsequent coatings or adhesives.

Hearty congratulations from North America, Christian! I am proud and excited to be part of Plasmatreat’s international team, which is growing every day.

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22. January 2015   12:08 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

skiers

Photo courtesy Trysil via Flickr

I’m not much of a downhill skier myself – which is a good thing, as the terrain here in Chicagoland tends to be pretty flat – but I have many friends both here in the States and in Europe who revel in a day on the slopes. And I’ve got some exciting news for them.

Back in the day, a good coat of hand-applied wax was the only way you could hope to improve the performance of your skis. But now, as with so many things, Plasmatreat is helping to bring ski technology to a new level.

Plasma Nano-Tech at Envipark in Turin, Italy has been working to develop and file a patent application for the innovative “plasma ski,” the goal of which is to make skiers faster and more successful.

Davide Damosso, Director for Innovation and Development at Envipark, notes that the idea was to apply the maximum amount of absorbable wax to the running surfaces of racing skis – made from sintered UHMW-PE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) – to improve sliding properties and wax retention. This was achieved using a targeted plasma treatment that modifies the functional characteristics of the surface coating.

“The combination of our Openair plasma technology and PlasmaPlus atmospheric nano-coating process offered the perfect conditions for this project,” says Giovanni Zambon, head of Plasmatreat’s Italian subsidiary, who was responsible for supplying the plasma systems and providing Envipark with technical support during the test phase.

After nine months and 40 laboratory tests, the results have been published – and they are very impressive! Thanks to the microfine plasma cleaning, high level of activation, and plasma coating, which was developed specifically for this purpose and applied with the aid of the PlasmaPlus system, there was a sixfold increase in wax absorption compared with the conventional (but otherwise identical) wax impregnation method.

We are, needless to say, very excited about this – and so is Simone Origone, the world champion speed skier who set a new world record of 252.454 km/hour last March in the French Alps.

“In our discipline we are constantly looking for opportunities to improve our performance,” Origone says. “This new process is extremely interesting. If it transpires that I will be able to ski even faster on snow with this technology, it will prove invaluable to me and the skiing world as a whole.”

Interesting stuff, yes? I am continually amazed by the ingenuity of Plasmatreat’s R&D team and the new, exciting applications for our technology. Perhaps I will see you on the slopes one of these days with your new pair of speedy plasma skis (I will be warm and cozy in the lodge, cheering you on).

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Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian
Materials Scientist

Editorial July 2014

Plasma treatments are a permanent and covalent substrate modification.  However many references note diminishing effects of plasma treatments with time.  One generalized conclusion is that the plasma modification is a temporary effect.  This conclusion is not inherently accurate or applicable to all plasma and material systems.  In truth there are many factors that govern the success and longevity of a plasma modification.  Research in plasma lacks harmonization in equipment, setup/configuration, and material selection.  These are key variables in a plasma modification.  Results from one method may not necessarily translate well to another experimental setup or class of material.  For this reason some engineering reviews of gas plasma do more to confound than to elucidate the scientific dialogue within industry.

 

Equipment design is of particular relevance in plasma industry.  This includes but is not limited to the electrode configuration, matching, RF frequency, and equipment geometry.  Many apparatus used in academia boast custom fabricated equipment or custom modification to existing tools.  Their equipment exemplifies engineering capabilities.  In my opinion the effectiveness of the equipment to a material system is specific and rarely generalizable to all materials or apparatus.

 

Plasma chemistry and substrate material should be matched correctly.  Some polymer systems may be either resistant or sensitive to specific plasma chemistry.  It is not enough to report gas, pressure, and power.   A complete characterization should understand the plasma stoichiometry and a hypothesis of the surface interaction.  Furthermore it must be accepted that many polymer systems are mobile, may swell with gas or moisture, or may undergo relaxation mechanisms.  Therefore be careful to consider pairing a material system with appropriate plasma source and plasma chemistry.

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Mikki Larner

Mikki Larner
Vice President Sales & Marketing
Belmont, CA

Editorial May 2014

I sell gas plasma technology.

This can be confusing, as there are several types of plasmas, both naturally occurring (such as the Northern Lights, lightning, and stars) and human-made (such as those used in neon signs, fluorescent lights, and plasma televisions).

From the examples above, it’s clear that plasma generates both light and energy. Plasma can also be used to modify – or, more specifically, molecularly re-engineer – other materials.

My company sells plasma technologies and processes for modifying a myriad of materials. Typically, the application is a surface cleaning and activation – either to prepare plastic or metal for a subsequent coating or bonding step — or thin film coatings that may be used to change the barrier or coefficient properties of a surface.

There are many different ways to manufacture human-made plasma.
We use primarily atmospheric and low-pressure plasma technologies in our work. There are a number of benefits to the low-pressure approach:

1.   For starters, the working environment is a primary plasma. In a primary plasma, there is a greater mean free path of the particles before a collision.

This sustained energy is ideal for modifying the interstices of porous media (such as a non-woven or sintered polymer), or for use inside complex nano-scale vias or channels. With atmospheric processes, on the other hand, the mean free path is very short, so the treatment area is limited.

2.   Low-pressure plasma offers chemistry versatility. Many different gases and vapors can be used, safely and economically. Low-pressure plasma is often used as a replacement technology for wet chemistry processes, providing greater control, lower costs, and lower risk of workplace exposures that could lead to accident or injury.

Additionally, unlike many wet chemistry processes, rinsing and curing is not required with a low-pressure process. This means a much shorter processing time, minutes versus hours in some cases.

In atmospheric processes, use of these chemistries may be dangerous and quantities required to generate the plasma may not be economical. This is one of the reasons that our Openair® technology uses just air. It’s incredibly cheap, readily available, and great for many industrial high-speed surface preparation processes.

3.   When using a low-pressure technique, multiple steps may be run in a single process. A part may be exposed to a cleaning gas chemistry (to remove contaminants from a surface) as well as an activation or coating process in a single run. It is not unusual for a single plasma process to replace two to three manual steps, eliminating overhead costs associated with transporting product, labor and materials.

4.   Another advantage is that the low-pressure process provides an extremely controlled environment. The process is conducted in a vacuum chamber with exacting control of gas flow, time, and power. Variations in the day-to-day environment are removed, and the precise process is readily reproducible. Additionally, cleanliness is assured, whether the process is practiced in a clean room or on an industrial manufacturing floor.

5.   Low-pressure technology allows for permanent, stable results. This means that a large batch of parts may be treated and stored prior to use. Or, alternately, parts may be shipped to other manufacturing sites for final assembly.

6.   Our low-temperature process enables treatment of thermally sensitive materials, and the process is free from electrical potential. Therefore, conductive materials may be safely modified.

7.   The total cost of consumables, including energy, gases/liquids, and maintenance parts, is typically less than $5 per hour. Furthermore, there are no additional costs for hazardous waste disposal, as none is created.

8.   The technology offers high-batch throughput:

•   Line speeds, in our standard R2R equipment, are up to 100 fpm with again, no time require for curing or drying steps.
•   Cycle times, during batch processing, range from 60 seconds to 20 minutes. Because a single batch may include hundreds or even thousands of parts, this means that each individual part is treated in mere fractions of a second.

Our job is to accurately evaluate your application and select the most appropriate technology solution for your production goals, be it low-pressure, corona, flame, or Openair. In rare cases, a simple IPA wipe may be all that’s needed to solve your adhesion problems!

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions, I welcome your calls and emails.

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Category: Cleaning / Glass
25. November 2013   2:31 am
Mikki Larner

Mikki Larner
Belmont, CA

Is it true that one of the first commercial uses of plasma ashing was to ablate fish to expose mercury contamination?

Sitting around the lunch table the other day, our chemist expanded on an early use of plasma for one of the first commercial applications: ashing fish to expose mercury (or other metals) to evaluate the impact of contamination from industry. While it seemed like a logical use of the technology, I couldn’t get my head around this as one of the first commercial applications….so did a bit of research and finally reached out to one of the experts in the field of vacuum technology: Donald Mattox. He confirmed that low pressure plasma ashing has been used for over 50 years for trace element analysis – an early use of replacing wet chemistry!

Don sent the following citations confirming the use:

1962: C. E. Gleit and W.D. Holland, “Use of electrically excited Oxygen for the low temperature decomposition of organic substrate” Anal Chem. Vol. 34 (11) pp 1454-1457

1977: M. Velodina, “Quantitative determination of Mercury in Organic materials by means of a low temperature, high frequency discharge plasma in oxygen” Analytical Letters 10(14) 1189-1194

And Don added one of his favorite Oxygen plasma cleaning stories (from his book “Foundations of Vacuum Coating Technology”)

When preparing to aluminize the Palomar mirror, John Strong notified the mirror polishers that he would be using a new cleaning technique using ‘a special fatty acid compound with precipitated chalk.’ When he arrived the ‘special fatty acid compound’ was Wild Root Cream Oil hair tonic (ad jingle: ‘You better get Wild Root Cream Oil, Charlie; It keeps your hair in trim; Because it’s non-alcoholic, Charlie; It’s made with soothing lanolin’). He stated, ‘In order to get glass clean you first have to get it properly dirty.’ The oil residue was ‘burned-off’ using an oxygen plasma in the vacuum deposition chamber. (From The Perfect Machine: The Building of the Palomar Telescope, Ronald Florence, pp 382-386, HarperCollins, 1994).

I’m assuming that the following US Patent from 1978 helps corroborate his story: 4088926: Plasma Cleaning Device (for cleaning organic contamination on optical surface) 

I found this quite interesting and did some additional research that I would like to share with my readers:

Plasma, atmospherically, has been used professionally by museums and NASA to remove carbon contamination or char, selectively, as a restoration technique for fine art.

Before and after image of artwork cleaned by atomic oxygen.

From http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/business/AtomicOxRestoration.html

Some later work of interest was published by Texas A&M: Used RF plasma to selective remove inorganic mater from paint and prevent damage to the substrate (rock). Organic components can then be analyzed and dated.
1992: Direct Radiocarbon Dating of rock Art. Radiocarbon, V 34, No. 3, 1992, P 867-872. J. Russ, M. Hyman and M. Rowe, TAMU.

I could go on and on and on… Plasma truly offers us a tremendous tool box for modification of myriad materials!

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