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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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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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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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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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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