30. July 2015   3:29 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

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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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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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Do you have an offshoring or re-shoring experience to share?
14. September 2013   5:38 pm
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

On September 13th I asked a Product Realization Group  panel whether they shared the perspective of US manufacturing as being risk-adverse and slow to adopt new manufacturing innovations.  I was surprised as to the answers I received.

Here in the Silicon Valley and elsewhere the culture of off-shoring is changing; especially in the high technology arena.  North American manufacturing still offers better inventory control, higher yield, better performance, and stronger rate /culture for innovation.  High technology development does not just apply to the product but to all aspects of product realization.  A locally integrated and culturally aligned supply chain enables quick response and a faster pace for adopting innovative practices.

A few hidden costs of overseas manufacturing are language barriers, time zone delays, supply chain management, and breaches in intellectual property.  The later involves overseas shops as transferring engineering diagrams, tooling, and shop floor practices among direct competitors!!  Many also find a greater resistance to change in China.  Furthermore the regulated spaces there are relatively ill-defined or inconsistent.

There is also a common misconception amongst students that manufacturing jobs are not good but this is simply untrue.  The educational systems should paint new images of modern manufacturing as cool and clean which are its true colors today.  Plasmatreat and Plasma Technology Systems are glad to be a part of new manufacturing innovation.

 

PRG – product realization group: http://www.productrealizationgroup.com/index.php

/p

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Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
President Plasmatreat USA
Elgin, IL

Editorial April 2012

America and Canada are a truly great countries. Both regions are characterized by truly freedom loving people, both feature strong democracies despite the daily stalemates and political quabbles.  While their economies in general are powerful and have created some of the largest wealth per capita in the world, the recent 10-15 years have been marked by, in my view, myopic activities in industry: Manufacturing was given up on. With China achieving first “most favored nation status” and then later gaining access to the WTO, thus allowing for tax and duty favored imports, many manufacturing companies started to believe that they could not compete with China as well as other countries in the SE Asia region with their low wages and other low operating costs. Comprehensive new supply chain systems were set up, new operating and trading relationships were established, more and more company managers became ex-patriates. Some companies that wanted to continue producing product in North America were forced by large retailers such as WalMart to move their operations to a China location. The common crede became: Operating our production in China is the better way, there is no such future in North America.  

I disagreed from the Get-Go. I always believed that America needs manufacturing. One needs to build things to create value. Our countries cannot simply be service and consumption oriented societies. We saw what happened if when relied on the finance/banking sector alone. It created huge wealth only for a very few and when it all went wrong, we were all asked to pay the bill.

Manufacturing creates jobs at all levels, stimulates personal and professional creativity, helps shape products and processes and let us focus on the future by taking direct control. Plasmatreat works with manufacturers all over the world creating better and more productive operating environments. Here in Canada and the USA we have the potential to reclaim a top spot in the global arena of manufacturers. Designing and building product creates not only possibilities domestically but also sets the stage for successful exports. The USA in particular has been suffering from a negative trade deficit for several decades now. We need to think about reversing the flow of dollars into America not away from America. We need to support the Reindustrialization of America – we need to believe again in manufacturing. Plasmatreat together with our many industrial partners continuously are presenting ideas how to create competitive operating environments right here in North America. Our projects reach into various markets such as Solar, Medical, Packaging, Automotive and Electronics. We look foward to mastering the challenge to compete with low cost production countries, but we believe we can. Do you, too?

Till next time,

Andy

 

 

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27. February 2012   1:00 am
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

Dear Reader,
 
One of the most impressive aspect about atmospheric plasma technology is the breadth of the available applications. From Whirlpool to Boeing, from Mercedes to Siemens, the customers, markets and product applications are really quite enthralling. One of the latest technological moves that helps “pushing the envelope” in this particular industry is the seamless edge or zero bondline for furniture makers. For years furniture manufacturers have struggled finding a good, clean and efficient way to attach the edgeband to veneer furniture. Of course, in a perfect world, a final work piece of veneer based furniture such as table tops, shelf pieces or wall elements for wall units or armoirs, could rival the look of all wood furniture with the distinct advantage of even better accomodating the customers’ wishes if the wood-only look does not suffice.
The holy grail in creating top quality furniture panels is producing secure edges with seamless edges or, as some people call it, zero bondlines. In any case, after adhering the polymer based edgeband, the edge seam should not be visible. Furniture edgebands are usually are joined in edgebanding machines after a hot melt adhesive was applied to the panel. Hot melt is a messy affair. It works but clean up is no fun. Also every so often, the glue has to be replaced as sitting in the glue pot all day, it tends to get crusty and becomes less effective and less efficient.
After conclusion of this process customers will often experience glue joint darkening. Often if the edgeband is not tightly adhered to the board, moisture can penetrate and cause the particle board under the veneer to bubble up. For higher quality furniture makers this is an unacceptable product result.
 
Newer processes rely on laser technology, but integrating that can pose safety-related complications, require elaborate equipment engineering, require speciality trained staff members, tends to be very costly.  Plasmatreat instead has developed an innovative atmospheric plasma based  solution to create a seamlesss and tight sealing edge. This plasma based edge works without applying an extra adhesive in the machine. A previously applied functional polymer layer replaces the former hot melt glue. All of a sudden the glue pot is gone, the messiness has disappeared, the material costs for glue and clean-up costs are vanished and the furniture manufacturer and their customers can admire a seamless edgeband product with strong adhesion to the board.
  • The resulting joint is no longer visible with the naked eye;
  • No glue joint so it is permanently colorfast and age resistant; and
  • Highly resistant to peeling, with great thermal stability
After implementing several dozen such applications in Europe, Plasmatreat is now in  partnership with a industry leading edgeband supplier in the United States to offer this leading edge technology (no pun intended) right here in North America. 
 
Consider this cool aspect: Simple and cost-effective integration, including into existing equipment!  In contrast to laser technology, Openair Plasma can be added to existing equipment very easily and without major expense, including to existing edge gluing systems. Plasma technology is suitable for equipping or retrofitting all categories of machinery – from the manual workstation, through simple through-feed machines, to high-speed equipment and two-dimensional machining centers. The result:
  • Less expensive edge band material since no expensive laser inhibitors are required;
  • Lower investment expenses, in particular when retrofitting existing systems;
  • Lower operating costs; and
  • Simple maintenance without expensive technical staff.

Interested? Questions? Shoot me a line, would love to tell you more about it.

Till next time

Andy

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Jeff Leighty

Jeff Leighty
Elgin, IL

Dear Reader,

Hello and welcome to the new PlasmaBlog! As the curtain goes up on our new blog we look forward to interacting with you–our readers. Whether you are an existing customer, future customer, partner supplier or just someone interesting in learning about this exciting technology we want to hear from you. Have a question? Possible application? Bonding, printing, painting or sealing problem? Let’s talk!

Each member of our team has specific experience to share. Medical devices, building products and consumer goods applications are my main areas of focus. I came to Plasmatreat from the chemical side of surface finishing so I’ve seen the negative operational and environmental impact that harsh chemicals and manual operations can have. It didn’t take long to realize the huge benefits that plasma surface treatment can bring to the party. It’s pretty amazing what you can do with compressed air and less than 25 cents for an hour’s worth of electricity!

In future “conversations” we want to hear from you. Your comments and questions will bring to light challenges and issues that are shared by owners, engineers and quality managers across a wide range of industries and applications. We can all learn from each other:  How can you eliminate the need for primer in bonding applications. Why Openair plasma is the most environmentally friendly solution of its kind. Who else is using this process.  How plasma can widen your range of substrate and consumables options.

Check back for regular updates.  We look forward to your feedback, questions and challenges.

Until Next Time,

Jeff Leighty
Plasmatreat, Elgin, IL

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