13. September 2016   2:18 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

nascar-pit-crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1. May 2016   6:04 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

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

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

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


 

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


 

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

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

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

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

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10. November 2015   7:46 pm
Wally Hansen

Wally Hansen
Belmont, CA

Cleaning, wetting, and surface activation is necessary to guarantee robust and reliable adhesive bonding of plastic and composite materials.

In a previous post, We Have a Water Problem, liquid cleaning was shown to be an inferior choice due to consumable costs, process control issues, and energy required to clean and dry the parts or components. The old adage of, “You are only as clean as your last rinse,” is really true.

For bonding preparation of low-surface-energy plastics, adhesion promoters and primers are well known and have been a common choice for decades. The adhesive providers have done a good job in making these primers work for a wide variety of materials and applications. There are many approaches and chemistries offered, including aggressive acid or alkali etching and some aqueous systems.

However, the most common priming systems for plastics contain high percentages of solvents, such as toluene, acetone or methanol, with the addition of highly profitable “Pixie Dust” chemistry additives. These liquid solvents typically attack (solvate) the plastic surface leaving the “Pixie Dust” chemistry on the surface.

Keep in mind that when you purchase a consumable primer, you are mostly buying solvents, with their associated hazards and process inefficiencies. You own that chemical for its entire life cycle, from the receiving dock to emissions and hazardous waste streams. Again and again.

Other undesirable attributes of a wet priming process are application issues such as mixing and masking, and energy costs to apply and cure the primer.

Time to apply and cure the primer may be the worst deficiency of wet primers. I have detailed some of these issues directly from the MSDS and Data sheets of typical and popular liquid primers for plastics.

TEN REASONS TO AVOID LIQUID PRIMING

  1. HANDLING AND STORAGE – Store in cool, dark place preferably between 60-75 degrees, away from sparks, flames and sources of ignition. Storage conditions can adversely affect properties.
  2. HEALTH HAZARDS – EYES: Can cause severe irritation, redness and tearing.
  3. HEALTH HAZARDS – SKIN: Prolonged contact can cause severe irritation and rash.
  4. HEALTH HAZARDS – INHALATION: Can cause nasal and respiratory irritation dizziness, weakness, fatigue and nausea. Also can causes kidney damage, liver damage in lab animals with chronic expos.
  5. FIRE/EXPLOSION HAZARDS: Vapors are heavier than air & may travel along ground and be ignited by pilot lights, other flames or sparks.
  6. SPILLS: Eliminate all possible sources of ignition such as pilot lights and flames. Absorb liquid. Stop spill at source.
  7. STABILITY/MATERIALS TO AVOID: Avoid contact with strong oxidizing agents. May form toxic materials such as carbon monoxide, various hydrogens and nitrogen compounds.
  8. WASTE DISPOSAL: Destroy by liquid incineration or dispose in approved landfill in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations.
  9. TIME: Apply and cure per instructions. Wait and watch it dry. Do you really have the time to prime?
  10. THERE IS A BETTER WAY: Plasmatreat’s Openair® Atmospheric Plasma cleaning and activation can replace wet primers. Using only compressed air and electricity, Openair® priming activation is fast, touchless and dry.

Save Time

Stay Dry

-Wally Hansen

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23. September 2015   5:49 am
Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian

Contact angle and dyne inks are commonly accepted methods for probing surface energy. Surface energy is a good first indicator of a clean, bondable, or wettable surface.

For typical plastic and composite materials, the surface begins with low surface energy or a high water contact angle. Aqueous solutions and many adhesives have difficulty wetting onto materials with low surface energy.

Plasma processing incorporates the surface with reactive groups that promote wetting and adhesion. But not every material responds the same to every plasma treatment. With some materials, you have to find the correct plasma gas or plasma source to achieve the desired response. A contact angle or dyne ink will quickly show you if you have that response, or if you should try a different variable.

Brighton Technologies in Cincinnati, Ohio has created a graph that cross-correlates between a water contact angle (WCA) and dyne surface tension mN/m, which they have allowed us to reproduce here. This is helpful for those trying to replace their dyne inks, or those who wish to convert their contact angle data into an engineering unit.

We hope it’s helpful to you (click on the chart to expand it).

chart

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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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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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2. April 2015   4:03 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

magnifying glassIn some ways, what we do here at Plasmatreat is like a less gory “CSI”: We are often called upon to solve mysteries of the manufacturing persuasion. And, while we don’t usually get it nailed in an hour flat (minus time for commercial breaks), we do manage to crack the case more often than not.

In today’s installment, I’ll explain how we helped Ford Motor Company and The Preh Group, an automotive component supplier, solve a seemingly intractable adhesion challenge.

The new Ford Lincoln MKZ features a sophisticated control panel that combines climate control with various infotainment functions (telephone, navigation, and music), all in a streamlined central console known as the “center stack.”

A laminator is used to bond the interactive PET touch foil, which has an adhesive backing, to the injection-molded polycarbonate panel of the center stack. Everything initially looked good from a manufacturing standpoint – until the climactic test, when the adhesive detached and large bubbles formed in the boundary layer between the plastic substrate and the foil.

This delamination would ultimately cause the control panel to fail, so Preh went back to the drawing board to troubleshoot the problem. Simple adhesives produced large bubbles; high-tech adhesives produced smaller bubbles. But the bottom line remained the same: The adhesive film continued to detach.

With time and money clicking away, Preh decided to take a closer look at the PC panel itself. Preh concluded that the bubbles were most likely being caused by a release of gases from additives in the plastic due to the extremes of the climactic test.

Changing the material used for the panel was not an option – but pretreating its surface was. As Preh was already using Plasmatreat technology for microfine cleaning and activation of sensor circuit boards, it sent the PC panel out to one of its labs for a preliminary plasma test.

When the test panel was removed from the climactic chamber after four days of extreme temperatures and high humidity, the Preh developers breathed a sigh of relief. “There was not a bubble to be seen,” says Markus Ledermann, Preh’s manufacturing technology engineer. “With the foil adhesion fully intact, the adhesive bond had met the stringent requirements.”

Case closed, thanks to Plasmatreat! What manufacturing mysteries can we help you solve, automotive or otherwise? Let us know – we love a challenge.

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5. March 2015   2:00 pm
Andy Stecher

Andy Stecher
Elgin, IL

NPE2015

If you, like me, are old enough to recall the classic 1967 film The Graduate, you know it features many memorable scenes.

One of my favorites takes place when newly minted college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is drifting around his parents’ pool, trying to figure out what to do with his life. One of his father’s friends, identified only as Mr. McGuire, stops by and offers a one-word piece of unsolicited advice: “Plastics.”

While the scene is played for laughs, looking back now from a distance of nearly 50 years—unbelievable, isn’t it?—Mr. McGuire was clearly onto something. New technologies are revolutionizing the industry at an incredible pace, which is why I’m very much looking forward to Plasmatreat North America’s participation in the upcoming NPE2015 International Plastics Showcase in Orlando later this month.

As you may know, NPE takes place only once every three years, and it’s a massive, exciting event. If you’re planning to attend, please do stop by our booth (W8078) and say hello.

We will be treating parts on-site in our enclosure and verifying the effects with the handheld Brighton Surface Analyst tool. Additionally, we’ll have a KUKA Agilus robot on display demonstrating some of our advanced automated surface treatment solutions.

Finally, I will be presenting a paper at ANTEC, the annual technical conference that will run concurrently with NPE this year. The topic is “Managing Global Challenges with Micro Solutions: The Role of Plasma Surface Treatment in the Future of Plastics.”

I’ll cover seven global trends in plastic part manufacturing, each of which represents new business opportunities—and technical challenges. Plasma surface treatment poses an elegant, environmentally friendly, cost-effective means for meeting these new challenges, so I hope you will consider stopping by to hear all the details!

As always, if you have any questions about our participation in NPE2015 or anything else, please do let us know and we’ll be delighted to chat further. Hope to see you in Orlando in a few weeks, and best wishes for safe and smooth travels to our fellow exhibitors and attendees.

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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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