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.

Khoren Sahagian

Khoren Sahagian
Materials Scientist

Editorial May 2014

The current generation of consumers will eventually become displaced by the millennials.  Product development and marketing experts will be learning to cope with the new idiosyncrasies of ‘Generation Y’.  Firstly, many of these individuals do not form strong allegiances to brands.  Second, emotional connections appear to have the greatest dominance over consumer selection.  And finally, there is greater importance in first discovery.  The arising rules are reminiscent of a Japanese candy bar shelf; no consecutive month will display the same colors, cartoons, or shapes.  So what are some potential implications to the consumer manufacturing space?  Some trends are already becoming clear.

GenY Automation: versatile robotic platforms continue to be integral in production implementation.  Some of the new mechanization is more mobile, easily programmable, rapidly deployed, and cross disciplined in many different categories of operation.

GenY Materials: Whether olefin or bio-based, the custom polymer formulation could lose attractiveness.  Engineers could abandon the new design of materials with chemistry for more accessible technologies that alleviate material constraints with processing methods.

GenY Fabrication:  3D printing promises new and extremely custom fabrication that are uninhibited by classical machine tools or setup.  DIY design will empower individuals to create niche products for myriad markets.  And after this revolution 4D printing envisions the self-assembly of structures likened to proteins inside living bodies.

GenY Environment: Future consumers assert a greater demand for re-usability and a low environmental impact.  There is a less tolerance for waste in an ever shrinking planet with finite resource.

The manufacturing plants that are best adapted to the changing landscape will claim the lion’s share of consumer purchase.  The challenges will be non-trivial.  On the inside consumer products will require simple molecules that are biodegradable, easily formed, and bond-able.  And on the outside these products may take on radical forms, become regional fads, and short life-cycle.

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:


8. March 2013   9:32 pm
Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Hello again packaging professionals.

In this post I am going to briefly touch on the cost savings and ROI enabled by plasma treatment in the folding carton industry.

There are multiple opportunities for cost savings with the implementation of plasma treatment.   One of these is the ability to floodcoat UV coated boards and bond directly to the coated surface instead of cutting printing blankets to allow for good glue adhesion.   A facility that can save 20 blankets per month can pay for a single jet plasma system in less than 8 months on that savings alone.

Another major area of savings is adhesives.   Plasma treatment of UV coatings or poly coated boards can allow manufacturers to change from holt melt to cold glue.   In addition, less glue may be required to achieve the same results.   Implementing plasma treatment on difficult to bond jobs can also allow for the use of the same cold glue plantwide, eliminating the need for multiple adhesive types (including more expensive alternatives that were used in the past).

Plasma treatment can greatly enhance productivity as well.   It has been seen in real world trials and in current production applications that plasma treatment can help increase line speed by as much as 100%!   This is obviously a huge savings especially on large jobs where multiple millions of cartons are run through a folder-gluer.

Lastly and possibly most importantly is the increase in bonding quality that results from a plasma treatment.   As discussed in previous posts, plasma treatment allows for true chemical bonding between the substrate and adhesive.   This provides bonding strengths that have never been seen before in the industry.   Trusting the bonding of folding cartons to old methods and hoping they work is very risky business.   One rejection claim from a customer can pay for several plasma units!

In an ever more difficult manufacturing environment, plasma treatment is the natural choice that allows facilities to progress and reach their financial goals much quicker as they face more cost pressures from their clients.

That’s all for now.   My next entry will focus on food and pharmaceutical packaging applications.

Thanks for your attention.

Shaun Glogauer.

19. November 2012   7:56 pm
Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Hello again,

My last blog entry emphasized the need for a clean glue flap in the manufacturing/gluing of folding cartons.   This entry describes how a perfectly clean glue flap (plasma cleaned) combined with plasma activation/surface functionalization add up to successful adhesion results.

Plasma activation refers to the modification of a polymer surface by highly reactive oxygen ions present in a plasma.   These ions allow for the formation of oxygen based functional groups (primarily hydroxyl – OH) on the top surface of the polymer.   The addition of these groups results in an increase in surface energy and surface tension.   The surface also becomes polar allowing for greater wettability  – in real world terms, the glue will spread and impinge on the surface completely, making intimate contact with the surface.

Oxygen based functional groups on the surface act as bonding sites for adhesives.    Increased polarity and intimate contact between the adhesive and substrate can result in a decrease in adhesive consumption.    The activation allows for true covalent bonding between the adhesive and substrate resulting in a far more robust bond than would otherwise be achieved.   This is particularly helpful when gluing frozen food cartons or other cartons that can experience large temperature variations.   If a true chemical bond is not achieved between adhesive and substrate, cartons exposed to freezing temperatures especially, can pop open due to the adhesive becoming brittle and cracking at low temperatures.

In summary, plasma activation is absolutely essential in the folding carton industry to ensure repeatable, reliable bonding across all product lines in any manufacturing facility.

My next entry will discuss cost savings and ROI as it relates to plasma treatment in the folding carton industry.

Thanks for your time and attention.

Shaun Glogauer.

Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Editorial October 2012

Dear Reader:

Recently I visited the IMTS Show in Chicago’s McCormick Place, composed of its four very large exhibition halls. IMTS means International Machinery and Technolgy Show, North America’s largest machinery producer and supplier exhibition. Hosting exhibitors and visitors from 119 countries, IMTS 2012, which ran Sept. 10-15 at Chicago’s McCormick Place, covered 1.248 million net square feet of exhibit space with 1,909 exhibiting companies. Over 100,000 people attended the event. Very impressive indead. I remember this show from the early 2000’s when it had moved to the surburbs, Rosemont, IL, and it had trouble filling up a show area that was much smaller than McCormick Place. During my time at the show, a lot of people talked about “reshoring”, bringing production back to North America typically from Asia. The reasons for that seemed manifold but many of the concerns included increased supply chain costs, time for shipments, quality problems, communication difficulties based on language problems, concerns with Intellectual Property aspects, political uncertainties and many more.

Manufacturing in North America is experiencing a revival. Note this just 3 years ago, the Big Three automakers saw their factories running around 50 percent capacity. Now, it’s predicted they will be at greater than 100 percent capacity by year’s end. It’s uplifting news for the automotive industry, and manufacturing as a whole.

In a few days we are celebrating Manufacturing Day 2012 in the United States, another step to promote Manufacturing in our hemisphere: It is a joyous occasion which will hopefully grow in popularity in the years to come. Check out a participating manufacturer near you and be impressed by modern manufacturing technology.

Still the problem we have in our country is that there is a lack of skilled workers. Since the 1970’s it has become the mantra that “only getting a college degree is the path to a successful career”. That is a failed plan. Less than 50% of freshman students graduate with a Bachelor degree, many of them incur large student debts which they have to pay back, degree or no degree. The latter of course excacerbates the individual situation. A failed college degree leaves the individual with a loss of time, a loss of money and little perspective where to go next in findng a decent paying job.

Learning a trade particularly in manufacturing is a great alternative. Yes, making things has a strong future. Creating value by making something will always be part of our society, part of what we do. Robots and automation have lowered costs and reduced mundane manual tasks in recent decades. That process will continue to increase productivity and lower operational costs. But skilled operators such as for CNC machining are currently in demand but will be in the years and decades ahead.

To compensate the shortfall that built up in prior decades there are many fledgling initiatives to address this problem. One example is the Center for Labor and Community Research in Chicago, IL ( According to its Executive Director, Dan Swinney, the organization is working to rediscover, redefine and rebuild advanced manufacturing in the United States. Dan is pointng out that over 600,000 high-skill, high pay manufacturing jobs currently remain unfilled. There are pilot programs to alleviate this status. First CLCR initiated the Manufacturing Renaissance Council (MRC). MRC is a strategic, public/private partnership that operates regional programs in support of advanced manufacturing.  According to the MRC advanced manufacturing is the development and production of high-tech, complex products. An economy based on advanced manufacturing holds the greatest potential to create sustainable, long-term economic growth; rebuild the American middle class; and solve the global environmental crisis. CLCR, as one example, is working with Austin Polytechnical Academy ( to interest young students in learning industry-recognized machining credentials from NIMS (National Institute for Metalworking Skills). Illinois based Elgin Community College is hosting their first Manufacturer’s Symposium on October 25  Furthermore according to the Daily Herald, the U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $12.9 million in federal funding to expand Harper College’s (HCC) new Advanced Manufacturing program to schools across Illinois (HCC, Palatine, IL)

The Germany Embassy and its consulates around the country have initiated CEO roundtables and efforts to attract companies, especially German companies in the USA in this case, to help train a new generation of highly skilled workers. According to the Embassy website ‘through the “Skills Initiative,” the German Embassy is bringing together German and American businesses and local education/training providers with the aim of developing training programs best suited to businesses’ needs. The embassy launched “Skills Initiative” to identify and spread best practices in sustainable workforce development in the USA.

My company Plasmatreat North America (Elgin, IL, Ancaster, ON, Belmont, CA)  is a strong advocate of “Made in the USA”. Our state-of-the-art equipment keeps production competitive, lowers costs, increases employee safety and is finally very positive for the environment as harmful and costly chemicals are replaced. For example Plasma Plus, a new innovation, just won the German Engineering price at the 2012 Hannover Fair, the largest industrial trade show in the world.

Call me to discuss how we can help make American manufacturing great again.

Till next time,






31. May 2012   2:59 pm
Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Hello again packaging professionals,

In this blog entry I will discuss the importance of cleaning glue flaps on folding cartons in order to achieve reliable, repeatable bonding results.

In the finishing area of a typical folding carton facility, you will often encounter multiple methods and products used to achieve bonding characteristics of all types of cartons.   These can include the use of multiple types of glue (i.e. special glue for poly coated material, hotmelt etc…) in addition to other mechanical modifications to the glue flap (i.e. glue assists, skiving, knocking out the coating in the glue flap area – by cutting the printing blankets).   All of these methods and materials have been developed to achieve good bonding performance that meets the end users requirements.   However, even the most diligent practices can sometimes lead to bonding failure and thus the potential for rejected pieces by the end user.   Providing a consistently clean and activated surface prior to gluing can help avoid claims and costs associated with failures.

All substrates, coatings and laminations contain internal contaminants – these could be things such as plasticizers that are used to engineer a product or materials such as fillers.   These contaminants tend to migrate to the top of a surface and hence will impede the ability of a material to be effectively bonded.   Plasma treatment can remove these contaminants allowing for a true chemical bond of the glue to the glue flap itself.

Presenting a perfectly clean surface to a glue applicator will help avoid many bonding failures.   An inline plasma treatment will accomplish just this.   Electrons and oxygen ions in the plasma beam itself allow for this type of cleaning.   The high kinetic and thermal energy of the electrons allow them to sever covalent bonds of contaminants that are typically present on the very top of substrates – this will break down those contaminants into smaller, more volatile molecules.   Oxygen ions in the plasma will then vaporize the remaining molecules into CO2 and water, leaving a perfectly clean surface to be bonded.

If such a plasma treatment is not utilized then there is always the risk that bonding could be compromised.   One such case would be if printed cartons are stored for too long.   When cartons are stored for longer time periods than normal, more contaminants in the coatings or substrate will migrate to the top of the surface.   Over time these will be much more difficult to remove than cartons processed in a timely manner.   This is the time when failures can easily occur and is a big motivating factor for customers to use a plasma treatment to achieve perfectly clean glue flaps every time.

Please stay tuned – next entry will discuss activation of the clean glue flap.

That’s it for now.



Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Editorial May 2012

Process Design Step 1:

Variables to consider when designing a surface modification program


I lied, partially.

I said that my next blog would be a trip report (sadly, Dyana said it was overcast) and power of plasma for modification of materials for the life sciences industry.   I’m not ready to jump into specific applications, rather want to start with some of the basics to a successful surface modification program.

I’ll start with Step 1.  Q&A.

The beginning of any lab development program typically involves a thorough Q&A session.   At the minimum, I want to know:


1.  Substrate

2.  Product environment

3.  Desired surface performance goal


The success, based on my experience, of a surface modification program relies on a thorough (if possible) understanding of these three items as 1 and 2 greatly impact 3.

For each question, there are 10s if not 100s of sub-questions that can shift outcome considerably.   I spoke about some of these recently at Hantel Technology  and am summarizing a partial list of variables for each question below.


  1. SUBSTRATE.  Tell me about (I’m polymer focused):
    1. Resin selection/Metal properties
    2. Composite properties
    3. Manufacturing practice (molded, extruded, cast).  Are you starting with a machined part for R&D and then possibly considering molding for production.  We may talk about molecular weight distribution as well.
    4. Cure mechanism
    5. Cure temperatures
    6. Hardness (durometer)/crystallinity
    7. Topography
    8. Tacticity
    9. Additives (stabilizers, pigments, nucleating agents, plasticizers, etc)
    10. Propensity for migration of additives
    11. Propensity for molecular rotation
    12. Finishes
    13. Mold release materials
    14. Machining debris
    15. Moisture retain/absorption/adsorption
    16. Cleanliness (and how is the substrate cleaned prior to plasma)
    17. Manufacturing controls for said substrate
    18. Throughput targets


  1. ENVIRONMENT.  Once treated, please tell me about the next steps in processing and environment as these variables may impact surface performance and stability:
    1. See Item #1.9 above.  Bloom, migration of Internal impurities
    2. Adhesive technique (if bonding) and cure mechanism
    3. Potential for oxidation
    4. Chemical exposure
    5. Sterilization technique
    6. Subsequent assembly step (are you heat sealing?)
    7. Subsequent cleaning steps and techniques (are you IPA wiping part 100X times during assembly?)
    8. Handling (glove selection and practices)
    9. Storage (Packaging materials, Temperatures)


  1. SURFACE PROPERTIES.  What do you want as we have many variables to consider to provide the desired outcome.  Rather than listing the myriad of applications we practice, I’ll focus on variables that we consider in designing an experimental plan.


    1. Type of equipment (Corona, Atmospheric, Low Pressure)
    2. Steps and type of process (Cleaning, Etching, Activation, Functionalization, PECVD, Grafting, Crosslinking)
    3. Chemistry (gas, liquid vapor, sublimated solids, combinations).
    4.  Temperature of substrate, chamber, liquid/solid
    5. Pressure (flow driven, throttled, pumping capacity)
    6. Fixturing and fixture materials (does it contribute to dark space?)
    7. Power (continuous, pulsed, duty cycle, frequency)
    8. Time (3o seconds or 10 minutes)

BUT WAIT.  There is more!


Even the choice of how to validate the surface can impact the results.  Our chief technologist, Steve Kaplan, loves to say “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”   It is not unusual for a customer to overlook the success of the process by improper selection of the validation method.    Test the product in the ultimate application.  Techniques used and considered at our laboratories include:


  • Surface energy testing
  • Dyne-cm, contact angle
  • fluid choice
  • Adhesion testing
  • Wear and abrasion testing
  • Friction testing
  • Hardness testing
  • Surface analysis
  • X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS)
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM)
  • AFM Atomic Force Microscopy
  • Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR)
  • Chemical resistance
  • Gas permeation / vapor barrier testing


This list isn’t to overwhelm.   I don’t expect answers to all of these questions nor do we screen every possible combination of variables.  We know where to start if you can provide us with the basics about  1 (Substrate), 2 (Environment of use) and 3 (Desired surface performance) so that we can design efficiently and effectively the best surface for your application.

Next blog…no promises.

19. April 2012   5:20 pm
Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

Hi again,

I thought I would make this a brief but informative entry for anyone looking to improve their gluing process in the folding carton industry.   Here’s my top 5 ways to improve bonding performance:

1.   Present a perfectly clean surface to the glue applicator on your folder gluer.

2.   Activate difficult to bond substrates with a pretreatment step.

3.   Increase wettability of the substrate to be glued.

4.   Remove static charge prior to glue application – especially for full plastic cartons.

5.   Eliminate old technologies used in the past to achieve good adhesion – i.e. skiving, mechanical abrasion.

All of these improvements (and more) are possible when Openair plasma treatment is used inline on your folder gluer.

The first two entries are perhaps most important of all.   It’s common sense that a perfectly clean substrate will allow for better bonding results.   However, a clean surface is only part of the solution.   Activating that clean surface (by the addition of primarily Oxygen functional groups) is paramount to achieving good bonding results.   Without this activation, the surface will remain inert with no bonding sites available for the adhesive.   A plasma treated surface will provide these bond sites for adhesives allowing for a true chemical bond between the adhesive and substrate.

My next few entries will discuss these and other improvements in more detail.   Stay tuned!

Until next time,



Hardev Grewal

Hardev Grewal
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US
CEO Plasmatreat PTNA & US - Hayward, CA

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,