News + Science from the Engineers of the Surface Analyst
Polymer use spans nearly every manufacturing industry, so the troubles with controlling treatment methods in adhesion processes have touched a wide range of companies.
May 2 at 2pm EST, our CEO and Chief Scientist Dr. Giles Dillingham
will be giving a webinar, in partnership with Plastics Technology,
addressing ways of identifying and controlling important and often overlooked variables that affect adhesion.
- variables that contribute to failure of adhesion in bonding, laminating, printing, painting and coating operations
- increased awareness of simple process control steps that can significantly increase bond reliability
Preparation of polymers for adhesion includes processes like corona, flame and plasma treatment, which can be very effective if implemented with proper process control feedbacks. However, processes like these may be successfully controlled and understood in a materials and process laboratory, but don’t always translate into reliable and repeatable processes in production.
Root cause analysis we’ve done at BTG Labs has shown that this usually stems from a lack of control of knowledge of all of the variables that can affect the success of a surface preparation process. Variables that are not identified cannot be measured and controlled.
Register HERE to join us in two weeks.
There are times when trying to discern if adhesion in manufacturing will succeed seems like a deeply mysterious and opaque puzzle. The water break test is a simple and fairly straight-forward method of detecting hydrophobic (water-repellant) contaminants on surfaces, most commonly on flat sheets of metal.
With quantitative, production material surface evaluation methods in short supply, water break tests are a relatively easy pass/fail metric, albeit one with several limitations.
Diving deeper into this aquatic test gives insight into what factors need to be considered when testing for surface quality.
What is the Water Break Test?
April 2-4 we will be exhibiting at the Precision Machining Technology Show and Dr. Giles Dillingham will be presenting at the Parts Cleaning Conference co-located with PMTS. Dr. Dillingham is presenting “Rapid Quantitative Evaluation of Chemical Cleanliness” at 12:30pm Tuesday 4/2 and you can make this a part of your schedule at the conference here. Learn about the fast, easy, accurate and non-destructive ways to inspect and measure the cleanliness of surfaces considering the chemical state of those surfaces in the process.
When adhesion failure plagues a manufacturing process it can be particularly disruptive. A production process may be humming along just fine and then it suddenly becomes clear that a coating is uneven, or paint is chipping (when it wasn’t before), or joints are weaker than they had been, or film is delaminating. These instances of adhesion not working properly can be minor if caught and fixed early enough, or they can be catastrophic to the performance of the end product.
Industries demanding high reliability require adhesion to completely work every single time, no exceptions. The risks of medical devices not functioning properly, faulty wiring in navigational equipment caused by poor coating, or the seal used on a car engine part failing are all too great to leave to chance.
So, how do manufacturers eliminate adhesion failure before it starts? How do manufacturers QUICKLY solve an adhesion problem once it becomes apparent?
Manufacturers need to suss out the source
Finding the Root Cause
In order to do this, there have to be some preliminary steps taken. First, a well-defined understanding of what adhesion success and failure actually are needs to be established. This seems obvious but putting skin on the bones of the issue and formalizing the performance requirements helps create achievable and manageable standards. This clear, diagnostic approach also gets to the heart of what the trouble truly is. It could be an inadequate adhesive, or a faulty curing process or an issue with the state of the material surface. Systematically checking off these possibilities gets you that much closer to the source of the problem.
It can be a knee-jerk reaction to only say: if the adhesion failed it must be the adhesive. This is a fine place to start. It is logical to contact your adhesive vendor and look into handling requirements and curing methods if you are experiencing an adhesive. But if his is where the investigation into the root cause ends, the full picture will never be seen.
If the adhesive and the curing process are looked into and the adhesion issue persists, in our experience, this means the material surface holds the key to understanding where the problem is originating.
Manufacturers often have a large blind spot when it comes to the causes of adhesion problems. This blind spot makes it impossible to solve these problems and generates frustration and loss rather than productivity and adhesion success. Taking the blinders off and taking on adhesion failure at its source(s) is job one for manufacturers who are determined to fix the problem.
Before making any decisions or taking any steps forward, manufacturers need to take one big step back. They need to examine and understand adhesion failure as something more systemic than what seems immediate evident. The first thing to recognize when making a serious commitment to fixing common causes of adhesion problems is to understand where the causes originate. This requires thinking outside of the usual approaches as well as looking further upstream than is typically done to address the roots of the issue.
Thinking Outside Usual Approaches
In every manufacturing process that involves adhesion (bonding, printing, painting, coating, sealing, laminating) it is absolutely necessary to understand and control, when boiled down as minutely as possible, only involve three key elements. These three elements are:
Manufacturers are constantly fighting against adhesion problems. Surfaces not sticking and adhesives not working is the daily reality facing manufacturers looking to make high quality, reliable products. The daunting nature of the task to eliminate adhesion failure seems insurmountable and never-ending.
Changes to equipment or processes are made, and yet, failure still occurs in the form of bonds not holding, coatings not uniformly covering a surface, paint or ink not adhering and in dozens more ways that every manufacturer is all too familiar with. These failures redound to costly scrap rates, recalls, unhappy customers, expensive rework and major stalls in getting a product to production or to market.
So, what are manufacturers to do? Luckily there are some steps that can be implemented quickly and relatively easily to move towards eliminating adhesion failure and increase productivity.
By looking at common mistakes made by manufacturers we can identify exactly how those steps can be used to combat the everyday scourge of adhesion failure.
For the past five years BTG Labs has been a major presence at the annual meeting of the Adhesion Society. This year we are heading to Hilton Head, SC Friday 2/15 – Tuesday 2/19, to share our insight into how adhesion success begins and ends at the surface of materials used in bonding.
BTG Labs’ CEO and Chief Scientist, Dr. Giles Dillingham, has been an active member of the Adhesion Society since the 1980’s and is a Robert L. Patrick Fellow of the Society. He has over 120 publications and patents and is teaching two sessions at this year’s Short Course as well as presenting at the conference during the Society Meeting.
Dr. Dillingham’s first education course on Friday will examine the basic principles of adhesion and surface chemistry: how they are inextricably codependent and what the nature of their relationship is. The concepts he’ll be discussing is the science at the heart of all the work BTG Labs does. It’s this foundation that has allowed us to build an extensive customer base within a wide range of industries to develop and enhance manufacturing processes.
The next course Dr. Dillingham will be leading takes the fundamentals of the first course and expands on them by exploring how to analyze and control the chemical makeup of a surface. The understanding that comes from the surface analysis allows for the proper control of the surface chemistry which, in turn, makes it possible to reliably predict adhesion success. This correlation between chemistry and adhesion is the fuel that powers BTG Labs’ technology.
Corona treatment is one of the most commonly used methods in adhesion processes for preparing materials like film and polymers manufactured on large rolls. Corona treatment is used to activate the surface, or create a molecularly amenable condition on the surface for adhesion, of a rolled material requiring coating, printing, laminating or painting.
The treatment works by discharging high-voltage, high-frequency electricity from an electrode in a ceramic tube that runs the length of the roll of material needed to be activated. The electricity is sent through the material to an electrically-grounded, metal roll called the treater roll, that the material is wrapped around. This interaction between the electrode and the metal roll creates a visible flash on the surface of the material roll as it moves between the two components. The results, however, are completely invisible to the human eye. Like was stated earlier, this treatment is altering the surface at a chemical level. Therefore, there is no visual test that could ever offer confidence that the treatment was successful at creating a chemically clean surface. Only a measurable, quantitative inspection gives the data necessary to take action on.
BTG Labs is going to be exhibiting at the Medical Device and Manufacturing (MD&M) West medtech event Tuesday February 4 to Thursday February 7. Our Surface Experts will be joining 19,000 attendees from around the world for three days at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA to discuss the latest and greatest in manufacturing, cleaning, automation and advancements in the Medical Device industry.
Visit booth #349 to get an up-close look at the inspection power of the automated Surface Analyst XA. Tuesday morning at 11:00 the New Product Showcase will be featuring the XA. We’ll be demonstrating and explaining how our technology and services can find the root cause of adhesion failure, as well as give manufacturers the insight required to take back control of their process to prevent future failures. Join the conversation and gain deeper understanding of what it means to have a clean surface.
It’s easy to be dazzled by the advancements in electronic and medical devices that are constantly being made and discovered allowing manufacturers to work on increasingly micro levels. Smaller tech means greater efficiency and higher production rates which can lead to lower prices and more accessibility. Tiny tech means less intrusion when incorporating electronics in everyday devices
and medical applications. But we mustn’t let ourselves get distracted by all this progress. The surfaces of the electronic components of this incredible tech need to be clean at a chemical level in order to ensure that any bonding processes will be successful. It’s as true for these devices as for any others.
Electronics packaging, even at the micro and nano level, requires wire bonding processes and coating operations that involve smaller versions of the methods used on a larger scale. When working at such tiny levels the importance of how molecular level surface activity influences bond success and true chemical cleanliness becomes all the more evident.