Category Archives: Materials Science

  • 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?

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  • 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.

    Not finding the root cause of adhesion failure has real consequences.


    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.

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  • 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.

    Using a proper wiping technique has a big effect on adhesion: Common Mistake #8

    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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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

    manufacture of chips on a silicon wafer under a microscope

    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.

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  • The BTG Labs suite of tools, that enable manufacturers and technicians to fully control their adhesion processes, has a new addition. The Surface Analyst 2001 introduces new levels of ease, simplicity and accuracy to manufacturing processes, providing the confidence that the surface will stick.

    This handheld tool is an entry-level surface inspection device that harnesses the power of the BTG Labs’ technology to precisely meet the needs of any manufacturing plant floor, field service troubleshooting, or processes that include heavily repeated surface preparation and inspection steps. The 2001 is built to be used in any environment and is sturdy enough to take accurate measurements under any circumstances.

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  • Photo courtesy of Crest Ultrasonics

    Parts washers are the heavy-duty, hardworking machines that have become irreplaceable staples in any automotive or machined part manufacturing process. As manufacturing processes have become more sophisticated, the industries using parts washers includes not only industrial metals and aerospace materials but also more delicate applications such as medical implants and electronic devices.

    But what are the Critical Control Points within a parts washer system? What are the elements that get overlooked and result in adhesion failure even though the parts SEEM clean?

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  • Co-written with Elizabeth Kidd, BTG Labs’ Custom Applications Scientist.


    There’s a logical fallacy akin to a “what’s good for one is good for all” mindset that is devastating when applied to surface treatment in adhesion processes. Polymers are rapidly being developed and synthesized for niche applications to push the limits of current physical properties of materials. Polymers that are available today did not even exist a few years, or even months, ago. These different materials possess very particular molecular qualities that require distinct treatment approaches in order to compensate for their differences.

     New polymer materials enhance the aesthetics and safety of cars.

    In order to utilize these cutting-edge plastic technologies, manufacturers need to be aware of the effect on the full material system – the baseline material, the adhesion, and outcome of bond performance.

    Diversified polymer use has seen huge advances in consumer goods industries

    The chemical make-up of the baseline material surface is where it all begins and controlling this aspect of the process can stop adhesion failure at the source. This is, however, often the most overlooked and least understood component of successful adhesion.

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  • The pervasiveness of electronics in every manufacturing industry has provided unique challenges. Manufacturers are tasked with protecting these components

    conformal coating adhesion for electronics

    A populated printed circuit board before a conformal coating has been applied.

    in environments that make

    electronics vulnerable to even minute amounts of moisture, debris and environmental contamination.

    A useful solution to this problem is conformal coating. Conformal coating is a thin (usually 25-75µm thick) chemical or polymer film (parylene and acrylic are popularly used, depending on the application) that covers an electronic component to act as a barrier against contamination and a defense against moisture. While, this capability massively enhances the protection of, and therefore the reliability of, electronics, manufacturers have been overlooking a key element to dependability in this system: surface condition.

    Here are four major factors that could lead to poor adhesion which manufacturers are often unaware of the impact they have:

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