I often receive calls asking to explain, “How does a low-pressure plasma tool actually work?” I thought I’d share a diagram that we often use to explain the process. The plasma process is widely used to critically clean and functionalize the surface of components. After a plasma treatment, components are able to better accept paints, adhesives, inks and coatings.
Simply put, plasma treatment is the grafting of chemical functional groups to the polymer backbone by first removing an elemental component, then replacing it with a functional element.
Plasma processing is done in a controlled environment at sub-atmospheric pressure, specifically, a partial pressure (vacuum) with only a particular process gas (or groups of gases) present. The process gas is excited with a high frequency field causing the gas molecules to ionize. This increases the energetic free radicals which react with the molecules on the surface of the material being treated. This reaction includes physical bombardment, oxidation, grafting, cross-linking and even polymerization of the surface molecules.
This is just a quick overview of the process. Reach out to our Surface Modification Experts for additional information to learn how plasma modification can benefit your manufacturing processes.