Surface energy of plastics is a topic our readers inquire about again and again. It is a critical measurement to know when manufacturing with plastics and polymers, as it impacts bonding and long-term adhesion properties. Here’s a quick primer:
Surface energy is the total impact of all the molecular forces on a material. There are two levels of surface properties in plastic materials:
- Low surface material - Indicates liquids (like water) will spontaneously spread out
- High-energy surface plastics - Has a contact area that enables liquids to bead up and prevent spreading
What does surface energy mean to your manufacturing process?
It’s critical to know the surface energy of your material to improve manufacturing processes like paint and coating applications. A low surface measurement means that paints won’t adhere properly to your finished components — or stand the test of time. When surface measurements are too high, any added paints may bleed over components and cause defects (the undercoat may show through the overcoat).
How can you measure surface energy?
Look for a lab with a surface contact meter (or goniometer). Start with a baseline reading, and measure the contact angles, then add droplets of moisture. The goal should be to capture readings at the right ambient temperature, humidity and pressure levels.
Understanding surface energy is the first step in determining the best method of surface modification. With plasma cleaning, all organic contamination is removed from the surface of plastics to change the energy, and hold virtually any secondary manufacturing process.
Need assistance with Surface Modification selection? connect with our team!