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3 min read

Why Value-Added Engineering Services Unlock the Value of Advanced Material Enhancements

By Frank Hild on January 11, 2022

Why Value-Added Engineering Services Unlock the Value of Advanced Material Enhancements

TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division (EMD) offers advanced technologies like plasma surface treatment and specialized polymer filtration membranes. While these capabilities are incredibly valuable in the right applications, we believe they are just one small part of the overall value an engineering team like TriStar EMD can provide.

In this blog post, we explore why value-added engineering services are the key to unlocking the full value of advanced materials enhancement processes.

For a more in-depth look at the Enhanced Materials Division and what it can do, please see our guide here.

Engineering Services That Enable a Strategic Approach to Material Selection and Enhancement

Examples of challenges where an expert materials engineering team can prove invaluable include:

  1. Identifying and addressing the root cause of issues that emerge in the manufacturing process itself—like a lubricant that is preventing subsequent application of paint.
  2. Identifying better materials that allow critical components to last longer, fail less frequently, and achieve improved functional characteristics.
  3. Studying critical product or manufacturing failures to begin identifying a solution when in-house engineers aren’t quite sure what’s wrong.

When approaching any of these challenges, TriStar emphasizes an organization-wide commitment to a hands-on, consultative engineering approach. In short, this means offering clients a collaborative process focused on addressing specific, ground-level engineering pain points. Rather than sell a particular material or enhancement as a catch-all solution, our goal is to study specific use cases and identify the materials capable of delivering the greatest possible full-life cycle value in their intended application.

The Enhanced Materials Division represents the leading edge of our culture of value-added engineering. By combining access to TriStar’s deep arsenal of materials (many of which can solve challenging engineering problems “off the shelf”) and advanced enhancement processes like plasma surface treatments (which can be used to customize materials for unique application requirements), EMD can offer clients a portfolio of capabilities that are more valuable than the sum of their parts.

We start by studying specific application problem areas and how they could potentially be solved using one of our many polymer and composite materials. These materials can be specified to deliver commonly required characteristics such as:

If the application requires material characteristics that cannot be fulfilled by our stock polymer materials, advanced processes like plasma surface treatment can be used to provide carefully targeted enhancements. EMD also can fabricate custom materials when needed, even for applications like specialized filtration membranes which require precision down to the tens of nanometers.

EMD’s engineering services tie this entire process together. Why? Because most manufacturing or product development organizations cannot afford to maintain in-house expertise on every potentially valuable material or material enhancement process.

In many cases, product engineers simply don’t know if materials that could solve their problem even exist. In others, they may be unsure how the limitations of one material can be mitigated. Or whether the cost differential of a more advanced material choice will be justified by the value it delivers to product performance and reliability. In any of these cases, TriStar EMD can step in to provide an expert engineering team with a wealth of experience tailoring advanced material solutions to tough engineering problems.

EMD engineering services provide clients with true end-to-end solution engineering that draws on our deep knowledge of advanced materials, our in-house capabilities to perform enhancements like plasma surface treatments, and our ground-level experience across a broad range of industries. When clients engage with us, they don’t need to have any pre-existing understanding of processes like plasma treatment—they only need to come with a problem that needs solving.

Learn More About Working with an Advanced Materials Engineering Team

At TriStar, we believe that material selection matters. And our EMD team represents the culmination of that belief in our own organization.

The EMD team is passionate about learning the specifics of every client application and can commonly be found studying issues onsite when needed. In our experience, this commitment to value-added solutions engineering almost always pays off in the long run. The right materials selection can almost always help critical components and products perform better and more reliably. And in some cases, it can solve problems that client engineering teams didn’t even know they had!

For a more in-depth look at TriStar EMD, please see our guide here. Or, if you prefer to reach out to EMD directly to begin discussing how we can help solve your toughest engineering challenges, just use the button below.


Using Enhanced Materials to Solve Tough Engineering Problems




Topics: TriStar Engineering Enhanced Materials
2 min read

How can specialized polymer membranes be used for filtration?

By Frank Hild on January 6, 2022

How can specialized polymer membranes be used for filtration?

A membrane is a thin material that allows some substances through while keeping others out. But with precision engineering, membranes can be configured to achieve precise filtration outcomes which are essential in industries ranging from food & beverage to in vitro diagnostics.

This blog post provides an introduction to filtration membranes and how they work. Advanced polymer membranes are just one offering from TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division (EMD) — you can learn more about EMD and how it works here.

What are polymer filtration membranes?

A polymer filtration membrane is a thin sheet of polymer material whose microporous structure has been engineered to achieve a precise filtration outcome. Different materials and microporous properties (like pore size) can be used for different filtration applications.

The pores in specialized membranes are often measured in the tens of nanometers! This means that they can be used to filter incredibly small contaminants, like microorganisms, tiny particulate, or natural organic material. By combining different pore sizes in different membrane layers, filtration can be specified even more precisely.

The ability to flexibly configure polymer membranes is the main reason why you will find them in so many different industries. They are used in water purification, inside fuel cells and batteries, and in advanced medical diagnostic equipment, just to name a few examples.

Common Polymers for Filtration Applications

  • PTFE
  • PES
  • PVDF
  • Nylon
  • Polypropylene

How TriStar Helps Clients Implement the Right Filtration Membrane for the Job

Filtration membranes represent a substantial engineering challenge for many product development teams. They require specialized knowledge, precision fabrication capabilities, and careful alignment to each unique application. In our experience, advanced filtration challenges require more than an “off the shelf” membrane material. Success requires an in-depth, consultative engineering approach.

For example, TriStar EMD worked with client engineers to perfect a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) system. In this case, analysis of the application determined that a novel material was required, and TriStar created one for the job: Ultraflon M18+. This hyper-hydrophilic material allowed for more precise control over liquid and gas flow within the HPLC system. You can learn more about this application in our case study here.

Our guide here provides a deeper look at how TriStar EMD provides value-added engineering to help clients get the most out of advanced materials like filtration membranes.

Using Enhanced Materials to Solve Tough Engineering Problems

Or, if you’re interested in discussing how we can help develop the right membrane for your filtration challenge, we encourage you to reach out using the button below.


Topics: Enhanced Materials membranes
2 min read

Plasma Surface Modification: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

By Frank Hild on January 4, 2022

Plasma Surface Modification: What is it and why does it matter?

What are plasma surface treatments and how can they help materials and components perform their best in demanding applications?

By altering the properties of materials at a molecular level, surface treatments can deliver precision-engineered properties which can be carefully tailored to unique operational challenges.

Plasma surface modification is just one type of advanced material enhancement technology offered by TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division. For a deeper look at how our consultative engineering approach unlocks the power of advanced material enhancement capabilities like plasma, please see our guide here:

Using Enhanced Materials to Solve Tough Engineering Problems

Plasma Surface Treatments 101

While the underlying science of plasma surface modification is complicated, engineering teams don’t need to be plasma experts to employ this technology. A plasma treated material is enhanced at a facility like TriStar EMD’s laboratory before being shipped out to be used as normal in the end product or application.

To achieve a successful result, the most important factor is matching the correct plasma treatment and material to the unique challenges of each use case. Once the optimal treatment process is identified, plasma-modified materials can integrate at scale with your supply chain, with treated materials delivered as required.

How does plasma surface modification work?

The steps below describe TriStar’s low-pressure “vacuum plasma” methodology. This type of process can be used with a wide array of materials including ceramics, polymers, elastomers, and metal assemblies. And it’s far more environmentally friendly than traditional, solvent-based solutions like acetones or sodium.

  1. Materials are placed into a vacuum chamber which is reduced to ultra-low pressure.
  2. A mix of gases is injected into the chamber and ionized.
  3. Ions react with the surface of the material in the chamber.

By varying plasma type, pressure, and the length of time the treatment is applied, different results can be achieved. Plasma surface treatments are used in a variety of industries and niche applications; typical examples include:

  • Improving the bonding property of a surface to improve adhesion of paints, inks, molding, and other coatings.
  • Micro-cleaning a surface for ultra-hygienic standards and enhanced wetting of adhesives and over-molded elastomers.
  • Improving hydrophobic or hydrophilic properties.

Learning More About Plasma Surface Treatments from TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division

TriStar’s Enhanced Materials Division has extensive experience working with client engineers to understand how specific problems can be solved with  plasma-based treatments. These clients don’t necessarily come to TriStar knowing they need plasma—only with a problem that needs to be solved with better materials.

Because plasma surface treatments can be applied to a variety of materials to enhance their functional properties, they offer the most value when paired with a careful material selection process. The right material selection can solve a variety of common issues, while plasma treatments are used to achieve additional, targeted enhancements suited to the application at hand. Once the right materials and plasma treatment are identified, TriStar can perform all modifications using our in-house plasma laboratory.

For a deeper look at plasma surface treatments, we recommend this tech talk with EMD Principal Engineer Frank Hild. Or, if you’re interested in reaching out to the TriStar team to discuss a specific plasma treatment challenge, download our worksheet to get started.


Topics: Plasma Treatment Enhanced Materials
1 min read

Hyper-Hydrophobic Membranes Repel Liquid like Nobody’s Business

By Frank Hild on May 21, 2019

Hyper-Hydrophobic Membranes Repel Liquid like Nobody’s Business

Our Ultraflon M18+ is a hyper-hydrophobic PTFE membrane that can be used to separate gas from liquid. There are several of these membranes on the market, but our unique membrane stands alone.

The hydrophobic quality of this membrane allows for air to pass through, but not water (or aqueous solutions). The membrane is clean with no residue or other agents to provide pure filtration. Under pressure it is possible to get liquids with very low surface tension to pass through, which makes Ultraflon M18+ ideal for controlled phase separation as well.

Click here to read how Ultraflon M18+ was recently chosen for a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography application.

Take a look at our short (4 minute) video, embeded below, to see me demonstrate just how hydrophobic this particular membrane is compared to several competitive products.

The other membranes shown in the video are:

  • Porex MD15
  • Versapor LCB-3000
  • Advantech PF100

If you think Ultraflon M18+ may be ideal for your gas-separation filtering application, reach out to our Enhanced Materials Division engineers to explore the possibilities.

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Topics: Enhanced Materials membranes
1 min read

Defined: Hydrophilic, Hydrophobic, Oleophilic, Oleophobic, Hygroscopic

By Frank Hild on February 27, 2019

Hydrophilic, Hydrophobic, Oleophilic, Oleophobic & Hygroscopic

When discussing enhanced materials we often use terms like “hydrophilic/hydrophobic” and “oleophilic/oleophobic.” Just what do these terms mean exactly? Let’s take a quick look.

  • Hydrophilic − Refers to substances that absorb water. A hydrophilic substance will bond, on a molecular level with water.
  • Hydrophobic − Refers to materials that will repel water.
  • Oleophilic − Refers to a substance that absorb oils or nonpolar liquids.
  • Oleophobic − Refers to a substance that repels oils or nonpolar liquids.
  • Hygroscopic − Refers to the ability of a material to absorb humidity from the air. A hygroscopic substance will actively attract and absorb water, without bonding. (A hygroscope is an instrument that indicates changes in humidity.)

Water is itself hydrophilic (it mixes with more water easily) and oils or fats are generally hydrophobic and will separate from water, forming an oily layer.

Note: The suffix "philic" means loving or attracted to. The suffix "phobic" means fear or fearful.

There’s a lot more to learn, but this is certainly a useful place to start. If we can help you sort these terms out or provide information on how to modify materials to enhance (or suppress) any these characteristics, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experts.

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Topics: Surface Modification Enhanced Materials