Changing surface chemistry with plasma technology and its processing methods are used in many industrial and research applications. Surface treatment of a material with a dry method of cleaning, activation, etching and deposition are powerful, cost effective process options. The ability to perform process options with control, repeatability and scalable equipment make plasma treatment a desirable core competency for any manufacturing company or research team.
With plasma activation, non-reactive or non-wettable surfaces can be modified to obtain higher surface energy, better wetting ,and better adhesion properties. This increase in adhesion leads to an improvement in product performance and reliability. Manufacturing processes are easy to set up, optimize and control. Reasonable and even very short process takt times can be achieved in most materials of choice used in industry today.
An important field for low pressure plasma is the activation of polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) for the design and production of microfluidic systems in medical and industrial applications. These devices are produced from a special class of PDMS bonded to glass, itself or other polymers. A common PDMS is Dow Sylgard 184 which is designed and structured individually for each specific application. Microfluidics manufacturers use plasma treatment to enable bonding PDMS components, polymers or to Si-containing elements like glass or pure silicon.
Plasma Cleaning is the process of removing unwanted contaminants from a surface by gasification or changing the phase of the foreign material (solid or liquid) to a gas. This gas is then removed from the area of the surface resulting in clean material.
Plasma cleaning addresses a broad group of manufacturing operations to include; plasma cleaning (to remove organic materials), plasma cleaning (to remove inorganic materials), antiseptic plasma cleaning (to remove biological elements), ultra-fine plasma cleaning (to improve aerospace and micromechanical devices), and degreasing.
Plasma cleaning eliminates the need for solvents and other cleaning methods that produce Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) for a cleaner and safer manufacturing process.
Plasma coating is an application that uses an additive process that modifies the properties of a material surface. With the help of this treatment method, surfaces can be made hydrophobic, hydrophilic, scratch or corrosion resistant, metallized or many other chemical or molecular surface terminations.
Low friction coating is the process of applying a plasma deposited layer of material to a high friction surface that would typically be tacky or binding. This is often done on the surface of elastomeric O-rings or seals to ease handling during manufacturing and product assembly. This process also makes the O-rings less tacky so they can be vibatory bowl fed for use with automation systems or equipment for product assembly.
Plasma etching is the process of removing material from a surface by gasification or changing the phase of the material to a gas. This gas is then removed from the general area of the surface. Plasma etching describes a broad group of operations to include; Non corrosive etching, corrosive service etching, or physical etching.
Though the terms “RIE” (reactive ion etching) and “plasma etching” are often used synonymously, they are in fact not the same. Plasma etching is an umbrella term for all etching procedures that can be performed with plasma while RIE is a subtype which employs the acceleration of the charged ions toward the surface of the part. This acceleration increases the etch rate of atoms directionally. Meaning the etch rate of the material perpendicular to the surface is faster that the etch rate of the material parallel to the surface.
In RIE the process of this differential velocity or differential etching rate means you can have less distance between etched features. This allows the size of the features produced to get smaller and the density of the features to increase. RIE is commonly used in the semiconductor and Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS).