Adhesives can often prove to be quite expensive in the manufacturing process. This can make a product more expensive than it has to. The need for advanced adhesive technology is amplified when the surface of a material has low surface energy. That low surface energy means that the glue has to be that much better so that the two materials adhere properly. When there is a proper level of surface energy, the manufacturer has many more glue choices and can often choose cheaper glue to acquire the same results.
Benefits of plasma activation to improve surface energy and bond strength
Plasma activation is a great process to utilize to try to increase surface energy. Suppose the surface energy shift is significant on the base material. In that case, a change to a cheaper glue can reduce the adhesive cost, which results in a lower-cost product and additional profits. An adhesive specialist can often help choose less expensive glue but may be apprehensive about doing so as well. Using a plasma system for plasma activation opens up the possibilities for many adhesives and bonding agents to choose from while still achieving a strong bond between materials.
Adhesive takt time increases manufacturing time and cost
One major problem with glue, in general, is the takt time that it takes to dry. Using a primer in conjunction with glue can compound the problem. If possible, a primer should be eliminated whenever possible. There are a few issues when using a primer, including drying time, generating volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and cost. The production time can undoubtedly be decreased when using a plasma activation process as a primer replacement, and it also aids in strengthening the overall bond of the materials. Plasma activation would eliminate any need for the primer and is also environmentally friendly as plasma does not generate VOCs.
Plasma activation reduces work in process and manufacturing waste products
Using plasma reduces the overall work in the process. It is always advantageous to look at the process waste in a manufacturing program. This means that you work to reduce as much product waste in manufacturing as possible to reduce costs. When there is a long dry time (or any dry time at all) with primer, there is an extension of the work in process, which leads to high costs. Plasma activation will eliminate any need for the use and application of a primer to minimize the work in the process.
The strength of Covalent bonds
The most crucial aspect of implementing a plasma activation before the glue/adhesive is that a covalent bond is created between the two materials. This detail is essential because a covalent bond is the strongest bond you can make in these applications. This covalent bond is formed after the surface energy is increased from the plasma activation. The base material's activation is very important so that the sites on the base material have open bonds that the expensive glue, or even a cheaper glue, have something to bond to. Overall, if you have high surface energy, the bond becomes stronger, and the glue will adhere better to that surface.
Consulting with an adhesive expert of even multiple adhesive manufacturers can be beneficial as well. They may recommend switching to another adhesive that is designed specifically for your material. Different adhesives have properties beneficial to specific plastics or other materials. A professional in this field may also recommend a cheaper adhesive that saves the company money. Even if the bond created from these adhesives is sufficient, plasma activation treatment can raise the surface energy and create an even stronger bond. This will minimize bond failures throughout the life of the product and create product/brand loyalty.
Plasma activation improves bond strength and can result in lower adhesive cost
Plasma activation in manufacturing can be extremely beneficial. It enables manufacturers to use less expensive glue to achieve the same or stronger bond than without plasma activation. As a result, it creates a better product overall for less money, making greater profits for the company. Plasma cleaning and plasma activation are great tools to have in an engineer’s tool bag to change many materials' surface energy. Surface energy is the largest factor in determining whether materials will be able to be bonded together successfully.
To learn more about how surface activation improves adhesion in the manufacturing process, please read our article titled "Manufacturer’s Surface Activation Guide for Improved Adhesion."