Plasma clean refers to a pristine surface that has been cleaned using a plasma system. Surfaces cleaned using plasma processing have been cleaned at the atomic level and can be exceedingly pure. Surfaces of this purity are particularly advantageous in medical device and computer component manufacturing applications. A plasma system configured to clean parts is referred to as a plasma cleaner.
Plasma clean applications often involve preparing surfaces for subsequent coating. This subsequent coating may be a metal, such as copper plating onto printed circuit boards (PCBs). Another common application is sterilization of medical devices. When a surface is excessively cleaned it can become etched. Plasma etching is another application of a plasma treatment and has a number of other uses. There is a plasma system capable of achieving any plasma treatment need.
Plasma cleaning works primarily by bombarding the material surface with ions that destroy / dislodge surface impurities. Once liberated from the surface, the impurities are drawn away under vacuum in a low pressure plasma system or ejected into the air when using an atmospheric plasma system. In low pressure plasma cleaning, argon is often used as the process gas. Argon is used in these plasma treatment systems because Argon is relatively large in size and is also inert. The large size allows the Argon ions to act as an atomic scale sand blaster. The inert properties of Argon reduce the potential for chemical reactions.
Plasma cleaning systems are typically low pressure plasma systems. These low pressure plasma cleaning systems have several advantages over atmospheric plasma systems. First, low pressure plasma systems have the advantage of being able to clean all of the part surfaces simultaneously. Another advantage of vacuum plasma systems is that the dislodged impurities are permanently removed from the surface by the vacuum pump. Finally, low pressure systems can employ a variety of process gasses and uses them at a relatively slow rate.