A plasma process is a method by which a substrate surface is plasma treated. There are different plasma processes for different plasma applications. A plasma process can be used to plasma clean, plasma activate, plasma etch or plasma polymerize. These processes modify the material’s surface in various ways to meet the needs of a multiplicity of applications. A Plasma process can also be used on many different materials including metals, ceramics, glass and plastics.
A Plasma process can have applications ranging from cleaning printed circuit boards (PCBs) before plating, to sterilizing medical devices prior to use, to making automotive components adhesive so that they can be glued. There are many plasma treatment options available to suit an infinite number of surface treatment objectives.
Plasma processing can be used to achieve numerous surface modification objectives. Plasma activation of a surface to make it more adhesive is most commonly achieved by treatment using oxygen as the process gas. Surface activation increases the surface energy of the substrate, increasing its wettability and adhesiveness. Surface oxide reduction can often be achieved with hydrogen as the process gas. Polymer surfaces can also be rendered hydrophobic using fluorine containing process gases such as sulfur hexafluoride. Surfaces may also be cleaned to remove unwanted contaminates or etched to remove a layer or portions of the surface.
Plasma processing using a low pressure plasma system, is always a batch process. The plasma generating device contains a vacuum chamber, generator, electrode and controls. A vacuum pump is used to reduce the pressure within the plasma chamber. Finally there is also usually a process gas drawn into the chamber to form the plasma. In contrast to a low pressure plasma system is an atmospheric plasma system. In this type of plasma system the plasma is blown with compressed air from a nozzle onto the substrate surface. The primary active component within the air is the oxygen. This plasma technology is ideal for achieving narrow, topographically defined plasma activation objectives such as plasma activation along a length of a substrate so that a foam strip can be adhered.