Category Archives: Materials Science

  • New Paper Presented at ANTEC 2017

    by Emily Walsh May 2017

    Last week, BTG Labs exhibited and presented at ANTEC 2017. We were pleased to connect and exchange intelligence with leaders in the plastics industry.

    Our booth featured the Surface Analyst, which uses contact angle to measure surface cleanliness of a material. This monitors the surface preparation process and ensures readiness to bond, print, paint, coat, or seal which can be challenging on plastics. More and more, plastics manufacturers are turning to the Surface Analyst for guaranteeing their surface treatment and final product.

    Along with exhibiting, BTG Labs’ Chief Scientist Dr. Giles Dillingham presented the paper, “Rapid Evaluation of Surface Properties of Medical Tubing for Process Development and Quality Assurance.” The paper explains that the key to manufacturing high performance medical devices is understanding and controlling surface properties. Crucial characteristics of medical tubing such as wettability, adhesion, antithrombogenicity, and biocompatibility depend on only the top few molecular layers of a surface. Dr. Dillingham discusses research done with the Surface Analyst for highly sensitive surface measurements on medical tubing to control coating application. …Read More

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  • How Clean is Clean Enough?

    by Emily Walsh May 2017

    Manufacturers often encounter a similar puzzle, when cleaning invisible contaminants from a surface, how do you know when the surface is clean; how clean is clean enough? This is a common question that manufacturers ask when preparing their surfaces for bonding, coating, sealing, printing or painting. Until now, there hasn’t been an objective and reliable way to answer this question. Successfully cleaning a surface directly correlates to the adhesive ability of the surface. In order to get something to stick reliably the surface must be clean. How we define that parameter is different for a variety of materials.

    For example, you clean your car differently than you clean your dishes. Why? Because a car rides on the road through rain, smog, dirt, maybe mud, and the other is a vehicle for your food.

    At BTG Labs, our answer to the “clean enough” question is, “Depends on what you’re doing.” There are dozens of critical surface preparation processes that exist for a number of different applications. A handful include:

    • Flame treatment on polypropylene bumpers prior to painting
    • Plasma treatment on PET catheters prior to coating
    • Hand sanding and solvent wiping on aircraft nut plates before adhesively bonding to composite
    • Grit-blasting titanium golf clubs in preparation of bonding to composite
    • Corona treatment on film for packaging prior to metallization, lamination, or coating

    …Read More

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  • Roosevelt University, Image by Chicago Tribune

    Roosevelt University, a liberal arts college in the Loop of downtown Chicago perfectly contrasts antiquated and contemporary architecture. Roosevelt’s first venue, constructed in 1889 just in time for the World Fair, is 17 floors of beautiful Art Nouveau structure. The Auditorium Building encompasses ornate railings and scaffolding, topping off with a regal library and a lofty tower overlooking Grant Park. However, because of its age, the Auditorium Building demands constant attention and is inefficient in the frigid Chicago winters and hazy summers.

    Their new building, the Wabash Building, erected in 2012 is just the opposite. Its 32 towering floors of curved glass superintends the Auditorium Building, arriving amongst the structural giants of Chicago. Illustrating the epitome of modern design, this highly efficient, state of the art structure is LEED certified.

    When looking up at the two buildings, old charm vs new-age sleek, the phrase comes to mind: they just don’t make things like they used to. But, there’s necessity behind this. As the global population rises, infrastructure becomes denser, and resources become scarce, engineers concentrate on building smarter. Designing a building that spares no expense—in terms of efficiency in operation and manufacturing of these smarter materials—is pivotal. This all begins in the research and development lab and extends to the manufacturing floor. Materials and processes are developed to allow for more efficiency in both the production of materials and the final construction. Guaranteeing bonds will hold; paint, print, and coatings will stick; seals will persevere; and cleaning processes will clean effectively is crucial to manufacturing a product that will withstand stresses of any structure.

    That is why more and more manufacturers are turning to the Surface Analyst™. This hand-held instrument ensures any surface is ready for effective bonding, coating, cleaning, sealing, printing, or painting. The ability to verify and quantify critical surface processes on the manufacturing floor is the keystone to efficient manufacturing and smarter structures.

    A high-grade window manufacturer, for example, uses the Surface Analyst to verify plasma treatment on vinyl window frames prior to sealing. This guarantees the windows will efficiently heat or cool a structure while also withstanding the elements of rain, wind, and snow. …Read More

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  • A Beer with Giles Dillingham

    by Emily Walsh April 2017

    In 1987, Giles earned his PhD and moved to Midland, Michigan to begin laboratory work at Dow Chemical.

    The office of Giles Dillingham is unique, eclectic, and full of resources; very much like Giles Dillingham. The corner office is filled with books, antique tools, paintings by his beloved wife, family photos, and of course, a very nice stereo set-up.

    Giles, BTG Labs’ Founder and Chief Scientist, can often be found typing eagerly away at a report while listening to classical music, or seated at the Cherrywood table, collaborating with colleagues.

    One Friday evening, as the Cincinnati sun began to sink, I shared an end of the week beer with Giles in his lovely office to hear the origin story of BTG.

    Emily: So, Giles, you started BTG Labs. Where did it begin?

    Giles: Well, after I finished my PhD at the University of Cincinnati, I had a job waiting for me at Dow Chemical up in Midland, Michigan. And, I worked there for five years in a variety of assignments, mostly in polymer processing and surface properties. Central Research at Dow in the 90’s was an amazing place to work.  It was a very academic environment with amazing scientists from all fields. I spent most of my time in the laboratory. I learned and grew a whole lot.

    E: And, then what? …Read More

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  • BTG Labs is gearing up for Earth Day; after all, we proudly manufacture an instrument that is valuable in a variety of industries from aerospace, automotive, packaging, and even renewable energy. It’s also pretty eco-friendly.

    The Surface Analyst™ improves the manufacture of renewable energy equipment including solar panels, wind turbines, and electric cars. BTG Labs also works with start-up companies creating brand new technologies for renewable energy. The Surface Analyst measures water contact angle to ensure that surfaces are ready to bond and withstand environmental stresses without failing. Its precision, portability, and ease-of-use allows for its implementation on the manufacturing floor as well as in the field for repairs and maintenance.

    Technicians use it for repairs on wind turbines in the field; solar panel manufacturers value its precision when bonding dissimilar materials to withstand weathering; and electric car companies use it to guarantee paints, bonds, seals, and coatings will stick reliably. New applications for improving renewable energy manufacturing using the Surface Analyst reveal themselves constantly.

    Cleaner Manufacturing 

     

    The Surface Analyst also contributes to conservation in every manufacturing field. Because it offers manufacturers precision and is non-destructive, it cuts down significantly on waste material. The Surface Analyst replaces dyne inks which hold harsh chemicals—including teratogenic chemicals—that are hazardous to the user and the environment. Because of this, dyne cannot be used to test on the actual material and often requires a coupon of the material that has been cut off or specifically designated for testing, off the assembly line. Dyne is also highly subjective and leads to inconsistencies in manufacturing, causing rework and failures, which in turn, means more waste. On the other hand, the Surface Analyst uses highly purified water so it’s completely harmless to both the user, the part, and the environment. A win for both the manufacturer and the planet. …Read More

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  • Manufacturers are all too familiar with the challenges of getting a bond to stick and hold. The success of a bond relies on the surface created prior to that bond, so, monitoring and measuring surface processes is the only way to know that the surface is ready to bond reliably.

    BTG Labs’ President Tom McLean and Sales Engineer Lucas Dillingham presented during Plasmatreat’s Open House on the 4 Surface Fundamentals for Successful Bonding in Manufacturing. They presented to industry leaders who can easily relate to bonding and cleaning issues. The presentation was such a success that BTG Labs decided to turn it into a webinar.

    Challenges with establishing a strong, reliable bond, when painting, coating, sealing, or printing are tied into the surface preparation process and the ability to monitor that process. This presentation focuses on the bond surface and what it takes to bond properly to that surface. There is also a comparison of various cleaning methods using contact angles taken with the Surface Analyst.

    While other monitoring processes such as dyne and water break fail to provide quantitative insight, monitoring cleaning processes with the precise and quantitative Surface Analyst tells the user, objectively, whether the surface is properly prepared to hold a reliable bond. …Read More

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  • BTG Labs’ to Present at CMH-17

    by Emily Walsh March 2017

    This week, BTG Labs will attend the CMH-17 PMC Coordination Meeting in conjunction with ASTM D-30 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The purpose of this gathering is to present and collaborate on the latest in composite advances and standards and contribute to document updates.

    CMH-17, the Composite Materials Handbook, is the go to reference and guide for aerospace manufacturers who adhesively bond composite parts. It features standard, vetted composite technologies as well as standardization for data collection and analysis of composite processes. BTG Labs maintains a strong connection with CMH-17 by presenting at working group meetings and contributing to content.

    This year, BTG Labs’ Chief Scientist Dr. Giles Dillingham and Research and Development Engineer Tim Barry will attend the March meeting to collaborate and present.

    Dr. Dillingham and Barry will present BTG Labs’ work to a joint meeting of ASTM committees D30 and D14.80.01 on adhesives and composites. This presentation intends to create a new standard based on BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst™, a handheld instrument which measures water contact angle in 2 seconds to ensure bonding. The proposed standard especially focuses on the instrument’s unique abilities to deposit water drops via patented Ballistic Deposition technology and image drops from above to determine the contact angle.

    …Read More

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  •  

    Flame treatment is a surface treatment process used to chemically modify a surface for better adhesion. This process is typically used on low energy surfaces that can be difficult to adhere to, such as plastics and composites. The treatment is also very gentle, posing low risk to the material. Flame treatment uses a carefully controlled blend of natural gas and air to create a hot, oxygen rich plasma. First, the heat removes contaminants. Then, after contaminant removal, the oxygen rich plasma activates the surface by partial oxidation. The result is a clean, high energy surface that is an excellent state for printing, painting, coating, or bonding.

    Flame treatment is used in a wide array of industries including film and flexible packaging, consumer goods, automotive, textile, medical device, and even aerospace. Flame treatment may be used on a web or a smaller, specific part. It is especially useful for its uniform treatment and ability to treat diverse materials from cardboard to composites.

    A major application for flame treatment is in the treatment of TPO (thermoplastic olefin) automotive parts such as bumper fascia and interior components. Another large application is in the treatment of appliance components and golf balls prior to coating and printing. It is also used extensively on film prior to printing and laminating.

    …Read More

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  • Water break is a common test for surface cleanliness. It allows the user to test for the presence of hydrophobic contaminants, which can be detrimental to adhesion. It is usually considered non-destructive to the part because it uses only water.

    To perform a water break test in accordance with the ASTM-F22 Handbook, the material is dipped in water and withdrawn vertically. The behavior of that water on the surface reveals the surface energy which is determined by the cleanliness level. If the surface is clean it will show high surface energy and the water will spread out due to its attraction to the surface. This strongly correlates to adhesion ability. Water break is mostly used on metals to expose the presence of contaminants or after surface processes such as etching, anodizing, painting, priming, coating, grit-blasting, or sanding. However, these tests can be messy and sometimes can result in unintended contaminating due to impure water. The user must also allot a significant amount of time for the part to dry after the test. These tests require a trained user who can determine a “go” or “no go” result. This leads to subjectivity. Lastly, the test can lack sensitivity as a surface can visually appear clean, when it’s not.

    In contrast, the Surface Analyst™  is sensitive to the top 2-3 molecular layers of a surface. By using a single drop of highly purified water, there is virtually no mess and no threat to the measurement surface. Furthermore, it’s a small, handheld, user friendly instrument, that has the ability to measure on almost any surface or surface orientation, regardless of shape or roughness. The automatic calculation of contact angle removes operator subjectivity. The Surface Analyst measures on a cleanliness scale as opposed to a binary go/no go result. So measurements taken with the Surface Analyst can more closely map out a surface’s characteristics.

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  • Surface Analyst Inspecting Film

    Film and Flexible Packaging Applications

    Adhering on film and flexible packaging—whether it’s coating, lamination, metallization, print—can be challenging as the materials generally have very low surface energy, which is difficult to adhere to. So, manufacturers recognize the importance of monitoring and verifying surface treatment. Thus, ensuring a proper in-place surface preparation process and verifying this process is crucial for successful adhesion when working with film and flexible packaging.

    BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst™ is a fast, easy, and accurate surface energy measurement device. Unlike dyne— the most common surface treatment verification method–it is objective, quantifiable, non-destructive to the material being tested and safe for the user. This handheld device allows users to take measurements in under 2 seconds directly on the factory floor. This reduces waste and ensures a successful product and a satisfied customer.

    Typical Surface Analyst Applications in Film and Flexible Packaging Manufacturing

    • Define optimum flame or corona treatment level
    • Verify and monitor flame and corona treatment level
    • Troubleshoot printing and sealing problems
    • Analyze potential migration of low molecular weight components of polymers in packaging
    • Identify and monitor decay of treatment level due to extended storage or storage under non-ideal conditions
    • Verify surface readiness to print on PET and polyethylene bottle packaging
    • Monitor printing film on flexible packaging
    • Flag environmental contaminants in production/on rollers or transfer areas

    …Read More

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