Category Archives: Surface Tips & Tricks

  • 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

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  • Spring Cleaning: BTG Labs Style

    by Emily Walsh March 2017

    It’s the first day of spring. Depending on where you live, this could mean opening the windows, planting seeds, rolling out the motorcycle, and waiting for Opening Day. Here at BTG Labs, we think of spring cleaning. Of course, this usually generates visions of humming vacuums and sloppy mops, but, we see whooshing parts washers and smooth solvent wipes. Why? Well, because our instrument, the Surface Analyst is a significant player in the cleaning game.

    The Surface Analyst is the keystone to verifying, troubleshooting, monitoring, and even choosing a cleaning process.

    A cleaning method is only as useful as it’s verification process. In under two seconds, the Surface Analyst measures water contact angle to determine surface cleanliness. The instrument can be programmed to produce a pass/fail result based on the manufacturer’s specifications. This is an easy, objective method that immediately assures the technician of the surface cleaning process.

    Furthermore the Surface Analyst can be used to choose the most efficient cleaning method and optimize existing cleaning methods. Sometimes a particular solvent is more effective than another or the water in a parts washer becomes dirty. The Surface Analyst helps detect these elements to ensure the process is running flawlessly.

    Lastly, the Surface Analyst helps manufacturers choose the best cleaning method for their manufacturing process. In most scenarios, the only way to test a cleaning process is in the field or the laboratory. This is time consuming and causes failures and waste. The Surface Analyst, on the other hand, tells the user right on the factory floor, whether or not the part has been properly cleaned to bond, print, seal, coat, or paint without out wasting time or material. …Read More

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  • Smarter Surface Processes

    For over a decade, manufacturers and suppliers have spoken the language of dyne when dealing with surface preparation and treatment verification. Because the process of dyne analysis requires users to interpret the way the ink spreads on a surface, it is highly subjective, making the language of dyne precarious. Even so, what could read as a 42 to one user, could mean a 45 or even a 39 to another user. The varying measurement from one user to another is problematic for data collection and analysis. And, training a user is often very time consuming. Another threat to dyne’s accuracy is the fact that when a dyne pen is applied to a surface, the pen tip itself absorbs any contaminants on the test surface and spreads it to other surfaces, thus rendering the ink even more inaccurate over time.

    The Language of the Surface Analyst

    Conversely, the Surface Analyst is non-subjective and produces a quantifiable measurement in the form of a water contact angle. Unlike dyne, the Surface Analyst is fast, easy, accurate, and non-destructive using only highly purified water to take measurements. Therefore, the Surface Analyst can take measurements on almost any surface.

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  • Progress in the Reliability of Bonded Composite Structures

     

    Improving Composite Bonds in Aircraft

     

    The Surface Analyst™ technology has many of its roots in the CAI (Composites Affordability Initiative) program from the mid to late 1990’s.  This industry/government partnership comprised of a team charged with addressing the perceived risks and barriers to a more widespread use of composite materials in aircraft design. The collaboration included members from the Air Force Materials Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research, Bell Helicopter Textron, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and Northrop Grumman Corporation.

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  • Common Surface Energy Tests: Dyne Inks

    by Emily Walsh September 2016

    Conventional Surface Energy Measuring

     

    For years, manufactures have implemented a conventional method of testing surface energy using a polyethylene solution called dyne inks. Dyne, when applied to a surface, can reveal the surface’s potential adhesion ability.

    Dyne Pen

    Dyne inks operate under the principle of surface energy or wetting, a phenomenon that correlates to the potential adhesive ability of a surface. When a substance comes in contact with a new material, the substance can show information on the surface energy of the material. The dyne will react depending on the surface energy.

    When applying dyne, it will either bead up or spread out.  If the material contains a higher surface energy than the dyne, it spreads out in attraction to the higher energy. If the material contains a lower energy level than the dyne, the ink retracts back into itself. The examiner must watch for characteristics of beading up or spreading out. If the ink beads up, that indicates a lower surface energy on the material than the ink. If the ink spreads out in a continuous film, the material has a higher surface energy than the ink. There are different dyne concentrations that can help discern the level of surface cleanliness.

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  • 5 Primary Uses of the Surface Analyst

    by Emily Walsh August 2016

    The Importance of Surface Cleanliness

     

    BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst™ is a fast, easy, accurate, nondestructive, handheld device. It uses contact angle to measure the cleanliness level of a surface. Understanding and defining surface cleanliness within manufacturing is necessary. How a manufacturer qualifies a properly prepared surface can differ depending on the surface preparation process and requirements. Measuring and monitoring surfaces applies to many different steps within the manufacturing procedure. Consequently, the Surface Analyst applies to situations like: data collection, process development, supplier verification, identifying present and potential issues, and anticipating possible contaminants.

     

    Inspecting dish washer with surface analyst

    Surface Analyst taking measurement.

    Surface Preparation and So Much More

     

    BTG Labs breaks down the 5 Primary Uses of the Surface Analyst. This demonstrates the multifaceted ways in which the Surface Analyst can refine surface preparation processes to reinforce reliable, consistent, and strong adhesive processes.

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  • Webinar: Measuring Surface Energy in Manufacturing and Repair of Composites to Assure Quality of Bonded Interfaces

     

    Webinar: Measuring Surface Energy in Manufacturing and Repair of Composites to Assure Quality of Bonded Interfaces

     

    Thu, Jun 9, 2016 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT

     

    OVERVIEW

    This interactive tutorial provides a comprehensive look at common industry practices, including typical surface preparation methods for composites and an overview of the basic scientific principles involved in measuring surface energy and how it relates to material performance in manufacturing and repair. This presentation will focus on universal methods and techniques used to measure and achieve durable and consistent surface preparation in manufacturing across all industries. Ensuring surface condition and consistency is a vital component for guaranteeing success in sealing, coating, bonding, painting, printing or cleaning.

     

    PRIMARY TOPICS

    • Common surface preparation methods and techniques for composite substrates.
    • What is surface energy and why is it important to maintain and understand it in manufacturing.
    • How to measure surface energy in a manufacturing or repair environment.
    • Using surface energy measurements to modify surface energy, determine process optimization, and perform quality assurance.

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  • Grit-Blasting and Surface Energy

    Unraveling Grit-Blasting Effects

     

    This paper is part of an ongoing collaboration between Dr. Giles Dillingham, BTG Lab’s chief scientist, and other members of the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Chemical and Material Engineering, Boeing, and the Materials Directorate of the Wright Patterson Air Force Base to study the effects of grit-blasting on graphite/epoxy composites.

    Grit-blasting, a commonly used surface preparation process  frequently applies to polymer composites. However, very little experiments and observations exist concerning the effects of grit-blasting on the surface properties of composites. …Read More

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  • White Paper: A New Approach for the Evaluation of the Effects of Contaminants on Surface Sensitive Processes

    White Paper: A New Approach for the Evaluation of the Effects of Contaminants on Surface Sensitive Processes

    BTG Lab’s Collaborations

     

    This paper, written as part of an ongoing collaboration between BTG, Southwest Research Institute, and Lockheed Martin Skunkworks. Funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the collaborators examine and develop techniques for engineering a certifiable bonded method for aircraft manufacturing. The use of composites is increasingly employed in aircraft manufacturing to replace titanum and aluminum. However, composites weaken by the use of fasteners such as bolts and rivets. This is where the implementation of adhesives comes in. The understanding of surfaces requires knowledge on how an adhesive will stick to the surface and the presence of contaminants.

     

    A New Approach

     

    Studying the effects and habits of contaminants can be an essential step in any bonding or adhesion process as a contaminant can significantly influence the success of an adhesive or bond. All surfaces contaminate upon exposure, making them inevitable to any process. Thus, understanding the relationship between a contaminant structure and the effect it has on a bond will help develop more productive monitoring procedures for preparation processes, stronger adhesives and coating formulations, and more reliable construction.

    The current method to evaluate the effect of contaminants on a surface entails examining a complex cocktail of them. However, not all contaminants in the blend might exist in a given manufacturing environment. The cocktail method fails to inform us of the effects an individual contaminant will have on a surface.

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  • conPolymers are some of the most common base materials used in automotive parts. Polypropelenes, Polyolefins, and ABS plastics are used in dashboards, door panels, bumper fascias, liftgates, sensors, and increasingly exterior doors and fenders. A polymer is a low surface energy material that typically needs some form of surface processing prior to bonding an assembly, encapsulating a sensor, painting an interior control knob or an exterior bumper fascia. These materials also tend to show high contamination with mold releases that can be tough to remove and will essentially guarantee unsuccessful adhesion or coating.

    There are a variety of surface processing methods used in the industry to help remove contamination and increase the surface energy of these polymer materials. These processes include flame treatment, plasma treatment, corona treatment, and solvent wiping. Another option is to utilize specialty paints and adhesives that tolerate lower energy substrates. There are pitfalls, however, to implementing any of these methods that manufacturers need to be aware of. Understanding the nature of these surface-critical systems is the only way to guarantee success in the final result. Control of the inputs means predictability and control of the output.

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