Category Archives: Process Development
Parts washers play an integral role in manufacturing, especially on machined parts and bonding surfaces. Prior to coating, sealing, painting, and welding, parts washers help remove contaminants generated from fabrication to facilitate stronger bonds.
But, for a reliable bond to form, the surface must not only be free of particles, it must also be chemically clean. Thus, quantifying and analyzing parts washer effectiveness in removing chemicals is the key to ensuring the desired surface is achieved.
The importance of monitoring cleaning processes in preparation for bonding is becoming increasingly necessary as sealing processes are rapidly replacing traditional mechanical fasteners and gaskets.
However, when sealing, the surface must be clean and clear of contaminants to guarantee the bond. The Surface Analyst monitors and optimizes washer systems to ensure the part comes out chemically clean and ready to hold a reliable bond. …Read More
BTG Lab’s recently held another successful webinar. Hosted by Products Finishing and presented by Dr. Giles Dillingham, the webinar emphasized the importance of monitoring cleaning processes and explored different ways to measure surface cleanliness.
In the webinar, Dr. Dillingham discusses measuring surface cleanliness as a way to quantify cleaning processes. By measuring the success of cleaning processes, manufacturers can determine the ideal solution for their application.
Precisely evaluating cleaning processes with water contact angle is a fast, easy, accurate, quantitative to way to gain ensure consistency and precision on the factory floor.
We’re talking about invisible surface chemistry, of course.
“Usually, the customer knows there’s something wrong with the surface, but they don’t know what,” says M&P Engineer and R&D Chemist Brooke Campbell. She and Elizabeth Kidd, our R&D Chemist and custom application scientist combine their analytical expertise with the instruments in our highly sophisticated lab; they evaluate, characterize, and optimize critical surface processes for industries from consumer goods, medical device, aerospace, and everything in between.
Using highly advanced instruments such as the XPS (X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy), FTIR (Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy), Instron, goniometer, and of course, the Surface Analyst, the lab performed various tests to evaluate the surface. They then characterize the issue. This usually entails identifying a contamination or an issue with surface preparation. Lastly, they deduce an answer.
In some instances, Brooke explains, the customer has implemented an instrument in their manufacturing processes. All is well until they come across a batch that is out of spec. They know there isn’t a problem with the instrument, but that’s it. So, their puzzle makes its way to the M&P lab for investigation. …Read More
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
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
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.
A Frequently Asked Question BTG Labs Decided to Answer
When measuring and quantifying surface energy, a common question arises: “Does roughness impact contact angle measurements obtained by the Surface Analyst?” While there exists some studies and speculations, this was still a grey area. So, BTG Labs decided to take matters into their own hands. The Materials & Process Specialists at BTG Labs constructed a research project to study the effect–or lack thereof–of roughness on contact angle measurements.
BTG Lab’s Scientists used a Surface Finish Comparator. This nickel plate containing 21 panels of varying roughness and texture is representative of surfaces typically encountered in manufacturing processes. The Surface Analyst showed no correlation of contact angle with roughness. …Read More
An Exceptional and Versatile Surface Treatment
Among the various methods of surface treatment processes, plasma treatment stands as a highly respected method. Plasma treatment is a surface treatment process performed prior to bonding. This method increases surface energy, activating the surface to better bond, paint, print, seal, or coat. Plasma removes contaminants, cleans to a microscopic level, and can even coat a surface. A unique advantage of plasma treatment is its versatility. It can be used on a highly diverse range of materials including plastic, metals, glass, cardboard, textiles, composites, electronic devices, and even rubber.
The history of BTG Labs is rooted in adhesion research. Originally a development lab, BTG Labs specialized in plasma polymerized coatings. The engineers worked with coatings containing corrosion resistant and anti-microbial properties. BTG Labs worked to improve adhesives and surface treatment processes. This brought about the Surface Analyst and today, BTG Labs still utilizes its twenty plus years of Materials Science expertise to assist manufacturers in understanding how the Surface Analyst fits into their production process and how their surfaces affect the overall manufacturing processes.
As an innovative and investigative materials science company, BTG Labs boasts a highly sophisticated lab with several analytical instruments. BTG Labs not only produces the ideal surface measurement device, but it can help develop surface preparation processes, trouble shoot existing surface sensitive processes, and diagnose surface chemistries.
Knowing Your Surface
Surface chemistry directly relates to surface energy and can predict a surface’s ability to maintain a bond. Thus, when developing or remodeling surface processes, knowing the chemistry of one’s surface is a good starting point. Our X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer (XPS) uses X-Rays in an ultra-high vacuum system to provide elemental information of specific surface chemistry. Sensitive to the top two molecular layers of a surface, the XPS reveals to the customer exactly what is on the surface of their product.
The Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), another powerful technique utilized for surface analysis, uses infrared light to detect the presence of functional groups on the surface of your material. It is also capable of coating characterization (i.e. liquid films, contaminant residue, coupling agents etc.). With specular reflectance, attenuated total reflectance (ATR), transmission, and diffuse reflectance accessories, BTG Labs is equipped to analyze a vast array of materials and surfaces.
Elemental Threats to Circuit Boards
Today, the range of when and where we use electronics broadens constantly. Consequently, electronics encounter threats such as water, extreme temperatures, shock, and contaminants. A circuit board, the core of any electronic, makes it highly sensitive to these threats that cause damage and failure. Manufacturers protect the board’s components with conformal coating. Conformal coating, implemented in the manufacturing of circuit boards, provides protection against threatening contaminants, moisture, and even extreme temperatures. Conformal coating comes as either a specialized coating or a polymer film that conforms to the topography of a circuit board, thus forming a protective shield.
When coating anything, the surface must show a level of surface cleanliness for the coating to bond successfully. Furthermore, circuit boards in particular, require highly cleaned surfaces, because of their sensitivity to contaminants. So, managing surfaces in circuit board manufacturing is doubly important. The surface must be clean for the sake of the circuit board and for the success of the coating. …Read More