Category Archives: Surface Engineering

  • Of all the challenges manufacturers face, creating and optimizing critical surface processes for various materials can be very difficult. Traits such as location, size, shape, and texture can add to the challenge. The success of any critical surface process requires an in-line, fast, easy, and accurate verification method.

    That’s why more and more manufacturers are turning to the Surface Analyst. Whether it’s bonding, painting, printing, cleaning, coating, or sealing, BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst optimizes critical surface processes and monitors surface treatment on virtually any surface so the product is guaranteed to deliver.

    Surface Analyst drop on a lens

    BTG Labs engineered the Surface Analyst to adapt to any application directly on the factory floor. Patented Ballistic Deposition deposits a stream of micro-droplets on the surface; these micro-droplets contain kinetic energy which allows the drops to overcome various textures and different angles without interfering with measurement accuracy. The drop size can also be adjusted so that measurements can be taken on any sized surface from a giant wind turbine to a minuscule medical catheter.

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  • Tales from the M&P Lab

    by Emily Walsh July 2017

    In the BTG Labs’ Materials and Processing laboratory, magic happens. Or, at least it seems that way. In the BTG Lab our specialists see the unseen. They reveal the invisible.

    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

  • Thanks to advancements in powertrain manufacturing, sealing processes have improved assembly efficiency. Formed-in-place gaskets (FIPG) are replacing traditional mechanical fasteners as they are more cost effective, stronger, and easier to apply. However, adhesive bonding rather than mechanically fastening presents different challenges and requires new protocols.

    Lead Sales Engineer Lucas Dillingham has presented “Defining Cleanliness in Powertrain Manufacturing for FIPG Applications,” at several events and automotive factories. BTG Labs works with numerous automotive manufacturers on surface chemical cleanliness and what it means for assembly.

    Traditional millipore tests reveal particulate contamination, but on a sealing surface, one must detect chemical contamination. To adhere successfully, surface cleanliness on a chemical level is vital.

    A byproduct of automotive manufacturing processes is contaminants that are detrimental to adhesion. Processes entailing unwanted contaminants include:

    • Die-casting
    • Machining
    • Washing
    • Assembly

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  • Home exhibiting Tesla solar roof. Image by Tesla.

    Last month, Elon Musk announced the availability of Tesla’s new solar roof. These solar roofs are made to masquerade as tasteful, modern shingles; their attractive panels offer roofs from sleek modern to French slate. The solar panels are hidden in a pane of glass which contains a hydrographic coloring–a process that uses water to apply printed designs– to provide texture.

    But, these shingles must not only look good, like all solar panels, they must be tough enough to withstand elemental threats.

    Wind, rain, snow, sun, extreme temperatures–these are all stresses to any structure, especially solar panels. Because solar panels serve as an energy source, there is no room for failure in the field. The bonds that keep them together such as bonds between dissimilar materials, bonds on low energy polymers, coatings, laminates, and seals, must withstand the stresses as well. That’s why solar panel manufacturers turn to the Surface Analyst.

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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

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  • Surface Analyst Inspection on Engine Casing

    Manufacturers working with metal are all too familiar with the obstacles that come along with coating, painting, bonding, printing, or sealing it. While the uses of metal in manufacturing are countless and exist in numerous industries, the common denominator is ensuring the appropriate surface cleanliness prior to surface critical processes to guarantee successful adhesion. Common surface cleanliness gauges—dyne inks and water break—are subjective and do not offer quantitative results. Water break can be messy and time consuming and dyne is destructive to the part and dangerous to the user. While these methods can offer some insight into surface cleanliness, they are less than ideal.

    BTG Labs Surface Analyst is a fast, easy, accurate, and non-destructive surface cleanliness gauge that tells the user right on the manufacturing floor how prepared the surface is to bond. This hand-held instrument improves surface processes and guarantees a bond will stick. Numerous manufacturers in industries such as consumer goods, automotive, and aerospace, have implemented the Surface Analyst in their specifications to improve their critical metal surface processes. …Read More

  • 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

  • Surface Analyst inspection points on an automotive oil pan.

    BTG Labs’ Chief Scientist Dr. Giles Dillingham recently presented at the 40th annual meeting of the Adhesion Society. An elected Fellow of the Adhesion Society, Dr. Dillingham has been contributing to this community since 1980.

    Giles’ presentation, “Control of Cleaning Processes to Maximize Sealant Performance,” focuses on quantifying parts washers and sealant processes. The importance of monitoring cleaning processes in preparation for sealing is becoming increasingly important in the automotive industry, as sealant processes such as such as FIPG (formed in-place gaskets) are replacing traditional fasteners. However, when sealing, the surface must be clean and clear of contaminants in order to guarantee the bond.

    As FIPG relies on properly made bonds, contaminants preventing the success of those bonds must be monitored and properly expelled. There is a wide range of assembly liquids that can interfere with the bond of FIPGs–cutting fluids, die lubes, corrosion inhibitors, as well as particulates generated from casting and machining. This paper shows the importance of quantifying parts washers in order to ensure the part is properly prepared to bond. An engine casing was cleaned in two different parts washers. After each wash, Surface Analyst measurements were taken across the engine casing. Figures within the paper show different measurements and the inconsistency throughout the casing from just one parts washer. Some areas showed low contact angle (indicating a successful wash) while others showed high contact angle (indicating an improper wash). …Read More


  • The utilization of composites increases daily in manufacturing as more ways in which to use this advanced material are discovered. Composite is a smart material that provides a lighter weight and stronger product. This advanced material is being used in many different industries, from consumer products like bicycle frames to airplanes. Yet, because the strength is held in the fibrous matrix of the material, composites must be adhesively bonded together as traditional mechanical fasteners can break the fibers and compromise the material’s integrity.

    To guarantee these bonds, BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst™ precisely, accurately, and quantifiably measures the surface’s readiness to bond. BTG Labs’ experience in the field of composites reaches back to the genesis of the Surface Analyst when the USAF turned to the company to engineer a hand-held surface energy measurement device for composite bonding of aircraft. Since then, the Surface Analyst’s composite applications continue to increase and span into many more industries.

    Surface Analyst Applications Examples for Bonding, Coating, Sealing, and Painting Composites

    • Aerospace: satellites, aircraft, and spacecraft
    • Sports and Recreation: sporting equipment
    • Automotive: structural components, drive shafts, interior parts
    • Medical Device: prosthetics, repair equipment, tubing
    • Marine: structural frames and components, fiber glass applications
    • Renewable energy: wind turbines, fuel cells, marine turbines, power transmissions, solar panels
    • Construction: architectural, fiberglass, bridges, infrastructure, housing, refurbishing

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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