Category Archives: Renewable Energy

  • 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.

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  • Challenges often arise when verifying critical surface processes on the factory floor when measuring hard to reach areas and varying angles. The Surface Analyst conquers those challenges with the unique ability to measure on vertical surfaces, which include assembled parts and hard to reach spots. This allows for easier surface analysis on the factory floor.

    This ability is possible because of patented Ballistic Deposition which deposits a pulsed stream of micro droplets with enough kinetic energy to overcome surface roughness and textures.

    A few examples of the Surface Analyst’s ability to measure on vertical surfaces on the factory floor:

    • Airplane wings prior to bonding, painting, and repair
    • Canopy of jet fighters after cleaning
    • Wind turbine blades prior to bonded repair
    • Silkscreen bottles post flame treatment
    • Ship hulls prior to painting and bonding
    • Interior of automobile headlights prior to application of anti-fog coating
    • Windshield bond lines prior to sealing
    • Class A paint surface for decals applications and reapplications
    • Measuring appliances after metal cleaning and prior to power coating

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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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  • Plastics manufacturers are all too familiar with the challenges of bonding thermoplastics. Last week, BTG Labs successfully hosted a webinar with Plastics Technology to discuss improving bonding of thermoplastics. The webinar, entitled “Understanding Surface Energy: How to Measure and Control the Surface Properties of Thermoplastics to Maximize Adhesion,” brought in almost 400 registrants.

    Presented byBTG Labs’ Chief Scientist Dr. Giles Dillingham who discussed the surface characteristics of thermoplastics. Dr. Dillingham also explored surface treatment processes such as flame, corona, and plasma, and ways to monitor and verify those processes. The ability to understand and measure the surface precisely is the key to successfully bonding thermoplastics.

    This table shows the relationship between low surface energy and relative interfacial toughness. While thermoplastics are highly durable, they cause difficulties in bonding because of their low surface energy.

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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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  • 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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  • 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

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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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  • Convex eyeglass lens inspection

    Broadening the Abilities of the Surface Analyst

    The Surface Analyst™ has the unique ability to measure on almost any surface: vertical, horizontal, smooth, rough, mirrored and in an easy, accurate, fast, and non-destructive way. However, until now, measuring on concave and convex surfaces presented an obstacle. Now BTG Labs’ Surface Analyst boasts a new specialized head for measuring on concave and convex surfaces.

    Before, the only way to measure on these surfaces was with a benchtop goniometer which can only measure on flat or convex materials. Goniometers measure contact angle from a horizontal view. However, a concave material prevents visual of the horizon line needed to determine the contact angle. The closest one could get to measuring a concave surface was to use a flat coupon of the same material. While this would offer insight to the surface energy of the material, it would not be exact because it would not be the actual concave part, thus allowing for guesswork. …Read More

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