Category Archives: Materials Science

  • Print Isn’t Dead

    by Emily Walsh August 2017

    Contrary to popular belief, print isn’t dead: at least not printed packaging, an industry growing to a worth of $8 billion of the $20 billion global print market.

    The printed packaging market is booming. As with any growing industry, manufacturers must work vigorously to produce the best product and continue developing better ones.

    Some of the newer developments include smarter surface processes. Que BTG Labs. When it comes to surface processes, we’re in our element. As experts in materials science, we have the ability to optimize critical surface processes for manufacturers—including printed packaging.

    Any printing involves critical surface processes including supplier quality check, surface treatment, verification, shelf life, and trouble shooting.

    The Surface Analyst improves these areas of printed packaging. This surface cleanliness gauge determines the quality of incoming product; sets or optimizes specifications; verifies surface treatments such as corona and flame; determines the shelf life of the material after treatment; and trouble shoots printing issues.

    …Read More

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  • Nestled in the tall pines of the Jemez Mountains lies the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This center of scientific excellence, brings together some of the top minds in the world to maintain the country’s nuclear arsenal.

    This maintenance requires precise attention to detail and includes upkeep and repairs.

    Dr. Dillingham presented to the lab last week on how those repairs can be improved and ways to establish the strongest possible bond.

    His presentation, “Understanding and Controlling the Bond Surface in Manufacturing for Reliable Adhesive Bonding” delved into surface characteristics, the importance of controlling the bond surface, and characteristics of the surface that can be manipulated to form stronger bonds. …Read More

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  • Teflon is a household name that commonly invokes images of eggs sizzling on a skillet, spatulas flipping pancakes, or rice steaming in a pan.

    But, there is much more to this magical non-stick coating.

    Teflon, a brand name for PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), prohibits food from sticking to pots and pans because of its hydrophobic properties.

    As a low-energy, fluorocarbon solid neither water nor water containing substances can influence the surface. This means that nothing will stick to the surface or penetrate it.

    Today, Teflon has improved culinary pursuits and made cooking more accessible, but that isn’t the only field PTFE has influenced.

    The medical device industry would not be what it is today without PTFE. As medical devices work intimately with the human body, they must be completely sanitary, inert, and harmless.

    With its lubriciousness and impenetrable properties, PTFE is used to coat a variety of medical devices such as catheters, surgical equipment, balloons, bladders, and implants.

    But, PTFE only works when the coating itself sticks to the surface. This requires proper surface preparation which can be challenging in any manufacturing floor. It’s especially difficult in medical device manufacturing as specifications are so high and there is no room for failure.    …Read More

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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

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  • Every year for Memorial Day weekend, my family would pack up the station wagon and head to the lake. The weekend would be filled with red, white and blue, firing grills, festive picnic tables, and bathing suits. My mother would chide me to apply sunscreen before doing anything. And time after time, I would jump in the pool first. The sun screen could wait. I had been pining all winter for the water and some smelly, greasy paste wasn’t going to stop me.

    And then I would fry.

    I’ve since learned to appreciate the importance of sunscreen, but perhaps that is because it is much better than when I was younger. It’s less greasy and smelly, can withstand sweat and water, and better absorbs into the skin—thankfully preventing that touristy semblance.

    Skin care manufacturers work constantly to improve their brand. With a product that works so intimately with the human body and at times for important applications such as UV protection, failures are not acceptable. Yet, developing skin care products comes with challenges. Testing on artificial skin falls short of the real thing as skin types vary greatly. However, in-vivo testing is nearly impossible. …Read More

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  • 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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