Henniker Plasma appoint a new exclusive distributor in China

Henniker Plasma appoint a new exclusive distributor

Henniker Plasma are delighted to announce that they have appointed a new exclusive distributor in China. Delegates from Beijing Ailan Technology visited Henniker’s UK headquarters in December and received product and commercial training over several days. They bring many years experience in the wider field of plasma diagnostics & analysis and are perfectly positioned to grow Henniker’s business in this important market.

Henniker Plasma director Terry Whitmore & Mike Hou

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Henniker Launch a new range of UK Manufactured plasma treatment systems

Henniker launch their new range of UK manufactured plasma treatment systems

Henniker, a UK based manufacturer of plasma surface treatment equipment and processes, are pleased to announce the launch of its new range of bench-top systems for ultra-fine cleaning and adhesion improvement.

The HPT-Series are microprocessor controlled units which generate cold gas plasma in a sealed vessel under reduced pressure. On metals, glass and ceramics, the cold plasma is extremely efficient at removing trace organic contamination from the surface of parts where critical bonding must be achieved. In the case of polymeric materials, the surface is rendered highly active to bonding agents, without affecting the bulk material properties in any way, producing a permanent bond in applications such as printing, painting and gluing.

THE HENNIKER PLASMA RANGE

Henniker's New Range of UK Manufactured Plasma Treatment Equipment

Available in single or dual gas inlet versions and with on-board gas mixing manifold, the HPT-Series can accommodate single parts or multiple items where high throughput, volume production is required. The plasma treatment is a completely conformal process and treats complex 3D parts as well as simpler, flatter profile parts.

An optional vapour delivery inlet extends the use to liquid precursors and a corrosion resistant version expands the choice even further to address specific treatments of a wide range of engineering polymers including ABS, PEEK, PA6, PDMS and fluoropolymers such as PTFE. A typical sub-3 minute process cycle for example will produce an increase in the surface energy of PEEK from 30-35mN/m to greater than 72mN/m.

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Henniker Plasma HPT Series

Henniker are pleased to announce the launch of its new range of bench-top plasma surface treatment systems for ultra-fine cleaning and adhesion improvement. - Henniker Plasma HPT Series

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What is Plasma Treatment?

How does plasma treatment work and what can it do for you?

 Henniker Plasma Informational Poster

Henniker Plasma invite you to request one of our fantastic posters free of charge and an excellent guide to plasma treatment. We will be sending these to our valued customer base but if you would like to receive your free guide, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via our contact page to request your copy.

Henniker Plasma's 'What is plasma treatment?' Poster

What is PLASMA TREATMENT and HOW DOES IT WORK?

0.0  States of matter

Solid, liquid and gas are the three states of matter we are all familiar with. We can move between the states by adding or removing energy (e.g. heating/cooling). If we continue to add enough energy, gas molecules will become ionised (lose one or more electrons) and so carry a net positive charge. If enough molecules are ionised to effect the overall electrical characteristics of the gas the result is called a plasma. Plasmas are therefore, quite rightly, often referred to as the fourth state of matter. A plasma contains positive ions, electrons, neutral gas atoms or molecules, UV light and also excited gas atoms and molecules, which can carry a large amount of internal energy (plasmas glow because light is emitted as these excited neutral particles relax to a lower energy state). All of these species can and do interact with any surface placed in contact with the plasma. By choosing the gas mixture, power, pressure etc. we can quite precisely tune, or specify, the effects of the plasma upon the surface.

 


0.1, 0.2 & 0.3 Steps in the Plasma Treatment Process

Plasma treatments are performed in an evacuated enclosure, or chamber. The air is pumped out and a gas is allowed to flow in at low pressure before energy in the form of electrical power is applied. It’s important to note that these types of plasmas are actually low temperature, meaning that heat sensitive materials can be processed quite readily.

 


 0.4 Surface Cleaning

Plasma cleaning is a proven, effective, economical and environmentally safe method for critical surface preparation. Plasma cleaning with oxygen plasma eliminates natural and technical oils & grease at the nano-scale & reduces contamination up to 6 fold when compared with traditional wet cleaning methods, including solvent cleaning residues themselves. Plasma cleaning produces a pristine surface, ready for bonding or further processing, without any harmful waste material.

 


0.5 Hydrophobic Coatings & Hydrophilic Coatings

In plasma coatings a nano-scale polymer layer is formed over the entire surface area of an object placed in the plasma. The plasma coating process takes just a few minutes. The coating produced is typically less than 1/100th thickness of a human hair, colourless, odourless and doesn’t affect  the look or feel of the material in any way. It is a permanent coating too, being bound to the material surface on an atomic scale. Plasma coatings are one of the most exciting areas of plasma technology, offering enormous potential to enhance a material’s function and value over a wide range of applications. They deliver two main categories of surface property: totally liquid (water & oil) repellent, or totally wettable.

How Plasma Coatings Work

Monomers are introduced with the plasma feed gas. Monomers are small molecules which will, under the correct conditions, bond together to form polymers. Plasmas create the right conditions at the surface of the material for this to happen both quickly and efficiently. Different monomers are used to produce hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces.

 


 0.7 Plasma Surface Activation

Plasma surface activation is effective at altering the surface of a polymer by attaching polar or functional groups to it. Many polymers, in particular polyolefins such as polyethylene and polypropylene, are chemically inert and cannot bond easily to other materials, displaying poor adhesion with inks, paint and glues. The reason for this is the absence of polar and reactive functional groups in their
structure. Plasma surface activation renders many polymers receptive to bonding agents and coatings. Oxygen is usually used as the process gas, however many plasma activations can also be carried out with just air. Parts remain active for a few minutes up to several months, depending on the particular material that has been plasma treated. Polypropylene for example can still be reprocessed several weeks after treatment.

How Plasma Surface Activation Works

UV radiation and active oxygen species from the plasma break up separating agents, silicones and oils from the surface. These are pumped away by the vacuum system. Active oxygen species (radicals) from the plasma bind to active surface sites all over the material, creating a surface that is highly ‘active’ to bonding agents.

 


0.8 Plasma Surface Etching

Plasma surface etching is a type of plasma treatment used to increase the surface area of a material on the microscopic scale. The surface of the component is etched with a reactive process gas. Material from the surface is etched away, converted to the gas phase and removed by the vacuum system. The surface area is greatly increased, raising the surface energy and making the material easily wettable. Plasma surface etching is used before printing, gluing and painting and is particularly useful for processing of e.g. POM & PTFE, which cannot otherwise be printed on or bonded without the use of aggressive chemicals.

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How to Plasma Treat the inner surface of long thin plastic tubes?

Atmospheric Plasma Treatment of long, thin plastic tubes.

Many plastics used for biomedical applications, e.g. Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), have the disadvantage of inherently low surface energy which can make them unsuitable for bonding. In a number of applications it would be advantageous to increase the surface energy not only on the outer surface of a device but on the inner surface, e.g. of long thin tubes. This would promote wetting and improve flow characteristics.

How to Plasma Treat the inner surface of long thin plastic tubes?

This article explores how atmospheric plasmas may have the potential to treat the inner surface of such devices.

Feature Article - Plasma Processes and Polymers Journal Illustration

Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Treatment inside Flexible Polymer Tubing

Cleaning the inner surface of long, thin plastic tubes

Abstract

An atmospheric argon plasma jet has been used to explore the plasma penetration inside tubes of small diameter and the plasma treatment effect on the inner tube surface. The goal of this paper is to show how the tube size can influence the plasma jet penetration and the resulting surface effects on polyethylene tubes with diameters varying between 0.28 mm and 3.00 mm. Optical emission spectroscopy and light emission images have been used to investigate the distribution of active species along the tube length. To examine the plasma treatment effect on the inner tube surface, capillary action, water contact angle measurements and XPS analysis have been used. The results presented in this paper will clearly demonstrate the great potential of atmospheric pressure plasma jets for inner tube surface modification.

Keywords:

  • atmospheric pressure plasma
  • flexible tubes
  • plasma jet
  • plasma penetration
  • surface modification
  • plasma treatment of plastic
  • plastics

Please click here to ACCESS THE COMPLETE article on the Wiley publication site

Onyshchenko, I., De Geyter, N., Nikiforov, A. Y. and Morent, R. (2015), Atmospheric Pressure Plasma Penetration inside Flexible Polymeric Tubes. Plasma Processes Polym., 12: 271–284. doi: 10.1002/ppap.201400190
Author Information: Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Research Unit Plasma Technology, Department of Applied Physics, Ghent University, Ghent 9000, Belgium
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Plasma Treatment to Improve the Surface Properties of Recycled Post-Consumer PVC

Plasma treatment of plastics – Improve the Surface Properties of Recycled PVC

Feature Article - Plasma Processes and Polymers Journal Illustration

Plasma treatment of plastics and in this case PVC (Poly (vinyl chloride) is commonly used to alter the surface energy properties improving adhesion prior to painting, gluing and printing.

This recently published article explores the novel use of plasma treatment to lower the surface energy of recycled post-consumer PVC to create a surface material more comparable to that of virgin PVC.

Recycled PVC is used in the production of medical hospital products, automobile and electronic parts and utensils, toys, window sashes, flooring and coatings, several types of packaging, outdoor furniture, pipes and connections, all requiring fundamental water repellent properties found within PVC.

‘Polymer recycling produces materials whose properties are generally considered inferior to those of virgin material.’

The recycling of the PVC causes the material to produce hydrophilic properties, due to the thermal degradation that occurs when the recycling process takes place. Here the paper discusses how the use of plasma treatment can not only bring the material properties in line with that of the original but are also able to obtain higher contact angles & improved abrasion resistance when compared to the untreated virgin material.

Plasma Treatment to Improve the Surface Properties of Recycled Post-Consumer PVC

Journal screenshot - 'plasma treatment to improve surface properties plastic pvc plastics'

ABSTRACT

Recycled post-consumer and virgin PVC were treated using SF6 radiofrequency plasmas of different powers (30–80 W) and exposure times (2–30 min). The treatment converted the hydrophilic PVC into hydrophobic. It was then determined the effect of the optimized treatment (2 min, 80 W, 120°) on the chemical composition, molecular structure, roughness, electrical resistivity and abrasion resistance. There was replacement of C, Cl and H atoms by F resulting in a structure that can no longer be characterized as PVC and explains the low surface wettability and its temporal stability. Upon the optimized treatment condition, it was possible to obtain recycled PVC with similar roughness and surface electrical resistivity but with higher contact angle and abrasion resistance than the untreated virgin material.

Keywords:

  • hydrophobicity
  • plasma treatment
  • poly(vinyl chloride) (PVC)
  • recycling
  • surfaces

Please click here to find the full article on the Wiley publication site

 Full Paper – Plasma Treatment to Improve the Surface Properties of Recycled Post-Consumer PVC Sabrina Moretto Darbello Prestes1,*, Sandro Donnini Mancini1, Elidiane Cipriano Rangel1, Nilson Cristino da Cruz1, Wido Herwig Schreiner2 and Antonio Rodolfo Junior3
Article first published online: 30 DEC 2014 DOI: 10.1002/ppap.201400086

 

 

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Plasma Polymerised MEMS devices for Blood Analysis

 Case Study  |  thin film layers for fast diagnostics

Company: Microvisk Technologies | Region: UK | Sector: Medical
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Plasma Polymerised MEMS devices for  Blood Analysis

mems tech for microvisk

Functional thin film layers, such as those that can be manufactured using plasma deposition techniques, are central in many microelectronics technologies. Microvisk are developing these techniques in the production of new diagnostic devices for point of care blood clotting test devices, the extremely hydrophilic surface of the sensor ensuring that even when using a tiny drop of blood, the viscosity can be accurately defined.

Microvisk Ltd.,the British life science company, use their two diagnostic devices Coagmax and Coaglite to determine the degree of blood coagulation, an area in which they have pioneered a completely new approach.   Whilst similar handheld devices in the quickly growing industry use optical analysis or chemical reactions, Microvisk devices use a disposable test strip with miniaturized chips based on Micro Electro Mechanical (MEMS) technology to measure blood viscosity.

MEMS

MEMS devices combine solid state electronic and mechanical operating elements manufactured on a nano-scale on a silicon wafer. The key advantages of MEMS structures compared to conventional electro-mechanical systems are their high reliability, small power consumption, reduced dimensions and low cost.

Microvisk uses these advantages to monitor the degree of blood coagulation in their unique, patented handheld MEMS-based systems, by means of the so-called prothrombin test which they have now brought to the market. The devices are currently undergoing clinical testing in Germany and the United States. The device lends itself to simple patient self-testing, with a disposable test strip, the smartstrip.

Experts predict that there is high commercial potential given that there are estimated to be some seven million people in the Western world who take the anticoagulant Warfarin, and within this demographic a large number will be used to using diabetes self-test devices. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that every year one million new patients are added to this list.

Patients requiring regular blood tests often had to have the procedure carried out by a doctor. “Intial self test devices which were released onto the market proved fragile and too complicated to be used at home” says John Curtis, CEO of Microvisk. “They also needed large amounts of blood.”


Blood on the Microlitre Scale

Only a tiny drop of blood is needed when using Microvisk devices, a microlitre scale amount is taken from the fingertip, and viscosity is then determined using a highly flexible micro-cantilever device which is made of silicon. This 3D-structure interacts with the tiny amount of blood used in the test, moving up and down in response to the sweeping and dumping of the medium. This motion generates a tiny electrical signal which can be analysed to give an accurate measure of the blood viscosity. Blood clotting and viscosity changes go hand in hand with the coagulation process and can be identified using a single physical process monitor.

Conditions for reliably measuring results require that the tiny amount of blood sufficiently wets the surface of the micro cantilever. Since this surface normally repels liquid, the challenge facing them was to create a permanently hydrophilic surface. Microvisk considered various solutions and began trials with us following consultations about thin film plasma polymerization.

“With plasma polymerization it is possible to create a thin surface that is permanently hydrophilic without affecting the function of the MEMS”, says Bob Ibbotson, sensor development scientist, “with wet chemical process such thin layers are not possible.”


Our solution

Nanoscale layers

Using our low pressure plasma polymerisation systems, nanoscale, well controlled polymer layers are deposited at the Microvisk production facility in North Wales. Using this procedure, a very low contact angle can be achieved  and these results are stable and visible for long periods after testing.

Hydrophilic surfaces have been produced for many years with plasma technology, but the durability of these layers has usually had a limited lifetime. However, keeping within the appropriate  parameters of the process we succeeded to produce a permanent solution, working hand in hand with the Microvisk team to develop the exact coating process that they required.

Plasma polymerization is a widely used method for the deposition of thin films at low pressure. The coating process can produce both isolated inorganic as well as continuous organic films with very functional characteristics – for example, optically transparent or self catalyzing. The thin, highly networked polymer layers can be generated with a wide range of properties on virtually any substrate.

Coating at fast speeds:

In the coating process, monomers in a vacuum chamber are stimulated using a plasma, which is an ionized gas. The gaseous monomer is deposited onto any substrate that is immersed in the plasma where it forms highly crosslinked polymer layers. Microvisk proces their MEMS sensors in a short cycle process at temperatures below 50 °C. The plasma is formed in a chamber by ‘igniting’ the gas/monomer mixture using a strong electric field between the substrate holder, which serves as an electrode, and an additional counter electrode. Polymerized reactive particles are created on the    silicon surface by the electrical discharge. The molecules of the original material must have double bonds, triple bonds or ring structures and therefore chain forming atoms such as carbon, silicon and sulphur are favoured.

“The coating process is effective and reliable. It guarantees high coating rates at relatively low operating costs to us”, says Microvisk CEO Curtis. “This reflects and assists our philosophy to bring a diagnostic tool to the mass market. In addition to the use of MEMS, the plasma surface treatment is a fundamental building block.”

Ecological aspects were an additional reason for Microsvisk’s decision in favour ofplasma polymerization. Due to increasing environmental requirements, many conventional wet-chemical coatings must be replaced with “cleaner” processes with a lower environmental impact.

This example shows that new application areas for microsystems technology can be developed through new layer technologies via close co-operation with our clients. In modern materials research and development the functionality of a surface is becoming a critical area in which organisations can add significant technological and value added benefits.

“The coating process is effective and reliable. It guarantees high coating rates at relatively low operating costs to us”
John Curtis, CEO of Microvisk.

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Hydrogen Plasma Cleaning to remove contamination

Case Study  |  World Leaders in Measurement and Accuracy

Company: National Physical Laboratory | Region: UK | Sector: Laboratory Research & Development
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Hydrogen Plasma Cleaning to remove contamination

NPL Building

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), is the UK’s National Measurement Institute and is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate measurement standards, science and technology available. For more than a century NPL has developed and maintained the nation’s primary measurement standards. These standards underpin the National Measurement System infrastructure of traceability throughout the UK and the world that ensures accuracy and consistency of measurement.
NPL ensures that cutting edge measurement science and technology have a positive impact in the real world. NPL delivers world-leading measurement solutions that are critical to commercial research and development, and support business success across the UK and the globe.
Henniker’s Plasma Treatment equipment is being evaluated so it can be used in keeping the accuracy of the UK’s measurement standards.

Alternative Solution

The SI unit of mass is the kilogram and is defined as being equal in mass to the international prototype of the kilogram (IPK). The IPK and other primary kilogram mass standards kept at National  Measurement Institutes such as NPL consist of a cylinder of platinum-iridium alloy with diameter and height roughly 39 mm. These require periodic cleaning to remove surface hydrocarbon  contamination that deposits from the ambient environment. The current cleaning method relies on a solvent clenaing step followed by rinsing in a jet of steam. As it is a manual process the repeatability of the cleaning is dependent on the human operator and there is risk of damaging the standard by removing particles of platinum-iridium from the surface.
The Swiss National Measurement Institute pioneered the use of plasma cleaning for mass standards [1] Henniker were approached to help NPL set up a plasma cleaning facililty as their equipment had been recommended by colleagues at the Swiss NMI.

Non-contact cleaning methods

The aim was to find an alternative non-contact method of cleaning primary mass standards that does not involve a manual abrasive process. Plasma Cleaning was identified as a potential cleaning method as it does not require physical contact to be made to the surface being cleaned. The approach taken was to incorporate a hydrogen plasma cleaning facility within an existing bespoke vacuum chamber.This vacuum chamber is connected to another vacuum chamber containing a precision mass balance and the advantage of this approach is that mass standards can be cleaned and weighed in vacuum without exposing them to ambient air where they would be at risk of potential exposure to airborne hydrocarbon contamination.

Our Solution
NPL Plasma Equipment
Henniker supplied the primary plasma generation method for the NPL bespoke vacuum cleaning apparatus. The 40kHz pulsed width modulated generator worked perfectly and successfully generated and sustained a hydrogen plasma at a pressure of 0.7 mbar. Initial results from hydrogen plasma cleaning stainless steel standard masses demonstrated the effectiveness of this cleaning method.
In one cleaning trial approximately 60μg of contamination that had built up on the surface of a precision mass standard over a period of ten years was successfully removed using hydrogen plasma cleaning.
NPL now plans to perform additional trials on platinum-iridium test samples. If these trials prove successful then the cleaning method can be tested on primary platinum-iridium kilogram mass standards.
 [1] P.Fuchs Applied Surface Science 256 (2009) 1382-1390
“Henniker were approached to help provide an alternative cleaning method as their equipment had been recommended by colleagues at the Swiss National Measurement Institute”
James Berry, of NPL.

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Henniker Plasma – On the Surface of Polymers

On the Surface of Polymers - Henniker Plasma, a UK based supplier of plasma surface treatment equipment and processes, document the advantages of plasma treatment to improve adhesion on a wide range of engineering polymers.

Download the press release

Plasma treatment of polymers

Henniker have a fantastic editorial in this month’s Medical Plastic News magazine print edition. The editorial features information on plasma treatment of polymers widely used in medical device manufacture but equally applicable to a wide range of other technical challenges.

Plasma Treatment of Polymers Article Screenshots

Look out for the digital version available online soon at www.medicalplasticsnews.com, or download the free app to read this months issue for free here MPN app, or read our full article on the plasma treatment of polymers below:

plasma treatment of polymers: peek and ptfe

 

Engineering polymers, such as PEEK, POM, polyamides and PTFE have witnessed a remarkable growth in their use in recent years in medical product manufacturing, such as catheters, micro-catheters, nasogastric feeding tubes and endotracheal tubes to name but a few. They are typically chosen for unique properties which include resistance to chemicals, high strength to weight ratio and of course relatively low cost. However, there are fundamental differences between polymers and other engineering materials which create unique technical challenges in a production environment.

One important property is the characteristic low surface energy of polymers (see Table 1) and the resulting intrinsically poor adhesion characteristics. This is an important obstacle in achieving reliable glue joints and PAD printing steps, where various types of markings must be permanent. Various methods of improving adhesion are available but often don’t lend themselves to production settings and frequently involve the use of harsh and environmentally unfriendly chemicals to physically attack and etch the surface of the material. Plasma treatment of polymers offers a reliable and environmentally friendly alternative surface preparation for a wide range of materials.

Plasma treatments can be a vacuum types (batch) or atmospheric types (in-line) and contain reactive gas species which, by careful choice of gas type and process parameters, can be used to increase the surface energy of a wide range of engineering polymers, and in doing so significantly improve wetting characteristics and therefore adhesion characteristics.

In-line atmospheric plasma treatment has been successfully demonstrated to increase the surface energy of PEEK from 35mN/m to >72mN/m, ensuring permanent PAD print adhesion. The treatment is active on PEEK for several weeks and so parts can be stored until needed.

Syringe which has been plasma treated to improve ink adhesion

For PTFE catheters, air is ineffective due to the strength of the C-F bond. Batch processes are preferred which allow different plasma gases to be used and which are more effective in fluorine extraction from the surface. This process also increases the effective surface area which in turn improves ink adhesion as shown in the SEM images below for untreated and plasma-treated PTFE. The surface energy of PTFE is raised from 18mN/m to >72mN/m in this case also.

plasma treatment of polymers untreated sample   plasma treatment of polymers plasma treated sample

     Untreated PTFE surface                Plasma treated PTFE surface

 

Table 1: Typical surface energies of different materials

Surface energy of polymers before plasma treatment

Does plasma treatment improve the adhesion of engineering polymers?

Yes, both batch and in-line plasma treatments offer a reliable and repeatable surface preparation method for improving adhesion to a wide range of engineering polymers used in medical device manufacture. Applications include gluing and PAD printing of catheter tubes for example.

Contact us for more information on the plasma treatment of polymers


Read our case study on how we provided a complete solution for our customers involved in PEEK device manufacturing. Or read our technology page on improving adhesion using plasma activation prior to printing/painting.

 

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