Plasma Etching

Plasma etching is used to ‘roughen’ a surface, on the microscopic scale. The surface of the component is usually etched with a reactive process gas which gives both a chemical and physical effect on the surface.

The chemical etching effect is provided by the reactive gas species in the plasma, which readily react and combine with the surface molecules, removing them into the gas phase where they are pumped away via the vacuum system. The physical effect is caused by high energy ions from the plasma which bombard the surface and physically sputter, or knock, surface atoms off, again removing them to the gas phase.

The surface area is greatly increased, increasing the surface energy and making the material easily wettable. Etching is used before printing, gluing and painting and is particularly useful for processing of e.g. POM and PTFE, which cannot otherwise be printed on or bonded.

Reactive Ion Etching

Reactive ion etching delivers a highly directional flux of energetic, reactive ions to the material surface. In doing so, a precisely controlled patterning of the substrate occurs as unmasked sample is etched away by the reactive ions. Each of our plasma systems can optionally be fitted with a reactive ion etch electrode making them a perfect, low cost laboratory development tool in applications such as semiconductor or organic electronics research.

Plasma etching is suitable for:

  • PTFE compounds
  • structuring silicon
  • photoresist ashing

Plasma Etching Effects

An illustration of a surface prior to plasma treatment with it's etching maskAn illustration of a surface during plasma treatment whilst the etching process is in progressAn illustration of a newly structured surface after plasma treatment