The application of plasma treatment is not limited to the laboratories anymore. It has proven to be a basic tool needed for production since its invention. In the past, plasma treatment was used to fabricate microelectronic devices at first and then later opted by the medical, plastics, automotive and textile industries, etc. for various purposes i.e. surface activation, cleaning, etching, coating etc.
Below you see a video of the PlasmaTec-X device. A universal plasma device, that has many different applications, and that can be used in many industries:
In today’s world, plasmas are consistently used for treating plastic surfaces, cleaning syringe needles made out of stainless steel, and treating plastic lenses, performance textiles, balloon catheters for angioplasty, filter media, and golf balls with a diversified range of other products. Plasma treatment is so common that you would have trouble locating a product that’s not been through this process before finishing.
Plasma treatment is also used in:
- Consumer electronics
- Industrial electronics
- Medical and biomedical industries
- Fabrics and textiles
- Hydrophilic coatings
- Automotive and aerospace industries
- Creating an energy source
- Repellant coatings (liquid) and many more fields.
Plasma cleaning is a method whereby a high energy stream is directed towards the surface that needs to be cleaned. The stream oxidizes any organic depositions present on the surface through oxygen plasma. Applying an inert gas plasma or argon plasma can also mechanically scrub away the deposits. Depending on the cleaning requirements, a diversified range of gases or a mixture of gases can be used to serve the purpose.
Activated plasma ions and atoms act like a sandblast that’s molecular in nature, breaking down the wall of organic contaminants present on a surface. During processing, these contaminants are vaporized yet again leading to evacuation from the enclosure. The intensity of a plasma treatment may depend on the flow rates of gas, vacuum degree, reactor geometry, pump speed, and diluents and reactants, etc.
Plasma cleaning can be used for:
- Removing surface oxidation
- Preparing surfaces of elastomers and plastics
- Cleaning ceramics
- Cleaning metal surfaces on a hyperfine level
- Surface preparation of glass products e.g. ophthalmic items
Plasma etching is usually used for the purpose of toughening a surface on a microscopic scale. Component surfaces are etched using a gas that’s reactive in nature. The material is carefully spluttered off and its form is changed into that of a gas so that the vacuum system can easily suck it away. By doing this, the surface area of that material is significantly increased leaving the material with improved wettability.
Basically, etching is used on surfaces that cannot be bonded or printed on. These surfaces require treatment prior to any gluing, painting or printing taking place. Etching makes the process much simpler and quicker. Many plasma systems come with the option of fitting an ion etch reactive electrode making it a low-cost development tool that can be used for research purposes in the laboratory.
Plasma etching is quite suitable for a number of processes including the structuring of silicon, application on Polytetrafluoroethylene or PTFE compounds, photoresist ashing and many more.