An Overview of Surface Activation

Materials with low surface energies like polymers and metals are not wettable by printing ink and adhesives. These materials require some treatment to match the surface tension of adhesives. The procedure of using chemicals, plasma or radiations for increasing the surface tension of non-polar materials is called as surface activation.

Although every method of activation has its own pros and cons, choice of the treatment method depends on the nature of the material being treated. For example, plasma treatment is commonly used to activate the polymer surfaces, while for metal surfaces UV radiations are used.

Surface activation
Use plasma to activate the surface of a material


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Fundamentals of Surface Activation

Before and after surface activation

Although plastic can replace metals like aluminum and copper in many appliances due to its light weight, it cannot match the reliability of these metals. One way to improve the reliability of plastic is surface activation. Moreover, the technique can also be used to improve the physical properties of metals like conductivity, immunity to corrosion etc. Every industry relies on this technique for a number of purposes including metalizing, cleaning and improving adhesion.

What is Surface Activation?

Metal or plastic surfaces are treated with different chemicals, plasma or UV rays which energizes molecule and changes the atomic structure of the material up to the depth of few microns. It increases the polarity of the surface being treated thus increasing its wettability. On a commercial scale, surface activation is mostly used to enhance the surface tension of metals and plastics. In automobile, medical devices and aircraft industry, surface activation is used to make the material suitable for printing calibrations and adhesion.

Methods of Surface Activation

While there are a number of ways to treat metal surfaces, some of the most commonly used methods of polymer and metal activation are: Read more