By Gary Thomas
Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials (IFAM) in Bremen together with Plasmatreat have developed a new plasma coating process that operates at ambient pressure, also referred as an open atmosphere. This creates a major challenge.
Dr. Jörg Ihde and Dr. Uwe Lommatzsch (from left to right) have developed a new coating process for functional nano-layers, using a plasma nozzle that works at atmospheric pressure.
As the pressure is over 10,000 times higher and the vacuum reactor is absent, it is necessary to stop the formation and deposition of unwanted particles in the coating. This was the major reason to develop rigid and efficient industrial processes by utilizing the novel plasma technology.
A plasma nozzle is the key element of the process and it includes a highly complex coating system. An electrical discharge produces small flashes called plasma in the nozzle, which is expelled in a jet from. The excited materials are fed into the nozzle outlet and split in the plasma and later deposited as functional nano-layers on the surfaces, described Dr. Uwe Lommatzsch from the IFAM. Thus, the researchers were able to develop a rapid, cost-effective process for the deposition of functional nano-layers at very high deposition rates.
The nozzle helps to conserve resources by allowing the coating to be applied in a highly precise manner and only in the areas of requirement. Dr. JörgIhde from the IFAM noted that the same nozzle can be utilized to apply coatings with several functionalities, for example to increase or reduce adhesion or to offer corrosion protection. The process offers several other benefits, including it can be controlled through a robot; needs little space and can be easily combined into an inline manufacturing process. In addition, it requires low investment costs and is easy to automate. The resource-efficient coating process is already used in the energy and automotive industries to offer protection against aging and corrosion.