Oct 13 2016

Air plasmas versus Surfx’s atmospheric pressure argon plasma – Do you want cheap gas, or high yield?


Air plasmas boast low operating costs because they use compressed air. However, to operate this way, they must employ a blown arc, or dielectric barrier discharge (DBD). In both cases, non-uniform sparks shoot out of the discharge nozzle, which may result in non-uniform treatment of your parts. These plasmas operate with high voltage power supplies, up to 24,000 V. The high voltage is required to breakdown the air. Consequently, the plasma sources must be operated with robots away from personnel to eliminate the risk of electric shock. The blown arcs yield faster treatment speeds then DBDs due to the high degree of gas ionization in the arc. Yet this means the gas is much hotter, and can thermally damage or even melt the part.

Surfx offers atmospheric pressure argon plasmas that are driven with low-voltage, radio frequency power supplies. There is no risk of electric shock. The plasma beam is uniform, and provides the fastest and highest level of surface activation achievable. Surfx’s plasmas are cold so that there is no risk of thermal damage to the most sensitive polymers, such as high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Furthermore, unlike blown arcs, the plasma sources operate for long periods of time without needing to replace expensive electrodes.

Now I know our competitors are going to tell you that the argon is really expensive and not worth the trouble. This is simply not true. One of our minibeam plasma sources suitable for treating the same parts as open-air plasmas runs on 10 liters per minute of argon. Assuming one runs the Surfx argon plasma 24 hours per day, 350 days per year, the annual cost will be $8,365 USD (for bulk liquid argon purchased in the United States). In China where bulk argon is a lot cheaper, the annual cost will be $3,024 USD.

Using the Surfx argon plasma, a typical part made of molded plastic, glass or metal can be activated for adhesion in 5 to 20 seconds. At 10 seconds per part, one machine can treat about 3 million parts per year. In this case, the gas cost per part is 0.0028 USD in the USA and 0.001 USD in China.

You have got to ask yourself what is more important, having 100% product yield, or saving a few tenths of a cent per part?

Dr. Robert F. Hicks
CEO & President
Surfx Technologies LLC


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