Tag Archives: plasma

Oct 13 2012

Lights! Camera! Acton! New Products on YouTube

Surfx Technologies is pleased to announce a new range of Atmospheric Plasma Products. These products have increased performance, additional features, production integration capability and system status feedback. These improvements have been driven by the introduction of the next generation of atmospheric plasma controllers. Customers across many industries now have even more choices in high-speed plasma systems that can also be easily integrated into existing production environments.

High-speed atmospheric plasma can be used for cleaning, etching, deposition, surface modification and activation prior to bonding. This safe plasma technology creates a beam of plasma for materials processing at atmospheric pressure and low temperatures and is clean room compatible. The clean reactive gas flows over and through micro-structured materials, uniformly treating surfaces without any damage to sensitive electronics or

Go to our YouTube channel to see more! 

Oct 03 2012

Surface & Plasma Blog

Good day to everyone who reads this blog.  I have started this informal communication with you to reach out to people who are interested in engineering surfaces, and want to find out what atmospheric pressure plasmas can do for them.  I am presenting this material with my hat on as Senior Vice President at Surfx Technologies.  Over the years, I have learned that people have a lot of questions concerning the use of plasmas to manufacture commercial products.

The main questions are: (1) what are the principal applications of plasmas in manufacturing; (2) how do I know which plasma to choose from the many types on the market, and (3) why would I select plasma over other types of surface treatment, such as abrasion, solvent wiping, or chemical etching.  Over the coming months I am going to take a shot at answering these questions.  I encourage readers of my blog to ask me questions, or select topics that they would like me to discuss in the areas of surfaces and plasma processing.  I sincerely hope you find this helpful as well as enjoyable to read.

Definition of Plasma
Before I start, let’s make it clear that we are talking about an ionized gas, and not a component of blood.  If you’re interested in blood, you’ve come to the wrong website.  An ionized gas, or plasma (or alternatively, a gas discharge), is comprised of free electrons, negatively and positively charged ions, and neutral molecules.  Plasmas can be created many ways, but the most common method is through the application of a sufficient voltage to strip electrons away from the neutral molecules, thereby ionizing the gas.  Plasmas conduct electricity, consume power (watts), and are sustained by the application of an electric potential (volts) and current (amps).

Applications of Plasma in Manufacturing
The principal applications of plasma in manufacturing are for making functional materials and surfaces.  Plasmas come in contact with materials at their surfaces.  Any change in material function must proceed through processes that occur at the surface.  The important applications are therefore:

(1)   Cleaning, i.e., contaminant removal.

(2)   Activation for wetting, i.e., adjustment of the surface energy.

(3)   Activation for adhesion.

(4)   Sterilization.

(5)   Etching of nanometer to micron scale features in materials.

(6)   Deposition of nanometer to micron thick coatings.

The six applications listed above are presented approximately in order of the time it takes to accomplish the task.  Cleaning can take a short or long time depending on the amount of contaminant on the surface.  “Gross contamination” corresponds to organic layers that are more than a micron thick.  This type of contamination is best handled by aqueous washing or solvent rinsing.  An exception to this rule is photoresist film removal, which is a standard plasma process carried out by the semiconductor industry.  “Fine contamination” is present on all surfaces, even after those recently cleaned.  This last layer on the surface is best removed by plasma, and it takes on the order of 0.1 to 10.0 seconds to complete.

Surface activation for wetting is the process of putting specific chemical groups on a material surface to precisely fix its energy.  Wetting refers to the spreading of water droplets onto a surface to make a continuous film.  If there is a low surface energy, droplets will not spread out, and the water contact angle between the droplet and the surface will be high, ~90o.  By contrast, if the surface energy is high (say 70 dynes-cm), the droplets spread out and merge together easily, with the water contract angle below 20o.  Wetting is necessary in some industries, such as printing, to get the desired coverage of the fluid on the solid surface.  Putting functional groups down on a surface is a fast process, because only one atomic layer is being changed.  This process is completed in the millisecond to second time range.

Surface activation for adhesion is also the process of putting specific chemical groups on a material surface, but this time the goal is to achieve strong bonds between the surface and an adhesive or glue.  As stated by Dr Mittal, “the strength of an adhesive bond increases with the quality and quantity of connections made at the interface.”  Since here as well we are only affecting roughly one atomic layer of the material, this process is fast, and can be completed in the millisecond to second time range.  If cleaning to remove fine contamination is required prior to activating the surface, then the process time can increases to tens of seconds.  Adhesively joining materials is ubiquitous in manufacturing, cutting across many industries from automotive and aerospace to packaging and electronics.  This is by far the largest industrial application of plasmas.

Sterilization is at present a relatively small application of ionized gas discharges.  Here we are killing microorganisms prior to packaging products which are destined for human consumption, either, food, drugs, medical devices, medical instrumentation, etc.  If the microorganisms are present on the product in thick film form than washing is probably the most effective cleaning route.  However, if you need to make sure that every last bug is killed down to the last layer on the surface, then plasma sterilization is a good way to go.  This process takes several seconds to several minutes to complete.  In this case, the job is finished when less than one biological organism remains out of more than a million that were present initially.

Etching nanometer to micron scale features on a surface is a crucial step in manufacturing integrated circuits, flat panel displays, microelectromechanical systems, and other microelectronic devices.  Vacuum plasmas are uniquely capable of etching these features, because one can direct the positively charge ions in the gas to bombard the surface with high energy, such that trenches with straight sidewalls are generated in the material.  Blanket etching is possible as well, as in the case of photoresist removal.  However, this process is relatively slow taking from a minute to as much as an hour to finish.

The last important application is the deposition onto materials of nanometer to micron thick coatings.  Thin film deposition is another crucial step in manufacturing integrated circuits, flat panel displays, microelectromechanical systems, medical devices, etc.  Plasmas are very valuable tools for this process, because they enable the coatings to be laid down at low temperatures where no thermal damage to the expensive electronic device can occur.  Since this process usually requires depositing many thousands of layers of atoms on the material one atomic layer at a time, it is a relatively slow process taking from a minute up to an hour to complete.

Sep 04 2012

Surfx Unveils New Atmospheric Plasma Products

Surfx Atomflo 500

Today at SEMICON Taiwan, Surfx Technologies just released a new range of atmospheric plasma products with increased performance and additional features. Customers now have even more choices in high-speed plasma systems that can also be easily integrated into existing production environments.

Our patented downstream plasma will not expose sensitive electronics or circuits to potentially damaging electric fields. We also offer high speed LED encapsulation processes as well as solar thin film and silicon cell process solutions. Customers will gain better performance, single part traceability and increase package yield.”

The Atomflo™ 500 atmospheric plasma controller, which offers real time process feedback, argon or helium primary gas, multiple secondary gas handling and integrated machine I/O is now available from Surfx Technologies. The Atomflo 500 is an excellent fit for demanding high-throughput production applications that require direct real-time process monitoring feedback. This completely new controller design includes a touch-screen user interface, increased RF power and high-speed RF tuning, and an increased accuracy of the matching network.

surfx-spmSurfx Technologies also released the Standalone Plasma Machine (SPM) to provide customers with a turnkey system that integrates the Atomflo 500 solution into an automated, compact, multi-axis application system. The SPM includes advanced graphical motion management software (generating NC code for the motion engine), 4-axis motion with 400 x 400 x 300 mm plasma treatment volume and modular control system architecture, capable of interfacing to other systems via network communication and/or SMEMA interface.

We also launched the new Atomflo 400S, an upgrade of its popular A400 model, which can be used as a standalone R&D tool or integrated with any motion system to automate customer’s process needs. Additional process parameters and an increased controller memory for additional stored process recipes and simplified recipe management, will result in faster tuning performance for customers.

Atmospheric pressure plasmas eliminate the need for harsh chemicals or inefficient vacuum chambers that are limited to batch processes. The Atomflo atmospheric pressure plasma generates a stream of reactive gas at low temperatures so many materials can be treated, including polymers, epoxies, metals, ceramics and glass.

Apr 23 2012

Atmospheric Plasma – Brazil?

Well that was a hard week at the “office”.

I am currently in Brasilia, for the first of our Olympic qualifying events of the year. We got here on Sunday morning at 8am via Miami. The flights were good; having status on American Airlines has its perks as I got a free upgrade. Makes sitting on a plane for 8 hours slightly more enjoyable!

Surfx Atmospheric Plasma Systems

The weather has been ridiculous since we arrived on Sunday, at least 85 degrees and humid. It makes the preparation and recovery all the more important when you know how much fluid and nutrients you are losing in a 2 hour session!! That being said, parts of Brazil have some amazing restaurants and they certainly know how to cook a steak. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the area of Brasilia that we are in. Trying to find the right combination of foods in a mall food court is always an interesting challenge. One thing they do well is Acai; I can safely say I have had my fair share of antioxidants!!

This has been the first time that I have been away with volleyball but also still working for Surfx via email and Skype. It has been a challenge but I have found it is all in the preparation for each day, set myself goals both for the volleyball and gym sessions and for Surfx related work. The Surfx work has also provided me a much needed ‘break’ from the volleyball. As you can imagine it gets pretty intense when there are over 80 teams trying to prepare and train for the first Olympic qualifier of the year.

Our tournament officially starts on Wednesday morning, and you play until you have lost one game. We organize our week so that we have gym and volleyball sessions on Monday and Tuesday morning, then we are ready to fire up come Wednesday morning. Our sessions went well and we were excited to get the season started. Wednesday rolled around and we had been given a fairly tough draw. We knew if we implemented what we had been working on in pre-season we would be tough to beat. We had a good day but eventually lost to a team from Poland who are junior European champions 23-21 in the third game (volleyball is played best of three games, first two games are to 21 points the third is first to 15 point, but you have to win by 2, I hope that makes some kind of sense!) losing always sucks, and we had a goal for this tournament that we were very close to achieving but couldn’t quite get there.

This means we fly back to LA on Thursday, we land at 9pm. Friday will be a busy day for me, morning gym session followed by a full day in the office to continue with my goals for Surfx, then a volleyball session in the evening. All of this before I leave for Poland at 5pm on Saturday for the second of the Olympic qualifiers.

Busy couple of days for me ahead, losing sucks but I am excited to be going home to see my wife and three boys, watching them run at the computer on Skype shouting ” dada, dada” just isn’t quite the same.

Thank you all for the support, until next time.

Gregg Weaver

Apr 16 2012

Race to 2012 Olympics Begins (with Surfx)

Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Gregg Weaver; I have been playing beach volleyball for Great Britain on the FIVB
international beach volleyball tour now since 2007. Up until July 2010 the federation fully funded my expenses related to playing beach volleyball full time, we had a great facility and staff based in Bath, England. Unfortunately due to the economy there were funding cuts and the entire men’s beach volleyball program lost its funding. No more facility, no more coach, no more travel expenses.

My wife and I chose that the best move we could make would be to move our family which at the time was myself, my wife and our 18 month old son would move back to Los Angeles, CA (which is where we met in 2005) where my wife would resume her career as a teacher and I would be a full time dad, and train on the beaches of California with some of the best players in the world. This seemed like it was going to work out perfectly.

Again budget cuts cased our plans to change in August 2011, this time it was my wife who was having her job taken away by the lack of school funding. Unfortunately for us she was the last in which usually means first out. This left us with a couple of tough decisions, and on more than one occasion we thought that the dream of going to the Olympics was over and that we would have to move to the mid-west where we could be closer to my wives family until we could find ourselves some employment.

With my engineering background I had been applying for technician and engineering jobs all over the LA area. I was lucky enough to get a job offer as an Account Executive from a very dynamic and ambitious company which was based in the LA area, Surfx Technologies.

Surfx Technologies has been extremely supportive of my need for flexibility in regards to my training and travelling. They are very excited to support me while I am pursuing my dream of representing my country at the 2012 London Olympics. Even if it does mean that I will be working while sat in my hotel room in various countries around the world.

I have a hectic couple of months ahead of me, this time next week I will be in Brasilia, Brazil for the first of seven Olympic qualifying events. Our best six results from these seven events will determine if my playing partner Jody Gooding and I can beat out our competition for the right to be walking in the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games.

I will be blogging throughout the coming months about the trials and tribulations of Olympic qualification, you can also follow my progress on twitter: Greggweaver062, Facebook:-Gooding/Weaver Team GB beach volleyball, or on our website GBbeachboys.com

Until next time.

Gregg Weaver

Mar 30 2012

Generating Plasma

We’ve been asked many times, what hardware is used to create plasma.

First, you must apply an electrical field to the gas to generate a plasma. In a vacuum chamber, where the ions and electrons have long lifetimes, it is relatively easy to do this. Radio frequency power can be applied to two metal plates immersed in the vessel creating a capacitive discharge. Alternatively, RF power may be deposited into a coil mounted on the chamber walls, thereby producing an inductively coupled plasma. The gas also may be ionized by application of microwave power at 2.45 GHz to a specially designed cavity or horn.

In an atmospheric plasma, a variety of power supplies may be used from DC to RF. The challenge is to design the electrodes and gas flow to yield intimate contact between the reactive gases and the substrate. At high pressure, the atoms and radicals are quickly consumed by collisions in the gas, so the transit time from the plasma to the surface must be short. If one wishes to achieve low temperature operation with atmospheric plasmas, then special precautions must be taken to prevent arcing between the electrodes.

A wide variety of plasma tools are available today, reflecting the broad spectrum of materials applications being tackled by these remarkable products. To the end user, the choices can be bewildering, making the task of product selection challenging at best. We encourage you to contact Surfx Technologies so that our engineers may assist you with the selection process.