Aerospace and defense manufacturers are constantly seeking ways to improve product durability and reliability while reducing costs. Incorporating composite materials into aerospace production has presented manufacturers with unique cleaning and adhesion challenges in processes such as joining, printing, coating, sealing and painting. Surface treatment and surface modification have therefore arisen as a critical factor to aerospace manufacturers, especially during the production of aircraft components such as wings or fuselages. Plasma treatment is ideal for a number of these processes as it helps to
- join dissimilar materials including difficult to adhere to plastics and lightweight substrates,
- protect against corrosion,
- prevent leaks,
- resist flaking.
Plasmatreat is the global leader in proven automated plasma technologies for manufacturing. Plasmatreat has received a distinguished TRL 9 rating by industry customers classifying it as a reliable strong manufacturing solution.
Improved bonding and adhesion for component, lightweight parts
The bonding and adhesion of aerospace parts is critical for an industry where safety and durability are paramount. Lightweight, dissimilar materials such as carbon fiber (CFRP), aluminum, sheet molding compound (SMC) and high performance polymers are used in both body and component design. Joining these dissimilar materials can only be achieved when the surfaces are clean and prepped for bonding/adhesion. The cleaning and functionalization of material surfaces is necessary to achieve strong permanent bonds leading to high quality production output, yielding a safe and reliable product.
Traditionally, prepping for bonding includes surface roughing such as sanding, welding or metal fastening. It may also include wet chemical priming steps. Yet these methods are not recommended or often not even possible when using the lightweight materials that are preferred for aerospace design.
Today’s engineered polymers have low surface energies making it difficult to create lasting, secure bonds. Even when surfaces seem clean, issues with bonding certain materials can lead to recalls, bond failures and increased reject rates. Plasmatreat activates/functionalizes the surface of the CFRP through a non-intrusive, touchless process. Plasmatreat remove organic surface contamination and increase the surface energy so that adhesives, especially non-solvent based adhesives, work better. Plasma’s ability to enable the joining of dissimilar materials, difficult to adhere-to plastics and lightweight substrates make is an ideal partner for aerospace manufacturers incorporating these materials into their designs.
Enhanced productivity and efficiency through automation
Plasma treatment enables the use of robot-guided inline pretreatment processes to reduce traditional production times. Within the aerospace industry the majority of processes are conducted by hand including surface treatment and cleaning. By automating these processes manufacturers will be able to streamline production times and increase efficiency. Plasma treatment has traditionally been reserved for smaller component parts, however, Plasmatreat`s Openair plasma processes facilitate the pretreatment of large-format components due to their smooth integration into automation solutions.
Reduced Carbon Footprint
Wet cleaning processes often involve the use of harmful chemicals/solvents that result in the generation of hazardous materials. This solvent based wet chemical process for priming results in high operational and environmental costs as well as risks to workplace safety. Plasma treatment allows for the elimination of primers and the use of aqueous based adhesives as opposed to solvent based adhesives which are more cost effective and have less adverse environmental consequences.
Cost Savings & Waste Reduction
Waste reduction is another important benefit of plasma. “In Switzerland we were able to replace a wet cleaning line over 60 meters in length, which used very problematic detergents and required extensive safety, extraction and treatment equipment, with an Openair plasma system comprising 48 nozzles which is just 2 meters long. This step saves 20 tons of hazardous waste in the form of filter cake each year.” explained Christian Buske, CEO of Plasmatreat. In this instance the replacement not only resulted in the reduction of hazardous materials generated but also increased the functional floor space at the facility. Material costs were reduced and greater functionality was realized within the facility.
Are you wondering if plasma is right for you? Visit Plasmatreat to find out if this is the solution you have been looking for.