Atmospheric Plasma Treatment for APTIV Film

After extensive market research and numerous customer requests, Victrex LLC embarked on a journey to develop a proprietary extrusion line to convert its PEEK resin into film. Mike Percy, global technical leader,Victrex APTIV films says, "We felt there was a greater opportunity for PEEK polymerbased film (in the broader marketplace) if it was actively sold out there," says Percy. "We also felt that we knew the material better, by far, than any-one in the world," since Victrex controls 95%–98% of the market.

Victrex subsequently expanded its UK facility and commissioned a custom-designed, 1.5-m-wide extruder that produces the film, trademarked APTIV™. An ER-WE-PA/Davis-Standard production line includes an extruder, roll stack, and winder. Off-line slitting/rewinding is accomplished on equipment from Atlas (Bobst Group). 

"We did look at the corona system as an option, ...but we’re making a long-term investment, and we look to be on the technical leading edge. All of the people who have tried [the plasma system] said, 'Wow, this is good.'"
Mike Percy Global Technical Leader Victrex APTIV™ Films

Plasma Delivers

Key to the success of the APTIV film product, says Percy, is an off-line, post-extrusion Enercon Plasma3™ surface treating system. The atmospheric plasma treater produces high and long lasting dyne levels. Plasma3™ generates an ion discharge to the material’s surface 100% more dense than flame treatment. 

"As we were building the new facility, we wanted what we felt was the best technology," he says. "So, we took the leap and said,'We’re going to plasma treatment rather than corona treatment,' and the rest is history."

Percy notes that plasma treating is a virtual requirement for maintaining superior performance characteristics during shipment from its UK production facility to customers in Asia, the Americas, and beyond. PEEK-based films previously had been corona treated, but the chemically resistant material made adhesion of its inks and coatings difficult, notes Percy. The intense level of treatment provided by plasma solved those problems and helped customers with down-line processes. "PEEK is a very chemically resistant material, and as such it's very difficult to get materials to key to it," explains Percy.  

"People want to use PEEK-based film for a variety of reasons," he adds. "High temperature performance is one of them, but they may want to stick it to something; they may want to vacuum metalize it or to print on it; and to do those three processes, you need the right surface energy characteristics of the film. That was the reason we bought the plasma treater."  

High-Performance Properties

Percy says Enercon's plasma treating system helps PEEK-based films succeed in part by maintaining the properties of the resin itself, including high heat resistance, excellent wear, low moisture absorption, broad chemical resistance, environmental friendliness, high strength and toughness, electrical stability with stable dielectric properties, radiation resistance, excellent barrier properties, and acoustic properties.

"APTIV film provides a unique combination of high-performance properties that you can't find in other materials,"says Percy. "If you want something that’s high temperature and chemically resistant, with a degree of impact toughness and heat processibility, your options become limited. And that's where PEEK tends to fit in."

"We are at the apex of the high-performance pyramid," explains Percy. "It’s not something you choose because it sounds good; you choose it because you need its high-performance qualities: high temperature, chemical resistance, high purity—all of the characteristics that the high end of the industry requires. "It's an expensive material in comparison to most commodity packaging," adds Percy.

"But we’re finding the market trend is pushing technology higher, and consequently people need more higher performance materials, so they tend to come to us when their own materials run out of gas. Now that we’re providing PEEK resin in a film format, we're actually contacting a whole new universe of customers. Now more companies can benefit from the superior properties of PEEK in a film format.

This article originally appeared in Paper Film and Foil Magazine. For the complete article visit www.pffc-online.com.

Enercon's Plasma3™ system at the Victrex U.K. facility provides long lasting treatment levels.