Plasma Replaces Propane Torch to Improve Print Adhesion on PE Pipes
As one of the largest manufacturers and distributors of piping in Canada, CB Supplies is continuously looking for new technologies to improve efficiencies and support environmental conservation. Their recent investment in Enercon in-line Plasma Treaters to enable inkjet printing on various polymers has reduced labor and operating costs while improving throughput.
CB Supplies manufactures three types of polyethylene pipes: high-density polyethylene, cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) and polyethylene raised temperature (PERT.) They need to print on pipes to identify the brand, sizing, lot number, date and other important information. However, these polymers have very low surface energy, which makes them difficult to print on.
“We had a very good experience with Enercon. We had an urgent order expedited in the midst of a global pandemic and significant supply shortage.”
Chris McNeil, CB Supplies
Chris McNeil, Director of Operations for CB Supplies, says without any surface preparation, the inks would rub off with the slightest touch. The company had been using oxy-acetylene or a propane torch to prepare the surface of the piping prior to printing. While this worked to achieve the adhesion needed for the ink to stick, the overall process was very costly and inefficient. Replacing gas canisters caused downtime and the torch’s open flame posed a safety concern for plant personnel.
Blown-ion Plasma Solution for Printing
An internet search led them to Enercon’s website where they learned about the benefits of in-line plasma treatment. Plasma treaters clean, etch & functionalize surfaces to remove contamination, increase surface energy, create bonding sites and activate the surface to promote ink adhesion.
To verify the technology would be a fit for their application, CB Supplies sent Enercon samples of their different pipes. Enercon conducted laboratory trials to identify which plasma technology would work best for the application. An Enercon Blown-Ion™ plasma treater was recommended.
The system generates a concentrated plasma that bombards surfaces with a high-speed discharge of ions. Surfaces are micro-etched to remove organic and inorganic contaminants. This air plasma technology is very popular because it is effective, easy-to-use and inexpensive to operate.
In May of 2020, the company installed its first Enercon plasma that seamlessly integrated into their production line prior to the inkjet printer. “We had a very good experience with Enercon. We had an urgent order expedited in the midst of a global pandemic and significant supply shortage,” claimed McNeil.
Since then, CB Supplies has purchased five additional Blown-ion Plasma Treaters. “The plasma treaters reduced cost through labor and hydrocarbon fuel, while also being safer and easier to use than the propane torch. I would absolutely recommend Enercon to anyone in a similar industry,” concluded McNeil.