Plasma and laser processes: The environmentally friendly way of surface treatment
Resource- and environmentally friendly processes are more in demand than ever. The functionalization of components using completely dry techniques based on the plasma or laser processing enables to slash the use of wet chemicals such as solvents, primers and rinsing media. This significantly improves the CO2 footprint of manufacturing processes and products. Fraunhofer IFAM is currently researching versatile applications of plasma and laser technologies for the pretreatment and functionalization of a wide range of technical surfaces such as metals, polymers, and glass for various industrial branches.
The alternative to wet chemical processes
In many industries, such as aviation, wind energy or the automotive industry, there are increasingly strict guidelines on the use of chemicals. Solvents, primer systems and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) have to be replaced by more environmentally friendly alternatives. Here, plasma and laser processes offer sustainable, low-emission solutions with many advantages. Due to the inline capability and dryness of the processes, rinsing and drying phases are eliminated. The resulting shorter cycle times save resources. The reproducibility and high process reliability of pretreatment of surfaces by plasma or laser also lead to reduced scrap rates in production. This also contributes to a reduction in costs and an improved CO2 footprint.
Laser and plasma processes improve the life cycle assessment of industrial manufacturing processes
The "3KLANK" project, which is funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU), is currently investigating the potential applications of laser technology for the environmentally friendly cleaning of large FRP structures prior to adhesive bonding and coating processes. In the manufacture of rotor blades in the wind power industry alone, grinding processes generate up to 1825m3 of dust, 9.1 million liters of solvents (acetone) and 180 million grinding discs worldwide every year. A comparable wastage occurs also in other FRP-processing applications, for example in aircraft or shipbuilding sector. The laser technology to be developed in the project has the potential to significantly reduce these environmental burdens.
Plasma processes are also increasingly being used to improve the life cycle assessment of industrial manufacturing processes in the automotive, aerospace, wind power and maritime sectors. For example, the successfully completed EU project "LIBRE" identified the atmospheric pressure plasma technology as a key technology for environmentally friendly and energy-efficient production of bio-based carbon fibers.
Your competent partner for increasing the sustainability of your production
Based on plasma and laser technologies, the "Plasma Technology and Surfaces" department at Fraunhofer IFAM develops customized processes for sustainable, cost- and resource-efficient pretreatment and functionalization of technical surfaces to meet customers' application-specific requirements.