AIJU & AITEX Collaborate To Achieve The Improvement Of Properties In Polymeric Substrates By Means Of Plasma Techniques

These treatments allow us, by means of clean technologies, to optimize the adhesive properties, the painting and coating solidity or barrier function properties such as liquid repellence in toys, plastics and textiles.

In general, polymeric materials are characterised by having a low surface energy, caused by the absence of polar groups within the polymer structure. It is often necessary to modify these properties to increase their surface energy and thus, improve their moisture absorption characteristics. These treatments are fundamentally directed at activating the surface by inserting polar specimens, or at provoking modifications to the surface topography, in such a way that there is an increase in roughness.
The treatment is carried out by applying a process (physical or chemical) that modifies the surface of a material by improving its surface properties, such as painting, moisture absorption, adhesion, etc. without affecting the general properties of the treated material. There are different plasma treatments applicable, according to the article to be treated and the desired properties. All of them are dry treatments, which use ecological technology, and can suppose great advances in the improvement of the technical performance of final products, and the minimization of processing problems caused by the working of raw materials.
That is why the strategic project, "Research and development for the improvement of the solidity of finishing by plasma technologies," supported by the Conselleria d'Indústria, Comerç i Innovació (ref. INIDIV/2010/63) and co-funded with FEDER funds, has the objective of consolidating the use of several of the existent technologies for specific applications in the toy and textile sectors. This project, led by the toy company INJUSA, is being developed by a Spanish R&D consortium formed by two RDTs and ten companies from the plastic, textile and children's products sectors, and will add value to the products of these traditional and relevant sectors within the Valencian Community.
The characterization of the changes achieved by plasma treatment on different surfaces and materials, and the knowledge of the acting mechanism, are the main points where the work is focused. Two parallel working lines have been established: Surface Activation or plasma treatments for the improvement of the solidity of finishing; and Plasmapolimerization or plasma treatments for the deposition of thin functional layers.
Once these treatments were applied to the test specimens, made from the different materials studied (standard and high density polyethylene, polypropylene, impact polystyrene, polycarbonate, PET, natural and synthetic fibres, flexible substrates - tissues, membranes, foams, etc.) the characterization of the surface modification of the treated test specimens and the chemical modification that occurred on their surface was conducted. The thermal and mechanical tests for the substrates characterization were also carried out to know their properties and thus, further understand the changes that occurred on the surface.
Regarding the treated textile materials, the application of low pressure plasma technologies by corona discharge also led to an increase in their hydrophilicity. The degradation potential of textiles after the treatment was characterized establishing that in treatments lasting less than 5 minutes there is no degradation of the surface.

The Toy Research Institute (AIJU) is a non-profit making organisation, located in Ibi, the Spanish geographic centre for the manufacture of toys. It was founded in 1985 with the collaboration of the Spanish Toy Manufacturers Association (AEFJ) and the Regional Government (IMPIVA).
Its aim is to transfer and allow toy manufacturers access to the knowledge of new technologies in order to improve their competitivity, while offering technological and financial assessment and supporting the professional development of people involved in the sector. For this purpose, it has a staff of 75 professionals who develop their work in the different departments that make up AIJU. Besides, this organization is provided with the required infrastructure to manage the different activities it undertakes.
The department intended to carry out these tasks is that of Product Development - Laboratory Department, specifically the Processing and Materials area. This area has several research lines for the development of new decoration processes as well as pre-treatments in order to optimise such processes. Additionally, this department is working on the development of new materials, for both traditional processes and those of Rapid Manufacturing.
AIJU is an active member of the Rapid Manufacturing European Platform and the Spanish mirror led by ASERM, the Spanish Rapid Manufacturing Association. It is also member of EuMAT and Manufuture. AIJU is the coordinator of the working group "Rapid Prototyping Proposal SP3 (materials) Lab" and member of the "Materials" group promoted by REDIT, the RDT Centres of IMPIVA's Network.
In the field of standardisation, the entity is working on the potential feasibility of proposed legislation as well as new safety criteria for toys, with participation in several proficiency testing schemes both, on a National and European Level. Thus, it is participating in the development of new standards for toys in the European Committee of Normalization (CEN).
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