Corona & Plasma Treatment Equipment for Medical & Pharma

When product performance is critical and failure is not an option!

Corona and plasma treatment processes enhance the surface properties of numerous medical and pharmaceutical products and components by improving adhesion and bond strength. This technology uses an electrical discharge to ionize gasses and modify surface chemistry, particularly polymers. Corona and plasma surface treatment produce surfaces receptive to ink, coatings, and adhesives without changing their appearance.

Surface treatment is an essential process in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. It plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and serviceability of medical devices, equipment, parts, disposables and packaging. 3DT is a leading provider of corona and plasma surface treatment equipment for these industries. We offer standard and custom solutions specifically tailored to our clients’ needs. Our innovative solutions provide reliable adhesion and bonding that meet the highest industry standards.

Plasma Surface Treatment for Medical Devices & Pharma Products

Plastics are frequently the material of choice for medical and pharma products, however polymers have inherently low surface energy and require surface treatment to increase their functionality. Other materials important to the medical industry such as glass and metal typically require surface treatment to improve adhesion. Plasma discharge has the added benefit of micro-cleaning and micro-etching surfaces improving their functionality. Consequently, plasma surface treatment is increasingly popular in the medical and pharma industries.

Problems & Solutions

Adhesion problems are pervasive, yet solvable. Plasma surface treatment solves the issue of poor adhesion for numerous applications by increasing surface energy and creating active functional groups that improve the adhesion of glue and ink as well as enhance the biocompatibility of devices and labware.

To improve biocompatibility, functional coatings are often applied to medical devices such as stents, catheters, contact lenses, intraocular lenses, and implants. However, these medical devices often have chemically inert surfaces with low surface energy leading to poor coating adhesion and require surface treatment.

Plasma treatment is used for raising surface energy and micro-cleaning surfaces to ensure optimal bonding between components and devices. Some common plasma treatment applications include:

  • Painting, coating, and printing on all polymer products of any shape or size
  • Creating secure, powerful adhesion between parts for laparoscopic devices
  • Cleaning the surface of aluminum and other metals
  • Improving adhesion of glue on cardboard packaging
  • Treating silicone foam to enhance adhesive applications

How It Works

Plasma treatment equipment produces a highly ionized air stream, plasma, that is directed onto a material’s surface. The plasma contains ionized gas molecules that react with the material, restructuring the molecules and, thereby, increasing the surface energy. Click here to learn more about the process of plasma treating.

Plasma treatment also finely etches the material’s surface and thereby increases mechanical bonding. Last, plasma treatment removes contaminants and cleans additives and lubricants from the surface of materials. Consequently, plasma treatment improves surface energy in three ways all contributing to powerful bonding with applied media.

Plasma treatment works through three mechanisms to improve adhesion:

  • Chemically modifies surfaces to raise surface tension and wettability
  • Physically micro-etches surfaces
  • Precision cleaning by removing contaminants, additives and lubricants

Other Benefits of Plasma Treatment

Plasma treatment is more environmentally friendly than traditional wet processing methods which involve chemical baths. It is safer than flame surface treatment. 3DT’s atmospheric plasma systems typically are integrated into production lines and do not use a plasma or vacuum chamber, making treatment faster, less expensive and less labor intensive.

Atmospheric plasma is potential-free, allowing treatment to be used in conductive and semi-conductive applications such as on or near metal surfaces and wiring.

Corona Surface Treatment for Medical Devices & Pharma Products

Corona treatment is a highly effective method for improving adhesion on materials resistant to media. This method of electrical surface treatment is gentle yet powerful in improving the bond strength between substrates and paint, ink, adhesive and coatings.Corona surface treatment is a reliable and efficient method for improving the value, quality and safety of medical devices and pharmaceutical products.

Many materials have insufficient surface energy for printing, coating and bonding applications. Polypropylene, polystyrene and polyethylene are prime examples. These materials have many useful properties, which make them materials of choice, however, their poor wettability creates severe limitations. Other polymers, plus silicone rubber, glass and even foam all benefit from corona treatment.

Problem & Solutions

Corona surface treatment provides several important benefits, including:

  • Improved bonding: Corona treatment prepares surfaces for powerful adhesion for joining parts, even dissimilar materials. Strong adhesion of applied medium such as ink, paint and glue. Thorough dispersal and wetting of coatings. 
  • Improved cell culture growth: Medical labware is typically composed of polystyrene, which has very low surface tension. Because adhesion to the surface of labware  is poor, cell growth is poor. However, once corona treated, polystyrene Petri dishes, flasks, multiwell plates provide a biocompatible environment.
  • Fast, inline systems: Corona treatment systems can be engineered to be integrated into production lines where they are placed just before printing, coating, painting, and adhesive processes that then treat the surface for improved adhesion. For example, blow molded pill bottles, syringe barrels and catheter tubing can be direct-printed seconds after being corona treated.
  • Flexibility: Corona treatment equipment can be engineered for use on numerous materials, as well as simple to complex shapes. The type and number of treating heads and product handling options increase the flexibility in applications.
  • Additional strength: When IV tubes are corona surface treated and then coated, they have added strength. Corona surface treated surgical gowns can be laminated using a protective film, which also enhances their strength.

Corona surface treatment solves problems associated with flame treating, a traditional method used for printing calibrations on medical products such as plastic syringe barrels and medicine bottles. Problems with flame treating include:

  • Risk of distortion: Heat from the flame can easily distort the treated surface if the flame is not correctly adjusted and monitored.
  • Time-consuming: Complex three-dimensional objects may need multiple treatments and manipulations to achieve complete treatment.
  • Hazards of working near open flames: The risk of injury by fire is compounded by the threat of potentially harmful or toxic gasses emitted by overheated material. Many companies are moving away from flame treatment to safer options, such as corona treatment.

How It Works

Corona surface treatment works by exposing the surface of a material to corona discharge, or an electrical energy. The discharge alters the molecular structure of  the material to form free radicals. They react with oxygen in the atmosphere and increase its surface tension. Greater surface tension means the surface is “wettable” or more receptive to media such as adhesives, inks, and coatings. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the science behind 3DT’s corona treatment.

Better adhesions leads to improved product quality, safety,  faster production speeds, and less waste. In fact, corona treatment of a single part can take just a few seconds.

Common Plasma & Corona Treatment Applications for Medical & Pharma

Below are some common applications for surface treatment for medical devices and pharma: 

  • Enhancing bonding of dissimilar substrates such as tubing to housings 
  • Improved functionalization on labware for cell culture media and immunoassays
  • Improving adhesion on tubing for catheters
  • Applying markings and calibrations on syringes, ampules, bottles, plastic packaging
  • Improving the biocompatibility of implants
  • Applying coatings that repel water or biological fluids
  • Creation of hydrophilic surfaces on intraocular lenses
  • Improving biomedical coating adhesion
  • Micro-cleaning and etching glass for the purpose of improved adhesion
  • Improving the adhesion on plastic film for packaging and print

Surface Treatment Solutions for the Medical & Pharma Industries

Surface treatment technology is an important solution to the production challenges in medical and pharmaceutical industries because it solves many of the problems associated with bonding and adhesion.

3DT produces innovative corona and atmospheric plasma treatment systems for superior surface modification. We manufacture a complete line of standard systems , all customizable for your unique application, including customer-centered design and engineering, testing, manufacturing and installation. 3DT’s systems can be incorporated into existing  production lines, supplied with automation, or operated independently as stand-alone units, allowing maximum versatility. Our surface treatment systems are proudly made in the USA utilizing 30+ years of experience.  Let’s discuss your adhesion challenges. Request a quote today.