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Development plasma technology continuous processing textile fabrics nonwovens plasmatex

Objective


The analytical and experimental work of this project has resulted in following achievements:

1. A book of specifications has been developed containing industrial end-user's commercial process requirements concerning the potential advantages of plasma treatment on textiles and nonwovens.

2. The investigations have been made of experimental plasma systems able to replicate and characterise target industrial processes achieved by low-pressure plasmas. Diagnostic systems for both low-pressure and atmospheric-pressure plasma types have been developed.

3. Transfer to know-how from low-pressure to atmospheric-pressure systems has been made using test materials from the industrial partners. Samples received from the end-users have been treated in low-pressure plasmas and analysed and application tested. Atmospheric-pressure plasma process characterisation has been made of representative samples received from the end-users.

4. Mathematical modelling of the plasma processes for producing the target results have been developed.

5. Milestone M1 has been reached as explained below.
Successful processes have been demonstrated in static regime with samples from three and-users, and in dynamic regime with PP fabric at speeds of 4m/min. The materials chosen (PET, PP and cellulose) are representative of the spectrum of fabrics used by all end-users. Treatment in dry air, argon and helium have been successful.

In conclusion, the ability of lab plasma processes to solve target industrial problems has been successfully demonstrated (M1).

6. Milestone M2 has been reached as explained below.
Characteristics of successful processes demonstrated in M1 have been well recorded. Plasma fingerprints and data libraries (built during T5 and T6) can be successfully used to simulate processes of M1.
The processes of M1 have been well characterised and can be simulated.

7. Milestones M3 and M4 have been reached as explained below.
One of a small-scale (10:1 scale) production prototype machine having a flexible and adaptable design and construction has been developed as the result of output from T6, T7 and T8.
There are three stages of the plasma prototype, namely
* The AP-1 'blue box' as seen at Polisilk is a benchtop basic laboratory system for experimental work that has the Mark II power supply plus linear transformer. (Milestone M3)
* The AP-10 is entirely manual and also has the Mark II power supply plus linear transformer. However it is a much larger machine and can be integrated with WEB's unwind and rewind. (Milestone M4)
* The AP-100 is a fully automatic machine which has the RF-1000 power supply and fully computerised system control.

The partners have studied the industrial feasibility of atmospheric plasma system technology and conducting full-scale tests to determine the characteristics of different types of plasma in different gases and analyse how atmospheric plasmas interact with types of textiles and nonwovens. The methodology was to transfer experimentally successful low-pressure plasma processes into highly manufacturable plasma regimes, capable of meeting the basic on-line production requirements. Investigations were made by diagnostic fingerprinting and modelling of both low-pressure and atmospheric pressure plasma systems in order to achieve the necessary ingredients in plasmas as a powerful surface engineering tool.

8. The end-users considered it important to proceed quickly with the construction of three plasma prototype machines called AP100. These machines were required to complete the work programme in time.

Three prototypes developed by Plasma Ireland were installed, together with fabric feeding systems developed by partner WEB, and were used by the consortium's industrial partners as well as the research organisations to carry out field testing and to analyse the improvements in the functional properties if various types of test material.

The first prototype in operation at IFP, Sweden, has been made available to the Swedish partner companies SCA, Almedahl and Borgstena for testing the effect of plasma treatment on polyester car upholstery fabrics, wet-laid nonwovens and cotton and cotton-polyester woven fabrics.

The second prototype in operation is used by Kirchhoff in Germany to test the effect of plasma treatment on the anti-felting properties of protein fibre based domestic textiles.

The third prototype in operation is used by Scapa in UK to test the effect of plasma treatment on the functional properties of paper-machinery clothing fabrics.

The research partners IFP and Queen's University have been making extensive studies of the fundamentals of surface modifications on various types of substrates and the diagnostics of the plasmas in different gases.
9. A large number of trials were made on woven, knitted and nonwoven fabrics as well as loose wool on AP100 plasma prototype. The processing variables tested included gas, power, treatment time etc.
In many cases, significant improvements in fabric surface properties were registered at longer treatment times, i.e., slow fabric input/output speeds. In other cases the experiments did not show any improvements in some specific properties.
It was also noticed that the treatment made on AP100 required unacceptably large quantities of helium gas due to the particular design of the equipment. These results indicated that for a commercially successful application of this newly developed on-line plasma technology, a major modification of the prototype AP100 was needed.

10. As the result of trials made under item 9 a new industrial prototype for on-line atmospheric pressure plasma treatment has been developed by Plasma Ireland. This unit can handle webs fabric width up to 2.2 metres and the treatment of fabrics and webs is made in vertical plasma chambers as compared to horizontal chamber in prototype AP100. This design would ensure longer reaction times at a given fabric speed as well as result in very significant reduction of the gas consumption.

Milestone M5
The final deliverable from Plasma Ireland is a completely new machine model AP2200, which has a number of advantages compared with AP100 model. The new design overcomes previous gas profligacy problems by exploiting the differential densities of helium and air and gas usage at 3-4 litres/min is only 2-3% of what it was before using AP100 model.

The new system has a vertical fabric feed system and will process a wide up to 2200mm width. This configuration will have a total path length and plasma exposure of 3.6 metres. The first machine model AP-2200 will be ready for marketing around September 2000.

Concluding Remarks

The final deliverable of the PlasmaTex project is the design of an industrial plasma prototype called AP-2200. The machinery has been designed and developed based on extensive investigations made by the consortium's industrial partners using three different AP-100 prototypes supplied by Plasma Ireland.

The studies of the industrial feasibility of AP-100 prototype technology showed that the objectives of interaction between plasmas and various textiles and nonwoven materials could only be particially realized. The design of these prototypes and the helium gas distribution was not effective to produce desirable effects at high speeds of on-line production. In those cases where significant improvements in fabric properties were achieved, the speed of fabric feed was very low to be of commercial interest.
The large quantity of experimental data obtained by the industrial and scientific partners clearly indicated as to what design modifications were necessary to obtain good results. For example, the increase in residence time for fabrics in the reaction chamber, the reduction of gas consumption by increasing the gas retention in the reaction chamber, the uniform distribution of the surface modification along fabric width, the fabric handling technique were all taken into consideration by Plasma Ireland in the consortium of the final prototype AP-2200.

Unfortunately because of the lack of time it has not been possible to do any field testing on this unit by the industrial partners.
Using vacuum plasma technology, it has been demonstrated
for some years now by Partner 1 and researchers elsewhere
how versatile this method is for imparting different
functions to fiber surfaces in dry media, and at low
temperatures. However, the materials treated at a time
consists of specimens of very small size and weights in
the region of up to 10 g. None of the above processes,
however, have been translated from the laboratory into
industrial production due to fundamental limitations in
the plasma reactor systems used for the experimentation.
Despite the proven capacity and flexibility of plasma
technology in the laboratory environment and despite very
significant market potentials, no viable commercially
available machinery is available for industrial
processing of fabrics.
The objective of this work is:
To realize the potential of plasma based processing for
textiles and nonwovens manufacture by putting in place
prototype plasma facilities (equipment plus processes)
offering a new fabric and nonwoven manufacturing strategy
which replaces costly and environmentally harmful
conventional processing and provides a powerful tool for
product development and innovation based on a flexible
and generic surface engineering capacity.
To transfer experimentally successful plasma processes
into highly manufacturable plasma regimes inherently
capable of meeting basic on line process requirements
including open perimeter equipment with high speed
continuous roll to roll treatment capacity of wide fabric
webs.
The duration of the project is three years. It will
proceed in five stages:
1) Produce laboratory scale solutions, probably at low
pressures, to industrial problems of end use partners
(Partner 1).
2) Characterize and model processes of I) i.e., plasma
processes and plasma surface processes (Partner 10).
3) Transfer such processes to "manufacturable" plasma
regimes, probably at atmospheric pressures (Partner 2).
4) Build prototypes able to run process of III) (Partner
3) and
5) Apply prototypes to simulated production of textiles
and nonwovens (Partners 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9).
The partnership consists of one textile research unit
(Partner 1), one plasma physics research unit (Partner
10), one plasma equipment manufacturer (Partner 2), one
textile machinery manufacturer (Partner 3) and six
textiles and nonwoven producers as end users representing
six different application areas (Partners 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
and 9).
The impact of this project will be to provide textile and
nonwovens industries with economically and
environmentally sound plasma treatments which can be used
for producing textile and nonwoven products with unique
physical, chemical, mechanical and surface properties.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

The Swedish Institute of Fibre and Polymer Research
Address
30,Argongatan
431 22 Mölndal
Sweden

Participants (9)

AB Borgstena Textile Processing Division
Sweden
Address

523 02 Timmele
Almedahls AB
Sweden
Address

441 16 Alingsas
Kirchhoff GmbH & Co. Münster Bettwarenfabrik
Germany
Address
675,Weseler Straße 675
48163 Münster
POLISILK SA
Spain
Address

08240 Manresa
Plasma Ireland Ltd.
Ireland
Address
Enterprise Centre
30 Cork
SCA Hygiene Paper AB
Sweden
Address

40503 Goteborg
Scapa Group PLC
United Kingdom
Address
93 Cartmell Road
BB2 2SZ Blackburn
THE QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY OF BELFAST
United Kingdom
Address
University Road
Belfast
Web Processing Ltd
United Kingdom
Address
New Herwich Road
SK1 7LG Stockport