Research project PlasmaSki: pooling expertise for process innovations
The Italian Science and Technology Center Environment Park, based in Turin, is a national and international hub which provides advice on clean technologies and their development. We serve enterprises, research centers, institutions and public bodies seeking to develop new business opportunities with a strong inclination towards technological innovation and environmental sustainability. The Environment Park in-house research department Plasma Nano-Tech started a flourishing partnership with Plasmatreat in 2012 which in just two years lead to the revolutionary development and patenting of a new race ski impregnation method: The PlasmaSki.
Nowadays the bases of all competition and high performance skis are made from sintered UHMWPE (ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene). This material has a three-dimensional honeycomb structure made of hollow micro-cavities. During the sintering process polymer dust is deposited in these cavities, blocking them and so limiting the amount of wax which can be adsorbed. The invention consists of an atmospheric plasma process designed to clean these residues from the microstructure and modify the functional properties of the UHMWPE surface of the ski, thereby maximizing the amount of wax adsorbed.
The idea was to apply Plasmatreat's Openair-Plasma® and PlasmaPlus® technologies to improve the physical-chemical properties and thus the performance of the ski bases. The project's goals were to:
- enhance the amount of ski wax adsorbed by the base
- strengthen the base to delay breakdown of its microstructure due to friction and heat
Development and testing started in September 2013 and after nine months, in May 2014, a patent application for the new process was filed.
The versatility of the Plasmatreat technology has proven to be one of the winning elements of our project. The company's profound knowledge of plasma jet activation and deposition processes and the flexibility of the PlasmaPlus® technique permitted us to determine optimal process parameters in a short time. The results obtained are extraordinary; in fact this procedure has enhanced the adsorption properties of the ski bases to such an extent that a four to six-fold increase in ski wax adsorption is achieved using the same ski-preparation method. The process is divided into two steps:
- surface cleaning and activation
- plasma deposition of a protective nano-coating
Optical microscopy analysis of the final structure of the UHMWPE surface reveals wider and cleaner cavities. In addition the film deposited on the surface adheres homogeneously to the polyethylene structure. The sliding tests after waxing indicate considerable improvement of sliding properties, higher abrasion resistance and a remarkable enhancement of persistence time of the wax on the base surface.
Subsequent tests performed on snow even exceeded the laboratory findings and fully confirmed the improvements in performance achieved when the two plasma treatment technologies Openair-Plasma® and PlasmaPlus® in accordance with the correct ski preparation technique. The patent for the PlasmaSki process was granted in March 2015.
Benefits of this joint project for users:
- tailor-made pretreatment processes with high innovation content
- qualified experts and technicians ready to quickly manage the industrial implementation phase
- processes protected by patent
Plasma Nano-Tech and Plasmatreat enjoy a cooperative relationship characterized by mutual trust. Their remit is to develop R&D solutions that meet the demands of Italian companies for process and product innovation and so help them gain new markets. Thanks to the outstanding results obtained, this close collaboration is continually evolving into a deeper partnership targeted at tailor-made process development for our mutual customers.
By pooling our different levels of expertise we incorporate innovative plasma processes into existing manufacturing processes. In fact, the in-depth knowledge of the active species in plasma and their reaction dynamics supported by Plasmatreat's vast scientific and technical manufacturing experience even allows Plasma Nano-Tech experts to pass from the process development phase to the industrial test phase in a very short time. In addition, the extensive experience developed by Plasmatreat along the years allows tailoring Openair-Plasma® and PlasmaPlus® technique to highly diverse requirements and applications.