Surface modification of polymer films for improved adhesion of deposited metal layers
Plasma treatment and vacuum Al deposition on films from biaxially oriented polypropylene is a multistep large scale industrial process, mainly ending up in packaging film laminates. As atmospheric plasma treatment processes suffer from lack of reproducibility, low pressure plasma treatment processes that can be operated in-line with the metal deposition are being developed. Process development is difficult, because the final packaging film laminate has to deliver optimum properties of adhesion as well as of the barrier against oxygen and water vapor permeation. As a typical production run involves tens of thousands to up to one hundred thousand square meters of film, experiments on an industrial scale are expensive, so smaller scale experimental processes are needed, which so far do not match well enough with industrial process characteristics. Moreover, bonding mechanisms between the treated substrate film and the deposited Al layer are not sufficiently understood. This paper describes the sequence in development and optimization of substrate films and plasma treatment that has been performed on an experimental as well as on an industrial scale. A sufficient correlation between experimental and industrial scales was achieved, which helps to perform development and optimization on a small scale before scaling up to industrial processes. However, improvement is still needed both in fundamental understanding of the aluminum-polypropylene interface as well as in experimental equipment and methodology.