A guide to etching – how it can help and what it can be used for
What is etching?
In addition to being highly resistant to heat and chemicals, fluoroplastics also have low friction properties which makes them ideal for us as a ‘non-stick’ material. This makes them the ideal choice for use in a myriad of both everyday and more specialised objects spanning many different industries.
For this reason, fluoroplastics really are all around us. You might already be familiar with their usage as a non-stick coating for food processing equipment and cookware – and this non-stick ability makes them perfect for factory and industrial settings too.
Because almost nothing can stick to fluoroplastics, it is extremely hard for bacteria to build up on the material. Not only does this minimise bacterial contamination in a food and beverage production environment, but it also reduces the likelihood of infection in a medical setting too, making it ideal for use within medical instruments such as catheters and artificial heart valves.
Fluoroplastic’s low friction properties also prove convenient and useful for tubing within 3D printers, as liners for electrical wires, pipes, lights and thermometers, and even as a protective coating within dental fillings.
However, there are also times when you need fluoroplastic to be strong and resilient, but still attach it to other items and components. So to get around fluoroplastic’s inherent non-stick capabilities, the solution is to chemically etch the surface before bonding.
How can etching help?
If you are looking for a material which can withstand extreme temperatures and maintain its integrity over time, but you need to attach it to another material, then fluoroplastic etching is the perfect solution.
Etching involves immersing fluoroplastic material in a chemical solution to alter its molecular makeup and make it more malleable.
It is actually a unique and clever chemical process which works by stripping fluorine molecules from the carbon backbone of a fluoropolymer, leaving less electrons around its carbon atom. When exposed to the air, hydrogen, water and oxygen molecules work together with each other to restore the electrons, which then prompts a group of organic molecules to form hydrogen, and bond with each other – which ultimately enables adhesion.