25 May 2020 
14 January 2019

Novel films for high-gloss furniture

Smooth surfaces with low defect densities are of great importance for many application areas, i. g. for high-gloss and dirt-resistant furniture. Within the so called “OptiPerm” project, a new technology for the production of ultra-smooth polymer films has been developed by research scientists at Fraunhofer FEP.

Photo: Fraunhofer FEPPhoto: Fraunhofer FEP
Flexible film substrate of 1.25 meter width at the roll-to-roll coating line
The technology, which was previously demonstrated on samples in A4 format, has now been successfully transferred to a roll-to-roll process with even higher surface quality. Particularly in latter case, subsequent finishing steps can only exhibit their full potential if the surface quality of the substrate is also at a very high level. For example, films for the encapsulation of electronic components need thin permeation barrier layers made by a vacuum coating process that prevent against penetration of oxygen and moisture. Defects on the substrate surface would compromise these thin coatings.

Scientists at Fraunhofer FEP have now developed a new method for creating ultra-smooth surfaces – dubbed the smoothing-film approach. “This innovative process does not require any special processing environment and could therefore also be used under standard factory conditions,” explains Dr. Steffen Günther, Project Manager at the Fraunhofer FEP. “Expensive clean rooms are not required for this process.” With this new approach, a wet coating is first applied to a flexible substrate. Immediately afterwards, the coating is covered while still wet with a second film, the smoothing film. Subsequently, the wet coating is cross-linked through the smoothing film by an energetic drying process. An electron beam is used therefore at Fraunhofer FEP due to its high performance regarding cross-linking ratio. The smoothing film may be lifted off directly after cross-linking or stay on top the coating as a protection until the next downstream processes take place. In order to reduce the costs for the smoothing films, their reusability was examined. The scientists were able to show that even after reusing the smoothing film ten times, no increase in defect density or decrease of surface quality was observed.

The process was initially carried out and evaluated on samples in A4 format. Subsequent is has been transferred to the roll-to-roll coating line “atmoFlex 1250”. This plant offers the possibility to coat flexible films of 1.25 meter width in roll-to-roll process at Fraunhofer FEP. The results of the process transfer to roll-to-roll technology even exceeded the expectations by far.



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