(19)
(11)EP 2 753 418 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
11.12.2019 Bulletin 2019/50

(21)Application number: 12766708.7

(22)Date of filing:  07.09.2012
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
B01D 69/12(2006.01)
H01J 37/32(2006.01)
C23C 14/06(2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/GB2012/052201
(87)International publication number:
WO 2013/034920 (14.03.2013 Gazette  2013/11)

(54)

METHOD FOR COATING A SUBSTRATE WITH A POLYMER LAYER

VERFAHREN ZUR BESCHICHTUNG EINES SUBSTRATES MIT EINER POLYMERSCHICHT

PROCÉDÉ DE REVÊTEMENT D'UN SUBSTRAT AVEC UNE COUCHE DE POLYMÈRE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 07.09.2011 GB 201115465

(43)Date of publication of application:
16.07.2014 Bulletin 2014/29

(73)Proprietor: Europlasma nv
9700 Oudenaarde (BE)

(72)Inventors:
  • LEGEIN, Filip
    B-3140 Keerbergen (BE)
  • FERDINANDI, Frank
    Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB21 4NQ (GB)

(74)Representative: Connell, Mark et al
Forresters IP LLP Skygarden Erika-Mann-Strasse 11
80636 München
80636 München (DE)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 1 130 948
WO-A1-2011/089009
US-A- 4 381 965
WO-A1-98/58117
US-A- 4 282 077
US-A1- 2003 184 234
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] The present invention relates to surface coating deposition methods and is especially, but not exclusively, related to methods for depositing polymer coatings onto a surface of a substrate such as a printed circuit board.

    [0002] A printed circuit board (PCB) comprises an insulating material on which conductive tracks lie. The tracks are typically made of copper and function as wires between electrical components that are subsequently attached to the board, e.g. by soldering.

    [0003] It is known in the art to coat PCBs and hence the tracks in order to protect the tracks from the environment, e.g. to inhibit or prevent oxidation of the tracks.

    [0004] It is also known in the art to provide solder through polymer coatings so that an electrical component may subsequently be connected to the tracks of a PCB without first having to remove the protective coating.

    [0005] Prior art methods of depositing the protective coating describe polymerising fluorocarbon gas precursors such as tetrafluoromethane (CF4), hexafluoroethane (C2F6), hexafluoropropylene (C3F6) or octafluoropropane (C3F8) using plasma deposition techniques. These methods lay down a layer of halo carbon polymer coating for protective purposes. Such methods are described in WO-A1-2011/089009 and in WO 2008/102113.

    [0006] However, this particular class of precursor molecules requires high power plasma techniques in order to initiate the polymerisation reaction. Moreover, such precursor molecules require high precursor gas flow rates and long deposition times in order to obtain an acceptable thickness of the polymer deposition. An acceptable rate of polymer deposition is one which results in a coating that protects the conductive tracks from the corrosive environments that a PCB may encounter during its life cycle.

    [0007] A problem that may arise when using high precursor gas flow rates and/or high power plasma is that the resultant polymer coatings have a non-uniform thickness. For instance, high power plasma causes monomers to fragment which can result in unpredictable deposition of the polymer and hence substandard coatings. Non-uniform deposition can lead to non-uniform thicknesses which are disadvantageous because they can be extremely difficult to solder through and/or may generate areas of insufficient, limited or no coating coverage. A more uniform coating is very important for high volume soldering operations, for example, because it gives more consistent solder joints with fewer defects.

    [0008] Another problem that may arise when utilising precursor molecules such as those described above is that the subsequently formed polymer layer has limited hydrophobicity and oleophobicity. Typical contact angles for water that can be achieved with such coatings are maximum 90 to 100 degrees. The resistance to oil is also limited to maximum level 3 to 4 according to ISO14419. But PCBs are often required in devices used in hostile environments, such as where corrosion or abrasion of the conductive tracks may lead to a far shorter lifetime of the electrical circuit than would normally be expected. Therefore, it is desirable to provide a coating with higher levels of hydrophobicity and/or oleophobicity.

    [0009] Another problem with conventional methods is that they lack means to control the rate in which precursor flows into the plasma chamber. Prior art methods typically adopt a "flow-through" process, which means that monomer is drawn in through an inlet port, flows through the plasma zone (i.e. the sample chamber) and is extracted through an exhaust port in a constant manner. As a consequence, the concentration of precursor is not homogenous throughout the chamber which may result in areas of the substrate with insufficient, limited or no coating coverage.

    [0010] It is a first non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide a method for depositing a solder-through polymer layer having a more uniform thickness across a substrate and/or better adhesion to a substrate than that known in the prior art.

    [0011] It is a second non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide a method for depositing a solder-through polymer layer onto a substrate such as a PCB, the polymer layer demonstrating superhydrophobic and/or oleophobic properties.

    [0012] It is a further non-exclusive object of the present invention to provide a method for depositing a solder-through polymer layer onto a substrate, the method utilising low plasma power and/or low monomer flow rates. It is a further object to provide more resilient layers, layers with one or more of better in situ performance, increased uniformity, better solderability, improved wettability, improved oil and water repellency.

    [0013] Disclosed herein is a chamber for coating a substrate with a polymer layer, the plasma chamber comprising a first electrode set and a second electrode set, the first and second electrode sets being arranged either side of a sample chamber for receiving a substrate, wherein the first and second electrode sets comprise electrode layers and wherein each electrode set comprises plural radiofrequency electrode layers or plural ground electrode layers for coating polymer to each surface of a substrate.

    [0014] The electrode layers are preferably of a planar or plate form. One advantage of such a configuration is that the generated plasma is substantially even across the surface of the electrode set. Consequently, the rate of polymerisation of monomer onto the substrate is the same at any given point on the substrate resulting in increased uniformity and so on.

    [0015] Preferably, one or both of the first and second electrode sets comprise an inner electrode layer and a pair of outer electrode layers.

    [0016] Preferably, the inner electrode layer is a radiofrequency electrode and the outer electrode layers are ground electrodes.

    [0017] Alternatively, the inner electrode layer may be a ground electrode and the outer electrode layers may be radiofrequency electrodes.

    [0018] When the inner and/or outer electrode layer or electrode layers are of the radiofrequency type, the or each electrode layer may comprise a heat regulator, e.g. a substantially flat or channel portion for receiving a regulator fluid.

    [0019] When the inner and/or outer electrode layer or electrode layers are of the ground type, the or each electrode need not comprise a heat regulator. Thus, electrode layers of this type may simply comprise a plate, mesh or other configuration suitable for generating the plasma.

    [0020] Preferably, the heat regulator comprises hollow tubing. The hollow tubing may follow a path which curves upon itself by approximately 180° at regular intervals to provide an electrode that is substantially planar in dimension.

    [0021] Preferably, the hollow tubing comprises a diameter of from approximately 2.5 to 100 mm, more preferably from approximately 5 to 50 mm, even more preferably from approximately 5 to 30 mm, say up to 25, 20 or 15 mm, for example 10 mm.

    [0022] Preferably, the hollow tubing has a wall thickness of from approximately 0.1 to 10 mm, more preferably from approximately 0.25 to 5 mm, even more preferably from approximately 0.25 to 2.5 mm, say 1.5 mm.

    [0023] Preferably, the distance between the hollow tubing before and after the curve is between 1 and 10 times the diameter of the tubing, say around 3 to 8, for example 5 times the diameter of the tubing.

    [0024] Preferably, the hollow tubing comprises a conductive material such as a metal, e.g. aluminium, stainless steel or copper. Other suitable conductive materials may be envisaged.

    [0025] Preferably, the hollow tubing is fed with a fluid such as a liquid such as water, oil or other liquids or combinations thereof.

    [0026] Preferably, the fluid can be cooled or heated so that the plasma can be regulated over a wide temperature range, e.g. from 5 to 200 °C.

    [0027] Preferably, the fluid regulates the plasma at a temperature of from approximately 20 to 90 °C, more preferably from approximately 25 to 60 °C, even more preferably from approximately 30 to 40 °C.

    [0028] Preferably, the plasma chamber is temperature controlled, e.g. to avoid temperature differentials within the chamber, and to avoid cold spots where the process gas can condensate.

    [0029] For instance, the door, and some or each wall(s) of the vacuum chamber may be provided with temperature control means.

    [0030] Preferably, the temperature control means maintains the temperature from room temperature to 70 °C, more preferably from between 30 and 50 °C.

    [0031] Preferably, also the pump, the liquid monomer supply and all connections between those items and the plasma chamber are temperature controlled as well to avoid cold spots where the process gas or gases can condense.

    [0032] Preferably, the power is applied across the radiofrequency electrode or electrodes via one or more connecting plates.

    [0033] Preferably, the applied power is approximately 5 to 5000 W, more preferably approximately 5 to 500 W, even more preferably approximately, say 10 to 250W, for example 20 to 150 W, say 70 W.

    [0034] The power may be applied continuously or in pulsed power mode.

    [0035] When in pulsed power mode, the pulse repetition frequency may be from 100 Hz to 10 kHz having a duty cycle from approximately 0.05 to 50 %, with the optimum parameters being dependent on the monomer used.

    [0036] Preferably, the radiofrequency electrode or electrodes generate a high frequency electric field at frequencies of from 20 kHz to 2.45 GHz, more preferably of from 40 kHz to 13.56 MHz, with 13.56 MHz being preferred.

    [0037] Preferably, the plasma chamber comprises further electrode sets, for example third, fourth, fifth and sixth electrode sets and so on.

    [0038] Preferably, the electrode sets are arranged successively from one end of the plasma chamber to an opposed end of the plasma chamber.

    [0039] Preferably, the electrode sets closest to each end of the plasma chamber comprise at least three electrode layers, e.g. three electrode layers.

    [0040] The position of the electrode sets is adjustable by design so as to accommodate samples of differing size and also to vary the width of the plasma zone. For instance, in cases where two sets are close to one another the plasma zone is narrow. By moving the two sets apart the width of the plasma zone is increased.

    [0041] The or each further electrode set may comprise the same architecture as the first and second electrode sets.

    [0042] Preferably, the plasma chamber further comprises locating and/or securing means such as one or more connecting plates and/or the chamber walls for locating a, the or each electrode at a desired location with the plasma chamber.

    [0043] Preferably, the plasma chamber comprises one or more inlets for introducing a monomer to the plasma chamber.

    [0044] Preferably, the plasma chamber comprises at least two inlets.

    [0045] Preferably, each inlet feeds monomer into a monomer distribution system that distributes the monomer evenly across the chamber. For example, the monomer inlet may feed into a manifold which feeds the chamber.

    [0046] In one example, each inlet is spatially distinct. For instance, a first inlet may be provided in a first wall of the plasma chamber and a second inlet may be provided in a different wall to the first inlet, e.g. the opposite wall.

    [0047] The apparatus also comprises a monomer vapour supply system. Monomer is vaporized in a controlled fashion. Controlled quantities of this vapour are fed into the plasma chamber preferably through a temperature controlled supply line.

    [0048] Preferably, the monomer is vaporized at a temperature of from 50 °C to 180 °C, more preferably from 100 °C to 150 °C, the optimum temperature being dependent on the physical characteristics of the monomer. At least part of the supply line may be temperature controlled according to a ramped (either upwards or downwards) temperature profile. The temperature profile will typically be slightly upward from the point where the monomer is vaporized towards the end of the supply line. In the vacuum chamber the monomer will expand and the required temperatures to prevent condensation in the vacuum chamber and downstream to the pump will typically be much lower than the temperatures of the supply line.

    [0049] Preferably, the sample chamber can receive or further comprises a perforated container or tray for receiving a substrate to be coated, e.g. a PCB.

    [0050] Preferably, the substrate to be coated is located on or within the container or tray such that, in use, a polymer coating is applied to each surface of the substrate.

    [0051] It is preferable that a minimum distance of a few mm, more preferably 10 to 100 mm, for example 15 to 90 mm, say less than 80, 70, 60 or 50 mm, most preferably 25 to 50 mm, is maintained between the outermost electrode and the surface of the substrate to be coated.

    [0052] Preferably, the polymer layer comprises a superhydrophobic and/or superoleophobic polymer layer.

    [0053] Superhydrophobic surfaces can be created with contact angles for water of more than 100 degrees. The same coatings may be superoleophobic with oil repellency levels above 4, for example up to 8 according to ISO14419.

    [0054] Also disclosed is a system comprising a plasma chamber as described herein.

    [0055] Preferably, the system comprises one or more gas outlets connected to the pump system.

    [0056] Preferably, the system comprises at least two gas outlets.

    [0057] Preferably, the or each gas outlet is positioned in a way that distributes the monomer evenly across the chamber. The gas outlets may communicate with a manifold.

    [0058] An electrode system for a chamber, e.g. a plasma chamber, for coating a substrate with a polymer layer is disclosed herein, the electrode system comprising a first electrode set and a second electrode set, the first and second electrode sets each comprising electrode layers,wherein each electrode set comprises plural radiofrequency electrode layers or plural ground electrode layers for coating polymer to each surface of a substrate.

    [0059] In a first aspect, the invention provides a method according to claim 1.

    [0060] Although we neither wish nor intend to be bound by any particular theory, we understand that the plasma created in between electrode sets of the invention cannot be described as either a pure primary or as a pure secondary plasma. Rather, we consider that the electrode sets create a new hybrid form of plasma which is strong enough to start and maintain a polymerisation reaction at very low power, but which at the same time is benign enough not to break down the reactive monomers.

    [0061] As will be appreciated, a useful and unique aspect of this invention is that it is possible to establish a plasma on both sides of an article, e.g. a PCB, to be coated when positioned between two electrode sets. Moreover, the generated plasma has a similar, preferably the same, intensity on each side of the article, and hence will initiate the same or similar coating thickness.

    [0062] Preferably, the monomer strikes the plasma to form the deposited polymer coating, in which case there is no need for an additional gas to strike the plasma, as is described in prior art.

    [0063] The method of deposition may comprise any one of low pressure plasma polymerisation, atmospheric pressure plasma polymerisation, plasma enhanced chemical vapour deposition (PECVD), CVD or atomic layer deposition (ALD) or any other method of using a plasma chamber to apply a uniform coating having a thickness of less than typically 100 nm.

    [0064] The preferred method of deposition is low pressure plasma polymerisation.

    [0065] Preferably, the method comprises applying a polymer coating having a thickness of from 10 to 500 nm, more preferably of from 10 to 200 nm, even more preferably of from 20 to 100 nm, e.g. most preferably of from 30 to 70 nm, 30 to 60 nm, 40 to 60 nm, or 40 to 50 nm. The layer may be less than 500 nm, for example, less than 450, 400, 350, 300, 250, 200, 150, 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40 nm.

    [0066] Preferably, the method comprises applying a polymer coating having a uniformity variation of less than 10%.

    [0067] In the current invention, superhydrophobic surfaces can be created with contact angles for water of more than 100 degrees. The same coatings are superoleophobic with oil repellency levels above 4, for example up to 8 according to ISO14419.

    [0068] Preferably, the method comprises the step of depositing a polymer coating having a contact angle for water of 100° or more and/or an oil repellency level of 4 or more according to ISO14419 in a process time of approximately 2 minutes or less.

    [0069] Preferably, the method comprises the step of depositing a polymer layer having a thickness of approximately 30 nm in approximately 1 minute or less.

    [0070] Preferably, the method comprises the step of depositing a polymer layer having a thickness of approximately 40 nm in approximately 2 minutes or less.

    [0071] For this purpose plates of 12 cm by 10.5 cm were coated, which were superposed with a raster, and on each of the 25 cross sections of this raster a coating thickness measurement was performed by ellipsometry. These data were assumed to have a Gaussian distribution of which the standard deviation was calculated as a measure for coating uniformity. In this context a uniformity variation of less than 10 % means that the standard deviation was lower than 10 %.

    [0072] The method may comprise drawing a fixed flow of monomer into the plasma chamber using a monomer vapour supply system. A throttle valve in between the pump and the plasma chamber may adapt the pumping volume to achieve the required process pressure inside the plasma chamber.

    [0073] Preferably the throttle valve is closed by more than 90 % (i.e. to reduce the effective cross section in the supply conduit to 10 % of its maximum value) in order to reduce the flow through the chamber and to allow the monomer to become evenly distributed throughout the chamber.

    [0074] Once the monomer vapour pressure has stabilized in the chamber the plasma is activated by switching on the radiofrequency electrodes.

    [0075] Alternatively, the method may comprise introducing the monomer into the plasma chamber in a first flow direction; and switching the flow after a predetermined time, for example from 10 to 200 seconds, for example from 30 to 180, 40 to 150 seconds, for example less than 150, 140, 130, 120, 110, 100, 90, 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30 or 20 seconds to a second flow direction.

    [0076] Preferably, further switching of the monomer flow direction may be executed, e.g. flow may be switched back to the first flow direction or to one or more further flow directions.

    [0077] Preferably, monomer may enter the plasma chamber in the first flow direction for between 20 to 80 % of a single process time or 30 to 70 % of the time or 40 to 60 % of the time or 50 % of the time.

    [0078] Preferably, the monomer may enter the plasma chamber in the second flow direction for between 20 to 80 % of a single process time or 30 to 70 % of the time or 40 to 60 % of the time or 50 % of the time.

    [0079] Preferably, the monomer has the formula (I)

            CnF2n+1Cm X2mCR1Y-OCO-C(R2) = CH2     (I)

    wherein n is 2 to 9, preferably 2 to 6, m is 0 to 9, X and Y is H, F, Cl, Br or I and R1 is -H or an alkyl, e.g. -CH3, or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl, R2 is H or an alkyl, e.g. -CH3, or substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo substituted alkyl.

    [0080] Preferably, R1 is H, R2 is CH3, and Y is H or F.

    [0081] Preferably, m is 1 to 9.

    [0082] Preferably, the first and second flow directions flow in substantially opposite directions. For instance, during a process, monomer may be introduced into the plasma chamber via walls which are substantially opposite to each another.

    [0083] Preferably, the coating is applied to one or more surfaces of the substrate.

    [0084] Also disclosed herein is a plasma chamber for coating a substrate with a polymer layer, the plasma chamber comprising plural electrode sets arranged successively therein from one end of the plasma chamber to an opposed end of the plasma chamber, wherein the electrode sets closest to each end of the plasma chamber comprise at least three electrode layers.

    [0085] Also disclosed herein is a method for coating a substrate, e.g. a PCB, with a polymer layer, which method comprises subjecting a monomer to a low power continuous or pulsed wave plasma polymerisation technique, wherein the monomer comprises the general formula (II)

            CnF2n+1Cm X2mCR3Y-OCO-C(R4) = CH2     (II)

    wherein n is 2 to 9, preferably 2 to 6, m is 0 to 9, X and Y are H, F, Cl, Br or I, R3 is H or alkyl, e.g. -CH3, or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl, and R4 is an alkyl, e.g. -CH3 or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl.

    [0086] Also disclosed herein is the use of a monomer to form a solder-through polymer coating when the monomer is subjected to a low pressure plasma polymerisation technique, the monomer having the general formula (I).

    [0087] Also disclosed herein is a substrate comprising a solder-through polymer layer formed by depositing a monomer using a low power continuous or pulsed wave plasma polymerisation technique, wherein the monomer comprises the general formula: CnF2n+1Cm X2mCR3Y-OCO-C(R4) = CH2, wherein n is 2 to 9, preferably 2 to 6, m is 0 to 9, X and Y are H, F, Cl, Br or I, R3 is H or alkyl, e.g. -CH3, or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl; and R4 is -H or an alkyl, e.g. -CH3 or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl.

    [0088] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer has a thickness of from 10 to 500 nm.

    [0089] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer has a thickness of from 10 to 200 nm.

    [0090] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer has a thickness of from 20 to 100 nm.

    [0091] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer has a thickness of from 40 to 70 nm.

    [0092] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer comprises a superhydrophobic and/or superoleophobic polymer layer.

    [0093] Preferably, the superhydrophobic polymer layer has a contact angle for water of 100° or more.

    [0094] Preferably, the superoleophobic polymer layer comprises an oil repellency level of 4 or more according to ISO14419.

    [0095] Superhydrophobic surfaces can be created with contact angles for water of more than 100 degrees. The same coatings may
    be superoleophobic with oil repellency levels above 4, for example up to 8 according to ISO14419.

    [0096] Preferably, one or more surfaces of the substrate comprise the solder-through polymer layer.

    [0097] Preferably, the solder-through polymer layer has a uniformity variation of less than 10 %.

    [0098] Also disclosed herein is the use of a monomer to form a solder-through polymer coating when the monomer is subjected to a low power continuous or pulsed wave plasma polymerisation technique, wherein the monomer comprises the general formula: CnF2n+1Cm X2mCR3Y-OCO-C(R4) = CH2, wherein n is 2 to 9, preferably 2 to 6, m is 0 to 9, X and Y are H, F, Cl, Br or I, R3 is H or alkyl, e.g. - CH3, or a substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl; and R4 is -H or an alkyl, e.g. -CH3 or a 25 substituted alkyl, e.g. an at least partially halo-substituted alkyl.

    [0099] Advantages of the inventive method include, but are not limited to, one or more of allowing highly reactive classes of monomer to polymerise under low power conditions; maximising diffusion of the monomer within the chamber to provide uniform coatings in quick time; minimising deleterious effects of process gas flow through the chamber; generating a benign plasma which, preferably, has the same intensity on both sides of a substrate such as a PCB; can be used in either low continuous power or pulsed power modes; including a mechanism for alternating the monomer flow during the deposition such that better uniformity is achieved; providing a means for accurately controlling the temperature to avoid undesirable temperature gradients.

    [0100] In order that the invention may be more readily understood, it will now be described by way of example only and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

    Figures 1a and 1b show schematic representations of a system;

    Figure 2 shows a side view shows plan (a), side (b) and rear (c) views of a radiofrequency electrode;

    Figure 3 shows front (a), side (b) and plan (c) views of a vacuum chamber;

    Figure 4 shows front (a), side (b) and plan (c) views of another vacuum chamber;

    Figure 5 shows schematic representations of electrode set arrangements; and

    Figures 6A and 6B are photographs of a comparative test.



    [0101] With reference to Figure 1a, a plasma deposition system will now be described. The system, indicated generally at 1, comprises a vacuum chamber 11 in communication with input apparatus 12 via an input line 120 and an exhaust apparatus 13 via an output line 130. The input apparatus 12 comprises in flow order a cartridge 121, first 123 and second 125 canisters, a baratron 126, a mass flow controller 127 and first 128 and second 129 chamber inlet valves. The exhaust apparatus 13 comprises in flow order first 131 and second 132 pump valves, a throttle valve 133, a roots and rotary pump 134 and an exhaust valve 135.

    [0102] Within the vacuum chamber 11 there are four plasma electrode sets 14 arranged in stacked formation. Interposed between each plasma electrode set 14 is a sample tray 15. For purpose of clarity only a single sample tray 15 is shown in Figure 1, the sample tray 15 being interposed between the lower pair of electrode sets 14. The space between adjacent electrode sets 14 is a sample chamber. In use, one or more PCBs are located on or within the sample tray 15. The sample tray 15 is subsequently positioned between a pair of electrode sets 14 within the vacuum chamber 11

    [0103] Once the sample tray 15 is located within the vacuum chamber 11 the chamber 11 is evacuated and a gaseous monomer (or a bespoke mixture of monomers) is introduced. Plasma is then activated within the chamber 11 by energising the electrode sets 14. In the present invention the monomer is used to strike the plasma in order to initiate polymerisation of the monomer onto a surface of the PCB. This is in contrast to prior art methods, which utilise an additional gas to strike the plasma.

    [0104] Figure 2 shows a radiofrequency electrode 20 in plan (a), side (b) and rear (c) views. The radiofrequency electrode 20 comprises a generally planar body formed from folded tubing 21. The tubing 21 may comprise a plurality of sections which are joined together by connectors 27. The tubing 21 is typically formed of a conductive metallic material such as aluminium, stainless steel or copper. The tubing 21 is hollow to allow for a temperature regulation fluid to be passed through the electrode 20 to regulate the plasma at a predetermined temperature. The tubing 21 comprises a series of bends 22 formed at regular intervals along the tubing length. The tubing 21 curves back on itself at each bend 22 by approximately 180°. The tubing 21 has a diameter of approximately 10 mm and a wall thickness of approximately 2 mm. The distance between the tubing 21 before and after each bend 22 is approximately 5 times the diameter of the tubing 21.

    [0105] The tubing 21 is curved at each end so as to provide distal portions 25, 26 which are substantially orthogonal to the planar body. The distal portions 25, 26 may be connected to a fluid supply or egress line (not shown).

    [0106] Alternatively, the distal portions 25, 26 may be connected to the distal portions of adjacent or nearby electrodes.

    [0107] The electrode 20 further comprises a pair of connecting plates 23, 24 attached to the front and rear of the electrode 20 and adjacent the bends 22. The connecting plates 23, 24 provide both a means for attaching the electrode 20 to the inside of the vacuum chamber 11 and electrical contacts for applying a load thereto.

    [0108] Referring back to Figure 1, examples of inventive processes will now be described. Initially, the chamber 11 is reduced to a base level vacuum, typically 20 mTorr, by means of the pump 134 with the first 131 and second 132 pump valves open and the first 128 and second 129 chamber inlets valves closed. A quantity of monomer is transferred from the cartridge 121 to the first canister 123 by means of a feed pump 122. Typically, sufficient monomer for a single day of processing is transferred at once. The monomers used are preferably in liquid form. Sufficient monomer required for a single process run is then transferred from the first canister 123 to the second canister 125 via a metering pump 124. The temperature of the second canister 125 and thus the monomer is raised, typically to between 130 and 150 °C in order to vaporise the monomer. The chosen temperature of the second canister 125 is dependent on the vapour pressure of the monomer, which is measured by the heated vacuum gauge 126.

    [0109] In alternative embodiments, solid or gaseous monomer may be used. In embodiments where the monomer is a solid then it may also vaporised, e.g. by heating in a canister. In embodiments where the monomer is a gas then there is typically no need for vaporisation.

    [0110] Once the target pressure within the vacuum chamber 11 is reached, typically between 40 to 50 °C, the first pump valve 131 is closed and the first chamber inlet valve 128 is opened. Consequently, when the valve 138 is open, monomer vapour produced in the second canister 125 passes through the mass flow controller 127 and into chamber 11. The pressure within the chamber 11 is regulated at a working level of typically 10 to 1000 mTorr by either introduction of more monomer or regulation of the throttle valve 133, which is typically a butterfly valve.

    [0111] Once the pressure within the chamber 11 is stable, the electrode sets 14 are activated to generate plasma within the chamber 11. Thus, the monomer is activated and polymerisation occurs on a surface of the PCB. Preferred monomers comprise a high concentration of perfluorocarbon chains and are therefore highly reactive in the plasma. As such, polymerisation occurs rapidly even at low power and low monomer flow rates, typically 60 to 80 W and 30 to 50 standard cubic centimetres per min (sccm), respectively. Sufficient monomer is usually polymerised after approximately 60 to 120 seconds, to give a desired coating thickness of approximately 70 nm, depending on the power mode chosen.

    [0112] During the process, the direction of monomer flow through the chamber 11 is switched by control of the first 128 and second 129 chamber inlet valves and first 131 and second 132 pump valves. For example, for half the time the first chamber inlet valve 128 is open and the first pump valve 131 is closed (with the second chamber inlet valve 129 closed and second pump valve 132 open). For the remainder of the time, the second chamber inlet valve 129 is open and second pump valve 132 closed (with the first chamber inlet valve 128 closed and the first pump valve 131 open). This means that for half the time monomer flows from one side of the chamber 11 to another and for the remainder of the time vice versa. For example, for half the time monomer flows from the right to the left and for the remainder of the time monomer flows from the left to the right. The direction of monomer flow may be alternated one or more times during a single process run.

    [0113] Figure 1b shows a view from the side of the chamber 11 of Figure 1a. As will be appreciated the inlet 120 and outlet 130 lines are separate from each other. The inlet line 120 may be coupled to a distribution system 140 arranged to distribute gas across the chamber 11. The distribution system 140 may be integrated on or within the wall of the chamber 11 so that it can be maintained at the same temperature as the chamber 11. Further, in preferred examples the outlet line 130 is typically arranged to be closer to the door of the chamber 11 (rather than the rear of the chamber) to compensate for the fact that the intensity of the plasma tends to be higher at regions closer to the electrode connection plates 23.

    [0114] An alternative process will now be described. A fixed charge of monomer is transferred to the chamber 11 via the spatially separated ports 16, 17 whilst the inlet valves 128, 129 and pump valves 131, 132 are open. Once the chamber 11 is filled with monomer the pump valves 131, 132 are closed to allow the monomer to become evenly distributed within the chamber 11. Even distribution of the monomer results in a more evenly fragmented monomer in the plasma. The pump valves 131, 132 are then opened to allow the residual monomer to be extracted from the chamber 11 and the plasma initiated. This "diffusion process" is repeated several times, 1 to 20, preferably 3 to 7, for instance 5, and results in a more uniform coating of the surface and is considerably less sensitive to the orientation of the surface than conventional methods, making this process particularly well suited to three dimensional structures and vias, including microvias. Surface tension effects limit the smallest diameter of microvias that conventional wet chemistry can be used for. Plasma deposition, which is a dry gaseous process, completely eliminates the effects of surface tension, allowing coatings to be applied to even the smallest of microvias.

    [0115] In some embodiments of the invention it is preferable to introduce an inert gas to the chamber 11 with the monomer in order to prevent or at least inhibit fragmentation of the monomer.

    [0116] At the end of either process it is recommended for operator safety that the chamber inlet valves 128, 129 are closed and the chamber 11 pressure is reduced to base level to remove any residual monomer present. An inert gas such as nitrogen is introduced from a third canister 136 by opening valve 137. The nitrogen is used as a purge fluid and is pumped away with the residual monomer. After completion of the purge, the vacuum is removed and air is introduced into the chamber 11 until atmospheric pressure is achieved.

    [0117] After one or more process cycles it is recommended to purge the monomer supply line with inert gas. An inert gas line (not shown) can be connected to the or each canister to do this. It is preferable to purge the supply line straight to the pump (rather than via the chamber) so that the purge may be performed whilst the chamber is being loaded and/or unloaded.

    [0118] There are several possible ways of configuring the electrode layers of each electrode set 14. Figures 3 to 5 exemplify two possible configurations.

    [0119] Figures 3a to 3c show a first preferred arrangement in which four electrode sets 14' are located within a plasma chamber 11'. The electrode sets 14' are identical to one another and therefore only one shall be described in detail. The electrode set 14' comprises an inner electrode layer 141' and a pair of outer electrode layers 142'. The outer electrode layers 142' comprise a radiofrequency electrode of the type shown in Figure 2 and the inner electrode layer 141' comprises a ground type electrode, e.g. a plate electrode. The three layers 141', 142' are coupled to form a distinct electrode. In use, load is only applied to the outer layers 142'. Figure 3b shows the same arrangement as Figure 3a only in Figure 3b sample trays 15' are also shown in the chamber 11'.

    [0120] Figures 4a to 4c show a second preferred arrangement in which four electrode sets 14" are located within a plasma chamber 11". The electrode sets 14" are identical to one another and therefore only one shall be described in detail. The electrode set 14" comprises an inner electrode layer 141" and a pair of outer electrode layers 142". The outer electrode layers 142" each comprise a ground electrode and the inner electrode layer 141" comprises a radiofrequency electrode layer of the type shown in Figure 2. The three layers 141", 142" are coupled to form a distinct electrode. In use, load is only applied to the inner layer 141". Figure 4b shows the same arrangement as Figure 4a only in Figure 4b sample trays 15" are also shown in the chamber 11".

    [0121] The electrode sets 14', 14" may be termed "tri-electrodes".

    [0122] Figure 5 shows simplified schematics of the first (a) and second (b) preferred arrangements of Figures 3 and 4, respectively. As will be appreciated the radiofrequency electrode layers are depicted by (+) and the ground electrode layers are depicted by (-).

    [0123] The applicant has discovered that use of an electrode set arrangement of the type shown in Figures 3 to 5 further improves the uniformity of the deposited polymer coating.

    [0124] It is known that when halo hydrocarbon layers are deposited on a metal the free fluoride ions combine with metal ions to form a thin layer of metal fluoride. This metal fluoride functions as a flux. Thus, it is desirable to maximise the thickness of this layer in order to make subsequent soldering operations easier.

    [0125] One limitation on the thickness of this metal halide layer is the amount of free fluoride present in the plasma. However, because the monomers described herein comprise high concentrations of perfluorocarbon chains the concentration of fluoride available to combine with the copper is greater than that observed in the prior art. Therefore, thicker layer of copper fluoride forms between the conductive tracks and the polymer coating.

    [0126] This flux has a number of advantages, including
    1. (i) removal of the coating to allow components to be soldered to the conductive tracks;
    2. (ii) removal of any contamination from the copper tracks;
    3. (iii) to prevent oxidation as the temperature is raised to the solder reflow point; and
    4. (iv) to act as an interface between the liquid solder and the cleaned copper tracks.


    [0127] It is not unusual for moisture and other gasses to be present within the structure of a PCB. If a polymeric coating is applied to a PCB, then this moisture becomes trapped and can cause various problems during soldering and also subsequently when the assembled PCBs are subjected to temperature variations. Trapped moisture may result in increased leakage currents and electromigration.

    [0128] It is essential to remove any trapped gases or moisture from the bare PCB; this also ensures good adhesion between the polymer coating and the PCB. Removal of trapped gasses or moisture can be carried out by baking the structure prior to placing it in a plasma chamber as in conventional conformal coating techniques. The invention described here enables this de-gassing, at least partially to be carried out in the same chamber as the precleaning, etching and plasma polymerization.

    [0129] The vacuum helps to remove moisture from the structure which improves the adhesion and prevents problems encountered in heat cycling during the lifetime of the products. The pressure range for degassing can be from 10 mTorr to 760 Torr with a temperature range from 5 to 200 ° C, and can be carried out for between 1 and 120 min, but typically for a few minutes.

    [0130] The degassing, activation and coating processes can all be carried out in the same chamber in sequence. An etching process can also be used to eliminate surface contamination of the copper prior to the activation and coating steps.

    [0131] The conductive tracks on the substrate may comprise any conductive material including metals, conductive polymers or conductive inks. Conductive polymers are hydrophilic in nature, resulting in swelling, which can be eliminated by applying the coating described herein.

    [0132] Solder resists are normally applied to PCB's during the manufacturing process, which serve to protect the metallic conductors from oxidation and to prevent the solder flowing up the metallic track, which would reduce the amount of solder in the joint. Solder resists also reduce the potential for solder shorts between adjacent conductors. Because the halocarbon polymer coating is only removed where flux is applied, a very effective barrier to corrosion is left across the rest of the board, including the metallic conductors. This action also prevents the solder flowing up the track during the soldering process and minimises the potential for solder bridges between conductors. Consequently, in certain applications, the solder resist can be eliminated.

    [0133] Reference is made to the following Examples.

    Example 1



    [0134] An experiment was run to coat a substrate using the parameters of Table 1.
    Table 1: Process parameters according to a first example
    ParameterValue
    Liquid Monomer Supply (LMS)  
    Temperature_canister 130-150 °C
    Temperature_LMS 140-150 °C
    Plasma Chamber  
    Dimensions 700 x 730 x 960 mm
    Temperature wall 40-50 °C
    Electrodes & Generator  
    Plasma RF/ground
    Power 60-80 W
       
    Frequency 13.56 MHz
    Frequency mode cw
    Monomer 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorooctyl methacrylate
    flow 10-50 sccm
    Pressure  
    Base pressure 10 - 20 mTorr
    Work pressure 45-55 mTorr
    Oleophobicity Level 5
    (ISO 14419-2010)  

    Example 2



    [0135] A further experiment was run to coat a substrate using the parameters of Table 2.
    Table 2: Process parameters according to a second example
    ParameterValue
    Liquid Monomer Supply (LMS)  
    Temperature_canister 130-150 °C
    Temperature_LMS 130-150 °C
    Chamber  
    System 700 x 730 x 960 mm
    Temperature_wall 40-50 °C
    Electrodes & Generator  
    Plasma RF/ground
    Power 60-100 W
       
    Frequency 13.56 MHz
    Frequency mode pulsed (102-104Hz; duty cycle 0.1-20%)
    Precursor 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate
    flow 10-50 sccm
    Pressure  
    Base pressure 10-20 mTorr
    Work pressure 40 mTorr
    Throttle valve 20 - 30 %
    Oleophobicity Level 8
    (ISO 14419-2010)  

    Results


    1. Oil and water repellence



    [0136] The water contact angle is used to measure the hydrophobicity or wettability from a surface.

    [0137] The oleophobicity level is measured according ISO 14419-2010.
    Table 3: Oil and water repellence test data
    PrecursorC3F6Ex 1Ex 2
    Contact angle° 90° - 100° 100° - 110° 110° - 120°
    Oleophobic level 3 5 8
    Process parameters   
    Time (minutes) 10 2 2
    Work pressure (mTorr) 50 50 40
    Power (W) 500 75 75
    Flow (sccm) 100 25 25


    [0138] It is clear from Table 3 that the hydrophobicity, as measured by the contact angle, is higher in the cases of Examples 1 and 2 than for the prior art precursor. It is further established that the coatings of Examples 1 and 2 have a higher oleophobicity than the prior art coating. It is also noteworthy that the process time, power and flow rate were all lower in developing the coatings of Examples 1 and 2 than in the prior art case.

    [0139] Table 3 also demonstrates that coatings formed from precursors having perfluorocarbon backbones comprising eight carbons, such as 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate, have higher oleophobicity and hydrophobicity than coatings formed from precursors having perfluorocarbon backbones comprising six carbon atoms, such as 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorooctyl methacrylate.

    [0140] Surprisingly, however, the Applicant has found that optimum coatings are deposited when the mode (i.e. continuous wave or pulsed) is selected according to the following key (Table 4).


    2. Deposition rate



    [0141] To demonstrate the deposition rate of different coatings, the coating thickness was measured with ellipsometry after a certain treatment time on coated glass plates. The results are shown in Table 5 below.
    Table 5: Deposition rate test data
    PrecursorC3F6Ex 1Ex 2
    Thickness (nm) 28.4 29.9 35.8
    Process time (minutes) 7 1 1
    Process parameters   
    Work pressure (mTorr) 50 50 40
    Power (W) 500 75 75
    Flow (sccm) 100 25 25


    [0142] The process time is approximately seven times higher for C3F6 than for the coatings of Examples 1 and 2.

    3. Uniformity of coating for single and plural electrodes



    [0143] A conventional electrode set up was established with a single electrode per electrode set. In such conventional configurations the top side of the substrate or the side facing towards the RF has a thicker coating formed thereon than the obverse face or face pointing to the ground electrode.
    Table 6: Uniformity test data
    Precursor1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorooctyl methacrylate
    electrodes/setSingle1Multiple2
    Thickness:  
    Top (nm) 58,9 64,2
    Bottom (nm) 25,3 66,1
    Process parameters:  
    Process time (minutes) 2 2
    Work pressure (mTorr) 50 50
    Power (W) 75 160
    Flow (sccm) 25 25
    1A single electrode system is one conventionally used in the prior art
    2A multiple electrode system is that as shown in the accompanying figures


    [0144] As can be seen in the above Table 6, the data demonstrates that the electrode configuration of the invention leads to markedly more consistent coverage on both surfaces of the substrate.

    4. Coating uniformity according to the precursor



    [0145] In order to determine the coating uniformity, process parameters were optimised for a prior art substance (C3F6) and a coating of 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate.

    [0146] The minimum standard deviation for the prior art substance was 25%. The standard deviation for the coating of 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate was 6.75%.

    [0147] The coating of 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate was applied at a lower power than that of the prior art (ca. five times less). It was also coated with a lower treatement time. The below graph (Graph 1) demonstrates that the uniformity for coatings of 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate is higher when process times are shorter (the error bars at long process times are larger than at short process times).


    5. Solderability from plasma coated PCB



    [0148] Different coating thicknesses were evaluated regarding the solderability. For coatings of 1H,1H,2H,2H-Perfluorodecyl acrylate (in pulsed or continuous power mode) the PCB joints soldered well. It was found that a wide range of coating thicknesses, in this experiment from 10 to 170 nm, showed good solderability.

    6. Corrosion resistance



    [0149] To test the corrosion resistance, a single gas verification test was used that had been developed as a quick and effective method of evaluating gold and nickel coatings on copper.
    • The samples were placed in a chamber that had been filled with H2SO3 and the chamber was then placed in an oven at 40°C.
    • After 24 hours the samples were removed from the chamber and photographed.
    • The samples were replaced in the chamber which was refilled with a fresh
      charge of H2SO3. The chamber was put back in the oven and the temperature increased to 45°C. The chamber was kept at this temperature for a further four days, when some limited corrosion started to appear on the polymer coated samples.
    • Further photographs of the samples were taken at the end of the test.


    [0150] The result shows that after 24 hours the ENIG-reference PCB was showing sufficient corrosion to make it unusable whereas the coatings of Examples 1 and 2 above showed no signs of corrosion. After a further four days, the ENIG reference sample was heavily corroded with large areas of copper oxide and nickel showing through. By contrast, the coatings of Examples 1 and 2 above showed no corrosion at all or just some tiny spots. In this experiment different precursor types, different coating thickness as well as different power modes (continuous or pulsed) showed the same excellent results.

    [0151] Reference is made to Figure 6 which shows the ENIG reference (Figure 6A) and plasma coating of Examples 1 and 2 (Figure 6B) after the test.

    7. Wettability



    [0152] The wettability of the Example 1 plasma coated PCB was shown according to following method IPC JSTD-003B.

    [0153] The test coupons were dipped in solder paste: SnPb at 235°C or SAC305 at 255°C. Test fluxes 1 and 2 were used for SnPb and SAC305 respectfully. Samples were used as a baseline tested at 90 degrees incident to the solder pot. The immersion depth was 0,5mm and the dwell time in the solder pot was 10 seconds. A series of samples were additionally exposed to 8h of 25 72°C/85% R.H. in a humidity chamber.

    [0154] All of the test coupons showed good wetting and robustness of the coating. It has been demonstrated that the use of reactive monomers is effective in providing improved coatings. Moreover, the use of low powers and fast process times provides homogeneous coatings with excellent performance characteristics. The invention is defined by the claims.


    Claims

    1. A method for coating a substrate with a polymer layer, which method comprises locating a first electrode set (14, 14', 14") and a second electrode set (14, 14', 14") within a plasma chamber (11, 11', 11"); and further includes the steps of placing a substrate between the first and second electrode sets, and wherein each electrode set comprises an inner electrode layer (141', 141") and a pair of outer electrode layers (142', 142") wherein the inner electrode layer is either a radiofrequency electrode layer or a ground electrode layer and the outer electrode layers are either ground or radiofrequency electrode layers respectively; introducing a monomer into the plasma chamber; switching on the radiofrequency electrode layer or layers in order to activate a plasma; and exposing surfaces of a substrate to the plasma such that a polymer layer is deposited on each surface.
     
    2. The method of Claim 1 further comprising the step of activating the plasma with the monomer to form the polymer layer.
     
    3. The method of Claim 1 or 2 further comprising the step of applying the polymer layer to a thickness of from 10 to 500 nm.
     
    4. The method of Claim 1 or 2 further comprising the step of applying the polymer layer to a thickness of from 10 to 200 nm.
     
    5. The method of Claim 1 or 2 further comprising the step of applying the polymer layer to a thickness of from 20 to 100 nm.
     
    6. The method of Claim 1 or 2 further comprising the step of applying the polymer layer to a thickness of from 40 to 70 nm.
     
    7. The method of any one of the preceding Claims further comprising drawing a fixed flow of the monomer into the plasma chamber using a monomer vapour supply system.
     
    8. The method of any one of the preceding Claims further comprising the step of allowing the monomer vapour pressure to stabilize in the chamber before activating the plasma by switching on a radiofrequency electrode layer or layers.
     
    9. The method of any one of the preceding Claims further comprising the step of introducing the monomer into the plasma chamber in a first flow direction; and switching the flow after a predetermined time to a second flow direction.
     
    10. The method of any one of the preceding Claims further comprising the step of depositing the polymer layer such that it has a contact angle for water of 100° or more and/or an oil repellency level of 4 or more according to IS014419 in a process time of approximately 2 minutes or less.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zum Beschichten eines Substrats mit einer Polymerschicht, welches Verfahren das Anordnen eines ersten Satzes von Elektroden (14,14',14") und eines zweiten Satzes von Elektroden (14,14',14") innerhalb einer Plasmakammer (11,11', 11") umfasst; und ferner die Schritte der Platzierung eines Substrats zwischen Sätze von ersten und zweiten Elektroden einschließt, und wobei jeder Satz von Elektroden eine innere Elektrodenschicht (141', 141") und ein Paar äußere Elektrodenschichten (142', 142") umfasst, wobei die innere Elektrodenschicht entweder eine Hochfrequenz-Elektrodenschicht oder eine Masseelektrodenschicht ist und die äußeren Elektrodenschichten entweder jeweils Masse- oder Hochfrequenz-Elektrodenschichten sind; Einführen eines Monomers in die Plasmakammer; Einschalten der Hochfrequenz-Elektrodenschicht oder -schichten, um ein Plasma zu aktivieren; und dem Plasma Oberflächen derartig aussetzen, das eine Polymerschicht auf jede Oberfläche abgelagert wird.
     
    2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, das ferner den Schritt der Aktivierung des Plasmas mit dem Monomer umfasst, um die Polymerschicht zu bilden.
     
    3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, das ferner den Schritt der Auftragung der Polymerschicht auf eine Dicke von 10 bis 500 nm umfasst.
     
    4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, das ferner den Schritt der Auftragung der Polymerschicht auf eine Dicke von 10 bis 200 nm umfasst.
     
    5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, das ferner den Schritt der Auftragung der Polymerschicht auf eine Dicke von 20 bis 100 nm umfasst.
     
    6. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1 oder 2, das ferner den Schritt der Auftragung der Polymerschicht auf eine Dicke von 40 bis 70 nm umfasst.
     
    7. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner das Ziehen einer festgelegten Strömung des Monomers in die Plasmakammer unter Verwendung eines Monomer-Dampfversorgungssystems umfasst.
     
    8. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner den Schritt einschließt, dem Monomer-Dampfdruck zu erlauben, sich in der Kammer zu stabilisieren, bevor das Plasma durch Einschalten einer Hochfrequenz-Elektrodenschicht oder -schichten aktiviert wird.
     
    9. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner den Schritt der Einführung des Monomers in die Plasmakammer in einer ersten Strömungsrichtung umfasst; und Schalten der Strömung, nach einer vorbestimmten Zeit, in eine zweite Strömungsrichtung.
     
    10. Verfahren nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, das ferner den Schritt der Ablagerung der Polymerschicht derartig umfasst, dass sie einen Kontaktwinkel für Wasser von 100° oder mehr und/oder einen Grad der Ölabweisung von 4 oder mehr gemäß ISO14419 in einer Prozesszeit von ca. 2 Minuten oder weniger aufweist.
     


    Revendications

    1. Un procédé destiné à revêtir un substrat d'une couche de polymère, ce procédé comprenant l'étape consistant à localiser un premier ensemble d'électrodes (14,14',14") et un deuxième ensemble d'électrodes (14,14',14") à l'intérieur d'une chambre à plasma (11,11', 11") ; et comprenant en sus les étapes consistant à placer un substrat entre les premier et deuxième ensembles d'électrodes, chaque ensemble d'électrodes comprenant une couche intérieure d'électrodes (141', 141") et une paire de couches extérieures d'électrodes (142', 142"), la couche intérieure d'électrodes étant soit une couche d'électrodes de radiofréquence soit une couche d'électrodes de masse et les couches extérieures d'électrode étant respectivement des couches soit de masse soit de radiofréquence ; introduire un monomère dans la chambre à plasma ; commuter la ou les couches d'électrode radiofréquence afin d'activer un plasma ; et exposer des surfaces d'un substrat au plasma de sorte qu'une couche de polymère est déposée sur chaque surface.
     
    2. Le procédé de la revendication 1 comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à activer le plasma avec le monomère pour former la couche de polymère.
     
    3. Le procédé de la revendication 1 ou 2 comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à appliquer la couche de polymère à une épaisseur allant de 10 to 500 nm.
     
    4. Le procédé de la revendication 1 ou 2 comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à appliquer la couche de polymère à une épaisseur allant de 10 to 200 nm.
     
    5. Le procédé de la revendication 1 ou 2 comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à appliquer la couche de polymère à une épaisseur allant de 20 to 100 nm.
     
    6. Le procédé de la revendication 1 ou 2 comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à appliquer la couche de polymère à une épaisseur allant de 40 to 70 nm.
     
    7. Le procédé d'une quelconque des revendications précédentes comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à tirer un flux fixe du monomère dans la chambre à plasma en utilisant un système d'alimentation en vapeur de monomère
     
    8. Le procédé d'une quelconque des revendications précédentes comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à permettre à la pression de vapeur de monomère de se stabiliser dans la chambre avant d'activer le plasma en commutant une ou des couches d'électrodes radiofréquence.
     
    9. Le procédé d'une quelconque des revendications précédentes comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à introduire le monomère dans la chambre à plasma selon une première direction de flux ; et à changer le flux selon une deuxième direction de flux après une période de temps prédéterminée.
     
    10. Le procédé d'une quelconque des revendications précédentes comprenant en sus l'étape consistant à déposer la couche de polymère de sorte qu'elle présente un angle de contact pour l'eau de 100° ou plus et/ou un niveau d'oléophobie de 4 ou plus selon l'ISO14419 dans un temps de processus d'environ 2 minutes ou moins.
     




    Drawing























    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description