Lectro Hopes to Ignite Plasma Use

By Steve Toloken

Chicago - Lectro Engineering Co. has developed a small, open-air plasma-treating system that the company says can replace flame in many applications.

Lectro (Booth S4006) is introducing the LT 2000, which it says is much smaller and cheaper than its previous surface treating systems.

"Although our treating is very popular, our equipment is very large and couldn't get close," said Lee Williams, president of St. Louis-based Lectro. "This is the first commodity-type machine we've come up with." The company was able to design the machine to reduce the voltage at the transformer but get higher output where the electrical discharge comes out, said Williams.

The machine works on all types of molding processes and does not require adjustment if the production lines change from one product to another, the company said. The LT 2000 machine is 66 percent smaller and treats parts faster and at a fraction of the cost of its standard Lectro-Treat machine, the company said.

Flame surface treating machines have 85-90 percent of the market for small parts because the flame can pass right over the conveyor, Williams said.

Lectro said its processes are more expensive than flame but do not bring any heat, so they preserve the cosmetic integrity of the parts, which also will not warp from heat, he said. That makes it particularly attractive to the automotive industry, Williams said.

Some plants also build their own flame systems but those may not meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards or other standards for controlling gas, Williams said.

The company recorded about $3 million in sales last year, and projects about $4.5 million this year, he said. About half of that increase will come from the LT 2000, he said.

The Lectro Treat works by running parts through a tunnel where it creates an oxidized, cold plasma at atmospheric pressure.

The machine took 20 years to develop, Williams said. It was extremely difficult to build a capable machine that was small, he said.