Often, if you want to join metal and plastic objects together, you have to use glue or rivets, according to New Atlas. However, engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Materials and Beam Technology in Germany have developed a "gun" that they claim will make the bonding process faster and cheaper.
One of the problems with adhesives is that the elements to be joined must be left alone until the adhesive sets, which delays further steps in the manufacturing process. On the other hand, riveting can damage plastic objects. In addition, with any method, the manufacturer has to pay for glue or rivets.
The institute's device addresses these issues with what's called the HeatPressCool-Integrative (HPCI) process. Start by clamping metal and thermoplastic elements together where bonding is required. Targeted induction heat is then applied to the metal, melting the plastic parts it comes into contact with. This allows the surface layer of plastic to penetrate a series of tiny anchor structures that were previously laser-etched into the metal surface at that point.
After the plastic cools and shrinks, it adheres tightly to these structures, bonding the two objects together. The whole process takes only a few seconds.
According to the researchers, the HPCI "gun" could be integrated into existing production lines, perhaps mounted on a manipulator instead of a spot welding gun. Possible applications include assembling car bodies or gluing stainless steel sheets to dishwashers or refrigerators.