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PVD Coating Overview

While liquid nitriding is a surface modification technology, PVD coating involves the deposition of thin (2-10 microns; 0.0001”–0.0004”) films on the surface of tools and components. The PVD coating process can be divided into three stages:

Material is usually removed from the target surface either by sputtering or by an arc-discharge. The transportation step is through a plasma medium. Plasma is a collection of charged particles, whose constituents can be influenced by magnetic fields and tend to travel in straight lines or “line of sight” from source to substrate. Different characteristics are imparted to the plasma depending upon the technique used to generate it. A PVD coating is formed when plasma constituents and reactive gases combine on the substrate surface. Besides its specific chemical constituents and the architecture of the sub-layers, the properties of a PVD coating depend upon: ion energy; the degree of ionization of the metal ions; and mobility of the atoms condensing on the substrate surface.

There is a broad range of available PVD technologies – including conventional arc deposition and magnetron sputtering, coupled with technology enhancements that yield high deposition rates and thin films with high adhesion and diverse microstructures. HEF PVD coatings are deposited using three different technologies:

PEMS: Plasma Enhanced Magnetron Sputtering. HEF patented PEMS is a magnetron sputtering process enhanced by an auxiliary plasma source. This triode system allows independent control of material flux, ion energy and substrate bias. PEMS can provide a multitude of high performance coatings with application customized hardness, density and toughness.

CAM: Coating Assisted by Microwaves. CAM permits the deposition of hard and ultra-low friction coatings at a very low temperature. Another major advantage is the ability to coat at low pressure, allowing more efficient use of the coating chamber and improved productivity.

M-ARC: Modified ARC. This high throughput plasma-arc method was developed by HEF partner, Northeast Coating Technologies (NCT), and dramatically reduces droplets normally associated with arc-deposited coatings. These coatings are a cost-effective solution for a wide range of carbon-free PVD coatings.

Sputtering Magnetron Sputtering
Sputtering Diagram

Sputtering produces metal vapor plasma from a solid cathode by bombarding the surface with energetic gas ions (i.e. Argon). Reactive gases (i.e. Nitrogen or hydrocarbon gas) combine with the metal vapor to form PVD coatings (i.e. TiN, CrN, Ti(C,N)).

Click here to view Cathodic Arc Evaporation animation.

Click here to view Sputtering animation.