PVD Methods Explained

Hauzer PVD machine at ECF

PVD (physical vapor deposition) is a highly technical coating process performed in an artificial vacuum, known for its aesthetic and performance benefits. There are several different methods for producing PVD coatings, which include cathode arc evaporation, magnetron sputter, electron beam evaporation, ion beam sputter, and laser ablation.

Cathode Arc Evaporation

Cathode arc evaporation consists of evaporating the solid coating material by passing a high-power electric arc over the coating material. This causes nearly complete ionization of the coating material; in the vacuum chamber, these metal ions interact with reactive gas, then strike the components and adhere to them as a thin coating.

Magnetron Sputter

In this process, the coating material is bombarded by gas ions, which results in ejection of particles from the coating material target. Magnetron sputtering techniques use magnetrons with strong magnetic and electric fields, which traps particles near the surface of the sputter target and causes them to undergo more collisions with the gas ions—which increases the amount of material deposited on the component.

Electron Beam Evaporation

In electron beam evaporation, the coating material is heated by electron bombardment to a high vapor pressure. This process occurs in a high vacuum, so the heated coating material then diffuses and condenses on the components, which are cooler in temperature.

Ion Beam Sputter

Ion beam sputtering is similar to magnetron sputtering, but the coating material is separate from the ion source, which allows both insulating and conducting materials to be sputtered, since the atoms which strike the material are neutral. The gaseous material then is deposited onto the component in the chamber.

Laser Ablation

The laser ablation, or pulsed laser deposition (PLD), method of PVD coating consists of focusing a high power pulsed laser inside a vacuum chamber, where it strikes the coating material, vaporizing it. The vaporized material forms a plasma plume, which creates a deposit of the coating material on the component.

Though each method varies slightly, all are capable of producing beautiful finishes that resist corrosion, UV, humidity, and chemical resistance, in an environmentally-friendly process which produces no harmful byproducts.

ECF has top of the line PVD technology to create gorgeous, high-performing PVD coatings for your components, using cathode arc evaporation and magnetron sputter processes. Read more about our technical capabilities here.


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