Written By Matt Hughes - President - Semicore Equipment, Inc.

Physical Vapor Deposition - also known as PVD Coating - refers to a variety of thin film deposition techniques where solid metal is vaporized in a high vacuum environment and deposited on electrically conductive materials as a pure metal or alloy coating.

As a process that transfers the coating material on a single atom or molecule level, it can provide extremely pure and high performance coatings which for many applications are much preferable to electroplating. PVD Coating processes are an environmentally friendly process that can greatly reduce the amount of toxic substances that must be disposed of with more conventional types of coating that involve fluid precursors and chemical reactions.

At the heart of every microchip and semiconductor device, PVD Coatings enable the solar panel industry to make greener electricity as well as surgical and medical implants that require the highest degrees of purity. It produces coatings with superior hardness, durability and resistance to wear. PVD Coatings reduce friction for high performance moving parts making them widely used in the aerospace and automotive industry, and for cutting tools where long lasting durability is the crucial success factor.

Physical Vapor Deposition Coatings are also highly resistant to tarnishing and corrosion enabling them to be used for a wide range of decorative finishes with colors that do not fade. PVD produces highly brilliant finishes that make watches highly resistant to scratches and scrapes, and is used in a wide variety of optical applications ranging from glasses to self-cleaning tinted windows. Their resistance to corrosion makes them widely used on household items such as door handles, plumbing fixtures and marine fixtures.

PVD is fundamentally a vacuum coating technique vaporizing a metal to a plasma of atoms or molecules and depositing them on a wide range of substrates. Carried out in a high vacuum chamber approximating outer space at 10-2 to 10-4 millibar, the process usually takes place between 150 and 500 Degrees C.

The material to be coated is secured in a fixture and placed in the vacuum deposition equipment chamber. The equipment is pumped down to the optimum pressure depending upon the coating materials, substrate and process used, and the object to be coated is often preheated and sputter cleaned.

A wide variety of types of PVD coatings are available, including Zirconium Nitride (ZrN), Zirconium Carbon Nitride (ZrCN), Titanium Nitride (TiN), Titanium Carbon Nitride (TiCN), Chromium Nitride (CrN), Chromium Carbon Nitride (CrCN), and Chromium Nitride (CrN).

The carbides, nitrides, silicides and borides that make up the PVD coating materials each have special qualities tailored to specific applications. Graphite and titanium for example are often used in high performance aerospace and automotive component where friction and temperature are crucial success factors.

To achieve a uniform thin film coating thicknesses that are often a few atoms or molecules thick, parts to be coated are often rotated on several axis at a uniform speed, or placed on conveyor belts moving past the deposition material’s plasma stream. Single or multi-layered coatings can be applied during the same deposition cycle.

Additionally, reactive gasses such as nitrogen, oxygen or acetylene are introduced into the vacuum deposition chamber to produce a very strong bond between the coating and substrate when it’s deposited. Although the thin film coatings are only a few microns thick, they form an extremely adherent coating with high lubricity lowering friction and heat that makes PVD the perfect choice for high performance cutting tools and engine parts.

Of all of the benefits of the PVD Coating process that produce some of the toughest, most brilliant and cutting edge technology of our time ranging from microchips to solar panels, none is more important than the fact that PVD Coatings can be applied with no toxic residues or byproducts which degrade our planet’s environment


Matt Hughes is President of Semicore Equipment Inc, a leading worldwide PVD Coating Equipment Manufacturer for the electronics, solar energy, medical, optical, automotive, and related high tech industries. Please let our helpful support staff answer any questions you have regarding “What is PVD Coating?” and how to implement the best techniques and equipment for your specific Pulsed DC Sputtering Equipment needs by contacting us at sales@semicore.com or by calling 925-373-8201.


Related Articles


Thin Film DepositionWhat Is Thin Film Deposition?

The two most common techniques of Thin Film Physical Vapor Deposition or PVD are Thermal Evaporation and Sputtering.  Thermal Evaporation involves heating a solid material that will be used to coat a substrate inside a high vacuum chamber until it starts to boil and evaporates producing vapor pressure. Sputtering involves the bombardment of a target material with high energy particles that are to be deposited on a substrate like a silicon wafer or solar panel.  Each thin film deposition process has advantages and disadvantages depending upon the specific application. .... Read More


patterned wafers tnWhat Is Thermal Evaporation?

Thermal Evaporation involves heating a solid material inside a high vacuum chamber to take it to a temperature which produces a vapor pressure. Inside the vacuum chamber, even a relatively low vapor pressure is enough to raise a vapor cloud. This evaporated material now constitutes a vapor stream, which traverses the chamber and hits the substrate, sticking to it as a coating or thin film. .... Read More



Sputtering Chamber Glow  What Is Sputtering?

Sputtering is a thin film coating technique where a target material to be used as the coating is given an electrical charge causing it to be bombarded with ionized gas molecules in a vacuum environment causing atoms to be “Sputtered” off into the plasma. These vaporized atoms are then deposited when they condense as a thin film on the substrate to be coated. .... Read More