Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Tribology Coating Equipment

Semicore’s SC8600 Series is a versatile platform designed to incorporate a wide range of deposition techniques focused around “Tribology” wear resistance, which includes low friction coatings such as Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC).

This DLC Tribology Deposition System can also deposit CrN, TaC, TiC, TiN, MoS2 and WC-C, which are just a few of the common materials used for functional coatings throughout many industries, including aerospace, automotive, defense, medical instruments, power generation, oil & gas and many others.

Deposition techniques this multi-purpose equipment can deliver include:

  • High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HIPIMS)
  • Reactive Magnetron Sputtering
  • Inductively Coupled Plasma Sources (ICP)
  • Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD)

Semicore looks forward to working with you to determine the best solution for your application with this versatile equipment that can utilize the following deposition techniques.

High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HIPIMS)

High Power Impulse Magnetron Sputtering (HIPIMS) is a technology which allows one to ionize a portion of the sputtered target material and to controllably increase the energy of the ionized species with the simple addition of a HIPIMS power supply. This is achieved by applying extremely high power (hundreds of kilowatts to megawatts) to the magnetron for very short periods of time. The application of power in this manner creates an extremely high electron (plasma) density which ionizes the sputtered species after they leave the target.

In comparison, only a small fraction (<5%) of the sputtered target material is ionized when using DC or Pulsed DC Sputtering. Ionization levels from 5 – 100% can be achieved by tuning the pulse parameters appropriately. Materials such as copper can be fully ionized and can even sustain a “self-sputtering” state where no argon is used. Most other materials still need some noble sputtering gas in order to sustain the discharge.

Adding an adjacent positive pulse to the negative sputtering pulse allows one to “tune” the energy at which the sputtered ions are accelerated towards the substrate. Coating properties such as density, resistivity and stress can be easily controlled as a result. Since the energy of the ions can be controlled directly from the target, the need for a substrate bias may be eliminated.

This opens the door to creating dense, well adhered coatings at low temperatures and on non-conductive substrates such as polymers and glass. Additionally, three dimensional structures, such as trenches and pillars, can be conformally coated.

HIPIMS power supplies are available for driving this DLC Tribology System using sources as small as 2” round magnetrons as well as larger planar or rotatable magnetrons up to 1m or more in length.

Reactive Magnetron Sputtering

Reactive Magnetron Sputtering is a process used to deposit oxides, nitrides and carbides of materials from a metal target. Traditionally, ceramics were sputtered with RF power, which suffers from extremely low deposition rates as well as the need to “contain” the RF power in the coating system.

In some cases, ceramic coatings can be deposited with pulsed DC power with a “poisoned” target, in which the reactive gas reacts with the target surface in order to form “poisoned or ceramic layer”, but deposition rates are also very low and coating properties may not be optimal.

Semicore 8600 DLC Tribology Coater

Semicore 8600 DLC Tribology Coater

In a Reactive Sputtering process, the reactive gas partial pressure is controlled in such a way that the target remains in a “semi-metallic” state, which allows for a high deposition rate, while the resulting coating on the substrate is a stoichiometric ceramic.

With Reactive Sputtering, controlling the partial pressure of the reactive gas in the system is key. This can be achieved by indirect measurement, target voltage/current or optical emission spectroscopy, or directly with partial pressure measurement. However, which technique is most suitable and yields the most robust and repeatable process depends on the material to be deposited and the system design.

For instance, if one wants to deposit SiO2 onto a polymer web, either voltage/current or direct optical emission can be used for control. However, if one wants to deposit TiN onto cutting tools on a planetary fixture in a batch coater, voltage/current control is not possible and remote optical emission monitoring is most appropriate.

Reactive Sputtering is currently used in a wide range of applications. It can be combined with HIPIMS technology in order to widen the process window for the deposition of metal nitrides and oxides. Optical and Transparent Conductive Oxide (TCO) coatings can be deposited at high rates.

Inductively Coupled Plasma Sources (ICP)

Plasma sources have been used for etching, ion assisted deposition and Plasma Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) for many years. However, most sources work for one or two but not all of the aforementioned processes. In addition, the scalability of traditional sources is limited due to the physics of their operation and physical construction.

An Inductively coupled Plasma (ICP) source technology has been developed which overcomes the problems of contamination, wear of neutralizer components and scalability. Such sources are available in round, rectangular and ring sources.

They can operate over a wide range of pressures (10e-4 to 10e-2 mbar) and can be run either at low energy (15 eV) or higher energies depending on the process requirements. As they have essentially no internal parts to “wear,” they are easy to maintain and incredibly robust for long term production campaigns.

As ICP sources a high plasma density at relatively low energy, they are suitable for plasma functionalization of temperature sensate substrates (polymers) as well as “damage” sensitive substrates or structures. Dielectric materials can be deposited at high rates from gas precursors for applications such as optical coatings (SiO2, TiO2) as well as the deposition of amorphous silicon and Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) Coatings. These sources are also suitable for the “ion assisted” deposition of optical coatings using E-beam Evaporation or Magnetron Sputtering and metal nitrides/carbides. Corrosive gases such as fluorine, chlorine and silane are also compatible with these sources.

Round sources are available from 4” to 12” diameter and rectangular sources are available up to 1.3 m in length. Ring sources are unique in that the substrate can be passed through the source directly. This allows for surface functionalization or coatings on both sides or on the OD of a substrate.

What is DLC Coating?

Diamond-Like Carbon Coatings are some of the toughest coatings on earth. DLC is a class of amorphous carbon coatings that can have the hardness of a diamond but the slickness of graphite — both of which are made from carbon.

The coating is a matrix of layers of nano-crystalline diamond and nano-crystalline silicon carbide that gives DLC depositions both extreme hardness and long-term durability of tribology wear resistance.

DLC Coatings are an environmentally friendly process that resists wear under extreme circumstances ranging from high performance automotive and aerospace components to decorative coatings on watches, jewelry and kitchenware that combines beauty with corrosion and scratch resistance.

The micro hardness and slickness of DLC has made it a proven bio-compatible coating ideal for a wide range of medical implant applications. Depositions can be configured to alter electrical current to behave like a semiconductor or an insulator that has contributed to important and exciting new advances in medical technology.

The excellent tribology properties that prevent abrasive wear makes it commonly used for applications such as engine cams and bearings, metal cutting and drilling equipment, and razor blades.

A relatively new technology that has rapidly become the application of choice for a wide range of uses, Semicore’s SC8600 Series DLC Coating Equipment offers you a versatile multi-purpose platform that enables you to incorporate a wide range of deposition techniques around tribology wear resistance.

Semicore Equipment Inc., a leading worldwide supplier of sputtering equipment for the electronics, optical, solar energy, medical, military and related high tech industries. Please let our helpful support staff answer any questions you have regarding your DLC Tribology Coating Equipment needs by contacting us at sales@semicore.com or by calling 925-373-8201.


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