Physical vapor deposition (or PVD) is the process in which a metal material becomes vaporized and then condensed onto a production part’s surface as a coating. A PVD coating improves the hardness, durability, and chemical and oxidation resistance of the production part. This process is most commonly used in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, among others to provide a long lasting jewelry like appearance, improved lifelong performance, and ease of cleaning.
Here Are the Three Main Types of PVD Coating
Physical vapor deposition techniques for a functional lifetime coating became popularized in the 1970’s and have since become essential practices for a variety of industries. There are a variety of PVD processes which cover a spectrum of functionally and aesthetically desirable attributes. However, the three most commonly used forms are thermal evaporation, sputter deposition, and arc vapor deposition. There are subsets of each PVD coating process, but all achieve similar results.
1. Thermal Evaporation
There are two types of thermal evaporation: pulsed laser deposition and electron beam deposition. Both processes use energy to evaporate a metal material (such as Titanium, Zirconium, Chromium, Aluminum, or Copper) into a vacuum. The vacuum then allows vapor articles to travel to the relatively cooler production parts where it will once again condense and crystallize into a thin, hardened, metal state. This PVD type is most commonly used in computer industry microfabrication or for products such as film packaging.
2. Sputter Deposition
Two types of sputter deposition are currently used in manufacturing applications: ion beam sputtering and magnetron sputtering. In the former, an ion beam directs a high electric field toward the surface of the material to be vaporized. This causes the metal vapor gases to ionize after which momentum transfer directs those ions toward the target production part. In magnetron sputtering, positively charged ions are accelerated by an electrical field and then superimposed onto the target parts. This process is commonly used in the medical industry for manufacturing lab products and optical films.
3. Arc Vapor Deposition
Our favorite PVD coating method at Bend Plating is arc vapor deposition—or in our case, low-temperature arc vapor deposition (LTAVD). This process uses a low-voltage arc to evaporate metal source material into vaporized metal particles. These evaporated metal atoms combine with reactive gas molecules in a plasma state that once again condense on relatively cooler production parts in close proximity. Production parts spin on a multi-axis rack carousel to produce an evenly distributed lifetime coating in colors that include hues of black, bronze, gold, graphite, nickel, blue, purple, and “rainbow” combinations of more than one color.
LTAVD is our favorite form of PVD coating because it is the most environmentally friendly method, and it results in a very thin (0.25 to 4.0 microns) hard metallic coating that is available in a wide variety of colors. PVD finish has a transparent quality that allows underlying chrome or polish to shine through. Matte and brushed metal finishes also receive PVD to lock in these desired physical appearances for a lifetime of corrosion, chemical, and scratch resistance. PVD can also be used on lower-cost or lighter weight base materials (including plastic and aluminum) and provide superior aesthetic looks, abrasion, and corrosion resistance.