Who’s ready for a science lesson? In the metal plating industry, we basically play around with physics all day in order to fulfill metal finishing needs. One of the techniques we use to deposit metallic materials onto substrates is by way of sputtering deposition. It is truly a fascinating process, and we will walk you through it here.
Let’s start with some definitions:
- Gaseous Plasma: a “dynamic condition” of matter consisting of a balanced combination of neutral gas atoms, ions, electrons, and photons.
- Substrate: the surface of the product to be plated.
- Target: source material (the material of the plating can range from gold to zinc to any other metal or alloy).
- Energy Source: can be radiofrequency (RF), direct current (DC), or megawatt (MW).
Sputtering deposition deposits a thin layer of metallic material onto a substrate. To begin this process, a gaseous plasma is first created in a vacuum chamber. A power source maintains the plasma state of the material and then ions from the plasma are accelerated onto the target, the material that is plating the substrate. Ions erode the source material and then eject as neutral particles via energy transfer. The particles will travel unless something is in their path, which happens to be the product. The particles of the material then adhere to the substrate as a film that can be as thin as a millionth of a millimeter.
Voilà! As a result, you have a coated product.
Physical vapor deposition utilizes the sputtering process to plate products with a thin film of metallic material. Because it is a “dry” plating process without the use of chemicals, physical vapor deposition is considered a more environmentally-friendly process to plate products. Sputter coating is achieved at low temperatures which also makes it a safer process.
We here at Bend Plating love working with ions, plasma, and energy sources. In conclusion, a finished plated project is quite rewarding. Have something that needs to be coated? Give us a call; we can talk about your project and if sputtering deposition is the right method for the job.