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Increasing margins in PVD with innovative technology and materials


Well-established deposition technologies like ARC or materials like AlTi/TiAl deliver solid results, but it is hard to differentiate yourself substantially here anymore. "Luckily" there has been a lot of movement in both fields that enable individual, tailormade coatings with potential for differentiation and increased margins.


I. Differentiation in technology and process


๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐——๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ถ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ง๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ต๐—ป๐—ถ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ฒ๐˜€: ๐—›๐—œ๐—ฃ๐—œ๐— ๐—ฆ-๐˜€๐—ฝ๐˜‚๐˜๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด

It has been there for a while but is really gaining momentum now. The higher ionization and energy of the sputtered material contribute to many advantages:


โœ” Improved hardness and wear resistance

โœ” Films with consistent and desired properties

โœ” Better machining performance of tools, higher corrosion resistance


All that can create added value. Industries that profit most are tooling, automotive (friction reduction) fuel cells, and optical coatings (corrosion and electrical properties).


๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜€

Introducing a reactive gas (such as O or N) along with the sputtering gas delivers the possibility to create thin films with much higher value. Examples: TiON, TiAlCN, for tools and decorative applications, photocatalysis with TiO2, and antireflection (SiO2) in solar cells.


Advantages:

โœ… Improved Product Performance: Thin films with specific electrical, optical, or mechanical properties >> Improved device performance and reliability.

โœ… Enhanced Functionality: Tailored properties, such as optical coatings for lenses or mirrors with specific reflectance or transmittance characteristics ย >> enhanced functionality and performance.

โœ… Customization and Differentiation: Precise control over properties such as color, hardness, and surface texture. >> Unique features and aesthetics.


๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—น ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด

Advanced coating technologies and -processes in themselves require much more sophisticated monitoring and control equipment:

๐Ÿ›ฐ Reactive processes: Controlling the composition requires controlling the reactive gases ratio to ensure good reliability of the process.

๐Ÿ›ฐ Reactive gas control in general: Less defects, better homogeneity >> Higher prices possible.ย 



II ๐—›๐—˜๐—” ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐——๐—ข๐—ฃ๐—œ๐—ก๐—š - ๐—œ๐—ป๐—ป๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฃ๐—ฉ๐—— ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€

Innovative, tailor-made coatings are a major driver to creating innovative layers, differentiating yourself and getting better prices. There are two main approaches nowadays:


The classical method: Doping


๐—ง๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ "๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜€๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—น", ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—น๐—น-๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฑ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฎ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฎ๐—ฑ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐˜€๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฎ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ("๐—ฑ๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด"). The second element can induce specific changes and deliver new, decisive properties, the possible individual variation of the second element (within the limits set by nature and production methods) makes it possible to "finetune" the wished characteristics quite well. In a more strict definition "doping" means the introduction of impurities into a material to modify its electrical or optical properties but in PVD materials the term is more widely used, with the second element comprising even 10% or more.


The "fancy" method: HEA

High Entropy Alloys, known as HEA, are relatively new class of materials characterized by having multiple principal elements, 4-5 mainly, in roughly equal proportions. Benefits:


โœ” They offer a unique combination of properties, such as high strength, hardness, and corrosion resistance.


โœ” The composition of HEAs can be adjusted to achieve desired properties. This flexibility allows for the customization of thin films based on the specific requirements of a given application, providing a high degree of tunability.


Both approaches can deliver thin films with improved or unique properties, i.e. tailoring the properties of thin films for various technological applications and are therefore a valuable base for innovative PVD coatings and high-value products.

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