People often ask us: “What is PVD coating?” Here’s a brief introduction.
This blog post is meant as a high-level overview, but we here at Vapor Technologies, Inc. (VaporTech®) are here to help you learn more. Please enjoy the linked How it’s Made video in this post. You can download our free introductory guide to thin-film finishes (including PVD, CVD, and DLC coating) for more detailed information. More questions about PVD coating are answered on our FAQ page.
Definition of Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD)
PVD (physical vapor deposition) thin-film coating is a process in which a solid material, often a metal, is vaporized in a vacuum and deposited, atom-by-atom, onto the surface of a part. The PVD process forms a thin, bonded, metal or metal-ceramic layer on the surface that greatly improves the appearance, durability, and/or function of a part or product. The deposition process can be easily customized to change the color, durability, or other characteristics of a coating. Related terms are PE-CVD (plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition) thin-film coating, a similar process in which the atoms in a gas are energized and deposited on a surface. DLC (diamond-like carbon) coatings are a popular example of a thin-film coating deposited using either a PVD or PE-CVD process. These processes create coatings used decoratively and for durability, functionality/tribology, and added product value.
Industries & applications for PVD and DLC coatings
PVD finishes are used in a variety of industries, from faucets to medical devices to high-end consumer items. Some examples are:
- Biocompatible coatings such as hip replacements and dental implants.
- Functional coatings (including DLC coatings) for friction-bearing surfaces such as high-performance engine parts and firearms.
- Durable-decorative coatings for plumbing products, sporting goods, jewelry & watches, and electronics.
Comparison to other coatings
Compared to powder coating, PVD coatings are more than 50 times thinner, last longer, and improve UV resistance vs. an organic polymer.
Compared to electroplating, PVD coatings have improved scratch and wear resistance, more color options, a cleaner, safer process, and offer the option of use after electroplating for wear-resistance and aesthetics.
Advantages of PVD coating
Some advantages of extremely-thin PVD finishing are:
- Coating complex geometries
- Improved appearance
- A vast array of colors
- Waste reduction
- A pennies-per-part PVD cost
What’s the difference between PVD and chemical vapor deposition (CVD or PECVD)?
Thin-film deposition is often referred to as “PVD coating,” but in fact, PVD is only one of several processes that are used in thin-film deposition systems. Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) is another process of applying thin-film coatings. PVD uses primarily physical processes to apply source material to the substrate, whereas CVD involves mixing the source material with chemicals that interact with the material to create the desired coating.
What is diamond-like carbon (DLC) finishing?
DLC is an extremely durable Diamond-Like Carbon coating type that is created via PE-CVD (plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition) process. Regardless of the type of thin-film coating, the process makes parts and products more functional, durable, and beautiful. VaporTech DLC coatings are made using the PECVD process.
PVD, CVD, and DLC coatings are applied in vacuum chambers (hence the term “vacuum coating,” which is also often used to describe the process). These chambers use either cathodic arc vapor deposition or magnetron sputtering to deposit metal coatings onto parts and products in many industries. The operator racks the parts, puts them in the machine, and runs a coating cycle to produce the desired look. VaporTech coating systems utilize all these processes depending on customer need. They also use a proprietary lower-temperature cathodic arc (LTAVD®) process that coats more materials than higher-temperature systems. The company’s Cadence systems use a patented sputtering process called RAAMS™ that has coating advantages over traditional magnetron sputtering.
We hope this answers the basic question “What Is PVD Coating?” If you need more information, fill out the form below or call us at 303-652-8500.