PVD thin film coating technology has been divided into two subgroups, PVD coating machines and PVD coating testing machines.
PVD coating machines
There are many different coating equipment manufacturers that sell PVD vacuum coating machines that use magnetron sputtering, arc evaporation etc. to deposit surface coatings. With regard to magnetron sputtering most PVD coating machines use at least 4 magnetrons, 2/3 fold rotation systems and completely automated computerised control. In most business sectors it is now economical for companies to buy their own turn key systems and coat in-house. The unit cost for coating is much cheaper and lead times are negligible.
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PVD coating testing equipment
Testing equipment is used in a production environment to ensure quality control. The main coating testing equipment is as follows.
Scratch adhesion tester
The scratch adhesion tester is used to measure the adhesion of thin coatings. The adhesion testing is achieved by using a Rockwell diamond that slides across a coated test piece or coated component/tool while an increasing load is applied. The load at which the coating fails can be measured using a load cell or acoustic emission and confirmed using an optical microscope.
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Rockwell adhesion tester
Another quick method of adhesion testing used in production departments is the Rockwell adhesion tester, which was developed by the Union of German Engineers, (Verein Deutscher
Ingenieure, VDI) and is therefore also referred to as the Daimler-Benz test. This test uses a Rockwell “C”-type diamond cone indenter with an applied load of 150kg. The adhesion is assessed by observation of the Rockwell “C” indent after the adhesion test. This is only a useful test if the substrate is relatively hard though (eg High Speed Steel).
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Coating thickness tester (Calo® tester or ball crater thickness tester)
A quick method of measuring thin film coating thickness is the Calo tester or ball crater thickness tester (depending on the testing equipment supplier).
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Pin on disc wear and friction tester
The pin on disc tester using a fixed ball counterpart sliding against coated test piece to measure the tribological properties, friction and sliding wear, of the coating.
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The abrasion resistance of a coating can be measured using the abrasion tester. In this test a rotating steel sphere is loaded onto the coated sample or component. A diamond solution slurry is then dripped onto the sphere. The diamond wears the coating away. Once the substrate has been reached the coating wear can be measured optically. Software is usually used to determine the coating abrasive specific wear rate.
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