Thin film coating services apply very thin layers of specialized materials to part surfaces. They perform processes such chemical vapor deposition (CVD), physical vapor deposition (PVD), ion implantation, electrochemical deposition (ECD), plasma etching, rapid thermal processing (RTP), and titanium nitride coating. Some thin film coating services apply coatings with a high hardness or abrasion resistance relative to the substrate or to other, similar coatings. Other companies coat surfaces with a soft, high purity alloy that contains gold or silver for applications that require lower electrical contact resistance. Thin film coating services are located across the United States and around the world. Many meet International Standards Organization (ISO) requirements or automotive, aerospace, military, or OEM specifications. 

 

Thin film coating services use several basic techniques. Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) feeds a precursor gas or mixture of gases into a chamber. The reaction with an energy source then forms a thin film coating. Physical vapor deposition (PVD) also uses an energy source, but for glow discharge processes such as evaporation and sputtering. With PVD, coating materials are condensed and deposited onto a surface, substrate, wafer or part. Ion implantation directs a highly accelerated beam of charged atoms (ions) at a surface resulting in the capture of some of these atoms in the surface of the substrate or wafer.  In microelectronics, ion implantation is used to implant dopants such as silicon with boron (B), phosphorus (P), arsenic (As) or antimony (Sb). Electrochemical deposition (ECD) is a process that uses a liquid phase. Plasma ashing, plasma cleaning, sputter etching, sputter precleaning or ion milling are processes that use plasma to remove layers of material from a substrate or wafer for cleaning purposes. In rapid thermal processing (RTP), silicon wafers are rapidly oxidized to form a silicon dioxide dielectric layer by brief exposure to high temperature steam. Titanium nitride (TiN) is an extremely hard, thin film coating that is applied mostly to precision metal parts. It is the most common hard coating in use today. 

Secondary Activities Performed

Thin film coating services often perform secondary activities such as cleaning, parts washing, finishing, and surface treatment. Cleaning and parts washing processes include thermal cleaning, degreasing, spray washing, immersion washing, stripping or coating removal, and ultrasonic cleaning. Finishing and surface treatment processes include blasting, buffing, deburring, deflashing, polishing, electropolishing, honing, mass finishing, mirror finishing, oxygen cleaning, passivation, picking, sanding, and grinding. Some coating services process new components or original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts. Others restore damaged surfaces or provide services at customer sites or in the field. 

Material Processing Capabilities and Certification or Quality Requirements

Thin film coating services vary in terms of material processing capabilities and certification or quality requirements. Some companies process parts made from aluminum, copper, nickel, iron, cast iron, steel, stainless steel, and precious metals. Others process ceramics, metallized ceramics, composites, carbides, glass, plastics and polymers. Certification and quality requirements include ISO 9001:2000, ISO TS16949, AS 9100, and QS 9000. AS 9100 is a set of quality guidelines and requirements published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in cooperation with major aerospace manufacturers. QS 9000 is a quality standard for suppliers of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company, and General Motors Corporation. Companies that meet U.S. military specifications (MIL-SPEC) and comply with OEM-specific requirements also provide thin film coating services.


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