Friday, February 15, 2008

Filtered Cathodic Arc PVD

Cathodic-arc evaporation is a relatively simple PVD technology that produces a large flux of highly ionized vapor, valuable for depositing hard, dense, and well adhered industrial coatings. Cathodic-arc evaporation also produces macroparticles (MPs) that create defects in the films, relegating this technology to applications that are mostly insensitive to these defects, such as cutting tool coatings. Many methods have been tried over the years to filter out MPs. Although more or less successful at reducing MPs, all of these filtered cathodic-arc (FCA) sources also reduce the coating rate and area to such an extent that they are mostly relegated to the laboratory or to applications needing only extremely thin films over small areas. FCA technology is also typically quite complicated, bulky and expensive.
The present convention in FCA, the curvilinear FCA, borrows from fusion research to bend the ions through a bent tube using a magnetic field. MPs, unlike the ions, are unaffected by the magnetic field and travel in straight lines, getting caught on the walls of the tube and are thereby prevented from reaching the part to be coated. The main problem, also present in fusion technology, is that the ions are imperfectly confined and mostly don’t make it out the filter, which explains the low deposition rates inherent to conventional FCA. Curvilinear filters are also complicated to operate and typically quite large, sticking some distance out of the side of the vacuum chamber. Low deposition rates over small areas (magnetic restoring can increase coating area, but adds even more complication), difficult operation, bulky size, and high cost have prevented wide-spread adoption of filtered-cathodic-arc (FCA) technology, despite the many advantages of ion deposition.

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