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Main Methods of PVD Coating

Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) is a thin-film coating technique that physically converts a solid or liquid source of material into gaseous atoms, molecules, or ions under vacuum, which are then deposited on the surface of a substrate to form a thin film. The PVD-coated film has the advantages of fast deposition speed, strong adhesion, good diffraction performance, and wide application range. The main methods of physical vapor deposition include vacuum evaporation, sputtering deposition, plasma spray coating, ion plating, etc.  Read on to find more details about each PVD coating method.

Vacuum Evaporation

Vacuum evaporation is a process in which a solid material (referred to as the evaporating material) is heated in a high vacuum environment to be deposited on a specific substrate to obtain a film.

A wide range of materials, such as conductive materials, dielectric materials, magnetic materials, and semiconductor materials, can be deposited by vacuum evaporation.

Vacuum evaporation system
Vacuum evaporation system. Rheima, Ahmed & Hussain, Dhia & Abdulah, Hussain. (2016). Silver nanoparticles: Synthesis, Characterization and their used a counter electrodes in novel Dye sensitizer solar cell. 10.9790/5736-0910010609.

This process is mainly used in microelectronics to make active components, device contacts and metal interconnections, high precision low-temperature coefficient thin film resistors, and insulating dielectrics and electrodes for film capacitors.

Evaporation mainly includes electron beam evaporation, multi-source evaporation, instantaneous evaporation, pulsed laser deposition, and reaction evaporation.

Sputtering Deposition

Sputtering deposition, or sputtering coating, is a physical vapor deposition technology. By bombarding the target with high-energy particles, the particles are ejected from the solid target and deposited on the surface of the substrate to form a thin film.

The sputtering targets come in a wide variety of sizes and materials, including pure metal sputtering targets, ceramic sputtering targets, and alloy sputtering targets. And their purities range from commercial-grade 99.9% purity to the highest, 99.999% zone refined Ultra-Pure grade.

Sputtering deposition system
Sputtering deposition system. Esteves, Matheus. (2016). Synthesis and Characterization of Texturized Pt Layers for Epitaxial Growth of Magnetic Thin Films. 10.13140/RG.2.2.16957.26082.

This Technique is mostly used to coat thin layers on silicon wafers, solar panels, and displays.

There are mainly 5 types of sputter coating, including magnetron sputtering, radio frequency sputtering (RF sputtering), direct current sputtering (DC sputtering), ion-beam sputtering, and reactive sputtering.

Plasma Spray Coating

Plasma spraying electrically heats the material and sprays it on the substrate to be coated. The process can be used over large surface areas at higher deposition rates than most other thin film deposition methods.

Plasma Spray Coating system
Plasma Spray Coating System. Maximov, Maxim & Maximov, Oana-Cristina & Craciun, Luminita & Ficai, Denisa & Ficai, Anton & Andronescu, Ecaterina. (2021). Bioactive Glass—An Extensive Study of the Preparation and Coating Methods. Coatings. 11. 1386. 10.3390/coatings11111386.

A variety of materials can be used for plasma spraying, including metals, plastics, ceramics, alloys, and composites. They are usually fed in powder form and heated until a molten state is reached, and then sprayed onto the substrate.

Ion Plating

Arc ion plating is the plating of the desired material, usually metal, on the workpiece. The material used for the coating is first evaporated in a vacuum, then ionized using a positive charge from the arc, and the material is then attracted to the workpiece, forming a thin film.

Materials commonly used for arc ion plating are TiN, copper, gold, chromium, and silver.

Ion Plating System
Ion Plating System. SANO, Hironao & ISHIDA, Ryota & KURA, Tatsuya & FUJITA, Shunsuke & Naka, Shigeki & Okada, Hiroyuki & TAKAI, Takeshi. (2015). Transparent Organic Light-Emitting Diodes with Top Electrode Using Ion-Plating Method. IEICE Transactions on Electronics. E98.C. 1035-1038. 10.1587/transele.E98.C.1035.


Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD coating) refers to a variety of vacuum deposition techniques where solid metal is vaporized to produce thin films and coating on a substrate. In this article, we briefly introduced four PVD coating methods- vacuum evaporation,  sputtering deposition, plasma spray coating, and ion plating. If you are interested in one of the specific techniques, you can click the link in each section to find more detailed information.

Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) Corporation is a global supplier of various PVD coating materials such as metals, alloys, oxides, ceramics, etc. We provide sputtering targets & evaporation materials for a wide range of applications from ferromagnetic, complex oxides, and semiconducting films.

About the author

Julissa Green graduated from the University of Texas studying applied chemistry. She started her journalism life as a chemistry specialist in Stanford Advanced Materials (SAM) since 2016 and she has been fascinated by this fast growing industry ever since. If you have any particular topics of interest, or you have any questions, you can reach her at julissa@samaterials.com.

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