We rely on thin film coatings everyday to power our devices.
Written by: Denton Vacuum, LLC
Microscopic films are used in a variety of materials, but applying a thin coating is not a simple process. You need intense heat, but apply it directly to your substrate and you risk damaging the materials. Manufacturers use a technique called sputter deposition to apply the coating, which binds the material to the substrate.
A sputtering system can use the thin film coating to change the properties of the substrate, like in a circuit board where the material makes the board conductive. Manufacturers can make metals that are more resistant, or even metalize plastics to increase their durability. Even eye glass lenses use this technique to create scratch-resistant lenses.
You can use vacuum metalizing to make a two-way mirror, by applying a reflective coating to a piece of glass. The degree of coating also plays a role. The thin coatings can change how reflective a surface is, or apply it with materials that absorb the sun’s energy (like a solar cell). Thin coatings are also used in medical supplies, like a catheter, so the tube can slide easily into the patient and sit inside the body without causing discomfort.
Thin film deposition makes it possible to power most of our household objects, like a microwave or a television. This technology creates the motherboards in our computers, the circuit boards in our DVD players, and the reflective coating of our vanity mirrors. This important manufacturing technique has lowered costs of production, and allowed us to do more with the technology we have