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What is PVD Coating?

In the decades since it was discovered, physical vapor deposition (PVD) coating has found a multitude of new applications. As with many other technologies, PVD coatings were originally studied for military applications. They were used in ballistics to reduce friction and wear, prolonging the life of cannons and reducing spin.

4 Things to Know About PVD Coating

“I guess some chap was smart enough to be able to see that at different times the colors would be different, says John Dobek, V.P. Commercial Stainless Steel and Aluminum for Kloeckner Metals. “By controlling the process, they found they could achieve varying colors in a repeatable manner in the future.”

The realization of this freedom opened up a wide range of new possibilities in the field of metalworking. With the combination of aesthetics and functionality, PVD coating has earned a unique place in the world of metalworking. PVD coating involves treating the surface of a metal in order to modify its molecular properties.

A plasma gas is created when titanium is placed in a vacuum chamber and vaporized, which, in a sense, creates a plasma gas. “It’s a combination of art and science,” Dobek says. The process involves combining time, heat, a sacrificial metal, and an inert gas in order to create a specific color and thickness of treated surface.

What is the process of PVD coating?

First of all, it is important to note that the term “coating” can be a bit misleading in some situations.

In fact, the PVDcoating define is more like a surface reconditioning process than it is an additional, separate layer of material that has been applied to the metal. It alters the physical makeup of the metal itself, rather than adding an external layer.

The process of PVD involves the formation of a film at the atomic or molecular level in the absence of oxygen.

As a result of this process, the film is stripped from the metal surface, transitioning from a solid to a gas (sublimation), and then back to a solid (deposition).

Arc ION plating is the most common method of plating that is used today.

In order to achieve this alteration, a four-stage process is used, and it is best explained in the following paragraphs by metal finish specialist John Desmond:

  1. During evaporation, atoms are dislodged from the surface of a target with the help of high energy sources such as electrons or ions. This dislodges atoms from the surface of the target, making them vaporise and depositing the material on the target.
  2. The process of transporting the vaporised atoms from the target to the substrate or piece to be coated is known as the transport process.
  3. In cases where metal is the target, PVD coatings will be composed of metal oxides, nitrides, carbides and other similar materials. In the above coatings, the atoms of metal will react with a gas selected during the transport stage. Oxygen, nitrogen, and methane may be used as gases.
  4. Deposition is the process by which the coating builds up and bonds to the surface of the substrate. In some cases, it even penetrates the surface to give a lasting level of adhesion to the surface of the substrate.

In the end, the treated surface is left with a new luster and sheen, though the benefits go far beyond how the surface looks.

4 Things to Know About PVD Coating

Understanding PVD

The PVD “coating” is actually a bit of a misnomer because it does not add a substantial layer of coating to the metal, and it is translucent. Instead, it does alter the physical properties of the metallic surface itself with only a very small amount of buildup.

The coating actually bonds within the surface at the micron level, says Dobek. “It creates more of a surface condition, as opposed to a coating,” she says.

In order to gain a better understanding of PVD coating, Dobek advises that you look at a common household item: the drill bit. The gold or black color on the bit’s surface is PVD coating. The pvd coating machine process not only makes the bit more wear resistant, but it also enhances its visual appeal greatly. Now bits can break from heat build-up and torque when used, but you rarely ever see the color wear out. This is a clear and concise explanation of what PVD is all about. It is a simple but effective way to explain PVD.

PVD Applications

It is possible to find PVD coatings in a wide range of products, for example in architecture, where PVD coatings are frequently used to achieve the appealing appearance of PVD as well as anti-fingerprint coatings (AF). The anti-fingerprint coatings are typically applied as a coating to impart the characteristic, usually a spray. This makes them particularly attractive in high-touch areas. The problem with most of these are that they tend to wear out fairly rapidly, which is why they are so popular.

In a chamber, we do it simultaneously with the color, so the AF becomes a part of the surface as well as the color. Therefore, the anti-fingerprint property will remain much longer than it would if it were spray applied.”

When you wet the PVD AF surface, it makes water bead, just like mercury dropped on a surface or Rainex on a glass windshield. The PVD AF surface also can be found on appliances, as well as other aesthetic surfaces that require easy cleaning. When PVD AF is applied to building exteriors, the surface actually helps themselves self-clean whenever there is rain.

4 Things to Know About PVD Coating

The Cutting Edge of PVD

It is also possible with PVD to replicate the appearance of more expensive metals such as copper, brass, bronze, and gold, which are all expensive metals. PVD coated metal will not patina. It only needs to be cleaned to keep the original copper color. Rose gold pvd finish can be found in jewelry, and black PVD is often used for watches, as well as rose gold PVD.

There is also a strong presence of this type of coating in the medical field for surgical implants,” Dobek says. “Metallic implants are frequently coated to prevent the leeching of nickel or chrome into the body. It also has a lubricity factor of ‘metal to metal’ that extends the life of implants.”

Researchers are also exploring the possibility of applying PVD to antimicrobial applications in the chamber, which could add a new layer of functionality to food processing, in particular, where sanitation is a major concern, or to healthcare, where germs are a constant concern.

“It’s a great arrow in your quiver as product designs and innovations evolve,” Dobek says. “PVD can be an option that solves many problems.”


The PVD standard coating materials


  • It is important to note that the coating pvd material that is going to be sputtered or vaporized is known as a “target” or “source material.” There are hundreds of materials that are commonly used in PVD.
  • Depending on the end product, materials can range from metals, alloys, ceramics, compositions, and anything else you can think of from the periodic table that can be used.
  • Among the most popular PVD coating materials are titanium, zirconium, aluminum, stainless steel, and copper, but gold is also often requested in order to coat aerospace electronics.
  • As far as substrates are concerned, these coatings can be applied to a wide range of materials. These include nylon, plastics, glass, ceramics, as well as metals, such as stainless steel and aluminum.
  • It is often possible to achieve uniform thin film coating thicknesses of just a few atoms or molecules thick by rotating parts on several axes at a uniform speed as they pass through the plasma stream of the deposition material. Parts to be coated are then placed on a conveyor belt that moves past the plasma stream of the deposition material. In the same deposition cycle, a single or multiple layer coating can be applied.


PVD Applications

Due to the wide range of applications PVD has, it is often used in high-tech industries due to its wide range of applications.

We have applied PVD coatings to a wide range of industries and applications over the years, including;

  • Architectural

A PVD-colored stainless steel is used extensively in the architectural and industrial design industries, as an example, stainless steel curtain walls, cladding and profiles for hotels and casinos, shopping centers, railway stations and facades, as well as fitting-outs for high-end retail stores.

  • Transport

In addition to the transportation industry, PVD coated stainless steel can also be used in the following applications; ceiling and wall cladding for shipping or seating, skirting, and paneling for railways.

  • Ironmongery

Colored steel can also be used for smaller products, such as display cases, furniture, lighting fixtures, door handles, and faucets that are on a smaller scale.

  • Jewelry

In addition to PVD, the PVD process can also be used on stainless steel jewelry, creating some stunning colours. The common colors that can be achieved by PVD include gold, rose gold, coffee, black, dark grey, and blue. Depending on the level of polish on the surface, all these colors can either be polished, satin, or matt.