What Is the Thin Metal Film Deposition Process?

How Thin Film Deposition Works – Its Advantages and Applications

Thin metal film deposition is a unique fabrication process commonly used in the manufacturing of semiconductors, biosensors, and other specialized photolithography applications.

The process involves carefully depositing thin metallic film coating onto a substrate in order to yield specific material properties. For example, specially engineered thin film coatings are used in the fields of optics and imaging to modify the optical properties of glass. In more advanced biomedical and semiconductor applications, thin film deposition is used to create specific molecular properties in the conducting material, further paving the way for highly customizable chip manufacturing.

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An Overview of Thin Metal Film Deposition Processes

Generally, thin film deposition processes are classified into two overarching categories based on the specialized fabrication methods involved.

Thin Film Chemical Deposition

The chemical deposition process uses a volatile chemical fluid as a precursor to chemically modify the substrate surface at a molecular level.

Unique combinations of precursor chemicals and substrates are utilized to yield specific performance-enhancing material properties. Perhaps the most notable example is the chemical vapor deposition (CVD) process which is used to engineer highly specialized solid thin films and coatings for state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing applications.

Thin Film Physical Vapor Deposition

The other common thin metal film deposition process used throughout the industry is physical vapor deposition (PVD). In this fabrication process, the precursor material is excited via thermodynamic or electromechanical processes. The carefully-controlled excitation forces the material to release specific molecules as a vapor which is then deposited onto the substrate. 

Two of the most widely used forms of physical vapor deposition processes are vacuum thermal evaporation and sputtering deposition. Another specialized type of physical vapor deposition utilized at Platypus Technologies is referred to as electron beam deposition.

Vacuum Thermal Evaporation

Vacuum thermal evaporation and deposition is a fabrication process in which the precursor is thermally excited and vaporized. The vapor molecules bond to the substrate material through molecular potential differences, yielding reliable and consistent deposition results.

Sputter Deposition

The sputter deposition process involves the ejection of precursor material generated by exciting the source material via electron sputtering. The precursor material is subjected to high levels of electricity within a sputtering gas, typically argon. The electrical excitation forces ions to eject and travel through the sputtering gas in order to energetically impact the substrate.

Magnetron Sputtering Deposition

The most commonly used sputter deposition process throughout the modern fabrication industry is magnetron sputtering. As the name suggests, the process uses a magnetron to generate extremely strong electric currents near the target substrate in order to facilitate the deposition of sputtering ions.

Electron Beam Deposition – E-Beam Evaporation

Electron beam deposition, sometimes referred to as E-beam evaporation, is a unique method of initiating the physical vapor deposition process. The process utilizes a charged tungsten element to generate ions from a source material within a high-vacuum environment. Essentially, the source material is transformed into a gaseous state and evaporated.

The charged ions, or electron beams, consequently bombard the substrate material held within the vacuum chamber. Once the process is complete, the previously gaseous source material solidifies into a thin metal coating on the substrate surface.

Applications for Thin Metal Film Deposition

Thin metal film deposition is a critical fabrication process utilized in a diverse range of consumer, commercial, medical, and industrial applications. Some common examples include:

  • Semiconductor manufacturing.
  • Fiberoptic systems.
  • Industrial laser systems.
  • Medical electronics and biomedical devices.
  • Advanced optical and imaging applications.
  • A wide range of consumer, commercial, and industrial electronics.

Regardless of your industry or application, Platypus Technologies provides the innovation and expertise to accommodate your unique custom metal coating requirements.