Home > Process Technologies > Innovative Thin Film Systems

Innovative Thin Film Systems

In the ITS sector, we develop, manufacture and modify PECVD coating plant with the emphasis on carbon-based functional coatings. In this field we work closely with the Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoffmechanik (IWM).

The projects discussed below give an overview of our successes to date.

In joint thin-film development work with Fraunhofer IWM, we established the basic parameters for upscalable deposition units. Acting on the knowledge derived from tribological and chemical evaluations of the coatings created, several electrode and gas-inlet systems were tested. These electrodes are manufactured by inprotec AG and then installed in IWM’s Laboratory-PECVD equipment.

This is an iterative process: the modified electrodes and gas-inlet systems have to be tested to determine their process capability. According to the quality of the coatings created, new solutions are worked out and again tested under relevant limiting conditions in the IWM Laboratory-PECVD equipment. Scale-up feasibility is continuously evaluated and screened using different geometries or different numbers of parts being coated, because the modified electrodes and gas-inlet systems have to be manufactured for plants with different dimensions.

It is an empirical fact that, when putting a prototype deposition cell into operation for the first time, the results will sometimes be suboptimal or even defective. The amount of work and expense to overcome such start-up problems should never be underestimated, and is therefore carried out in close cooperation between inprotec AG and Fraunhofer IWM, for the supported projects.

In addition we cooperate in the area of Equipment Component Development. For example, we develop electrodes, gas distribution systems / shower heads, gas outlet systems, and containers.

Manufacture of Innovative Thin Film Systems

In cooperation with the Fraunhofer-Institut we manufacture various PECVD coating units. On this site you will find an overview of projects already completed.

Equipment Type 1

Standard PECVD-Equipment with Parallel Plate Design for the Generation of a Capacity Coupled RF-Plasma (13.56 MHz):

This standard unit, based on capacitively coupled RF-plasma coating technology, was developed jointly, in the course of two PhD theses, by inprotec AG and Fraunhofer IWM. In contrast to the technology available on the market, a new deposition concept was developed and brought to production readiness in which the reactor can be adapted to the geometry of the parts being coated.

A flexible reactor design with easily expandable working volume ensures the scale-up capability of the process by maintaining optimum deposition parameters, whose selection is oriented towards the anticipated demand profile. Equipment Type 1 can be supplied either as laboratory unit, or as a customer-specific production plant.

Equipment Type 2

A Low Maintenance, Extremely 3D-capable PECVD Unit for the Generation of Capacitively Coupled RF-plasma with REMOTE Properties (13.56 MHz):

Based on the experience of Fraunhofer IWM with the earlier Equipment Type 1, a new, plasma supported process technology was developed in order to allow the separate control of the inherent and topographical properties of coatings from the amorphous hydrocarbon family. This independent PECVD technique allows the specific structuring of DLC-layers directly in the process.

By focused manipulation of the ionic diffusion current, coating build-up takes place exclusively on the substrate electrode, which has drastically reduced maintenance-related downtime. The modified plasma current path of this PECVD technology not only avoids progressive soiling of the equipment, but allows full control of widely differing plasma parameters during the deposition stage.

 This has the effect of multiplying the number of potential process windows. These can be used both for high layer deposition rates up to 1µm/min while maintaining typical DLC coating properties, and for widely differing coating morphologies. In particular specially structured DLC coatings can be produced that do not require pre-structuring of the substrate (in situ structuring). The plant shown in the illustration is the prototype Equipment Type 2 in the Fraunhofer IWM laboratory.

Equipment Type 3

A special Version of the Low Maintenance Equipment Type 2

This unit was developed specially for customers who have a large throughput of parts to be coated, but whose premises have restricted headroom. At the same time, the horizontal vessel permits the deposition of coatings with accurate contours on extremely long substrates. The plant shown in the illustration is a prototype Equipment Type 3 capable of small-series production, seen here in a Fraunhofer IWM laboratory.