Vacuum Maintenance for Thin Film Evaporation

Guest post is provided by Denton Vacuum, LLC, specializing in PECVD sputtering systems. Visit their website for more information.

Vacuums are an amazing piece of technology that allow for the process of laying thin layers of metal or other materials by condensing the material by a method called thin film evaporation. This process heats the chamber into extremely high temperatures, heating the substance inside to plasmic levels, the same state of matter that exists inside the sun. When it cools, it lays a thin layer of metal only microns thick on the target with a hardness like that of a diamond.

This kind of coating is great for machinery that endures high temperatures or high impact from chipping and scratching without adding any extra weight. Those in the automotive or manufacturing industries make great use of this kind of sputtering technology.

There are different kinds of sputtering techniques, and they all require an air tight chamber to work properly and safely. Having a clean vacuum chamber is absolutely essential to ensure there are no impurities in the sputtering process.

Impurities can weaken the results or even cause damage to the machine and its sensitive components. Build up of grease, dust and oil coating residue traps water and increases the likelihood of making a bad film. The backing plate, dark space shield, interior walls and other surfaces need to be impeccably clean to work properly, as well as the target you choose to enter in the machine yourself.

Alumina impregnated sand paper, blasting with glass or chemical baths are the best ways to clean the vacuum. The vacuum should never be touched with bare hands and you must always wear protective gloves when using the machine.
Vacuum tools for PVD coating must always be wiped clean with a solvent before use in the vacuum to prevent potential contamination.

Liquids and powders should never be used in the vacuum system as it can damage the sensitive components. If you touch the system with your bare hands, the oils in your skin will out gas and contaminate further sputtering films, while attracting dirt. This kind of vacuum seal and cleanliness is what will make the results of your sputtering system work well.

The longevity of the system is paramount since these systems are so delicate and expensive to replace or repair. Proper use of the machine will ensure that you get the most out of your sputtering system. The main idea is that even a touch of your bare skin on the internal components can seriously compromise the results of your efforts. All contaminations need to be remedied immediately to prevent spread throughout the device.

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