How to buy a PVD coating

This is part 1 of a 3 part series

Part 1: Why buying a PVD Coating is not like buying parts from a machine shop

If you’re designing a new product, reengineering a manufacturing process or just interested in creating a premium offering for an existing product, chances are you’ll consider buying PVD coating services.

PVD coatings are robust, environmentally friendly, proven technologies for surface modification that have been integrated into commercial products routinely for at least 70 years.  We talk about what PVD coatings are in this prior post

In some sense, if you’re managing a product or process change, buying a PVD coating can seem like more hassle than its worth. Companies that make PVD coatings often confuse matters by asking a lot of seemingly unrelated questions about the substrate material, final product application, temperature requirements, working environment, etc.

Why is it so hard to buy a PVD coating?

Why can’t it be like a machine shop, where you send them a drawing and, as long as you spec it correctly, you’ll get a finished product back?

As the Chief Scientist of Alcadyne, a PVD coating company with experience in semiconductor, tool and radiological coatings, I have the insider view of why it can seem complicated to order a PVD coating. This is the first of three posts sharing my perspective of why buying a PVD coating can seem complex, so that you’ll understand why PVD coating companies ask so many questions. And you can see my short PVD coating video here.

Why can’t I just send a drawing and get what I want back?

Its instructive to understand why the PVD coating manufacturing process is so different from buying a part from a machine shop. When you send a drawing to a machine shop, they have perfect vision to what you want (the drawing) and complete control from stock metal to the finished product. Nothing that happens before or after their part of the process impacts their performance, because they are starting from a clean slate and delivering a finished product.

PVD coatings, on the other hand, exist on top of the work of others. Whether you’re looking for a specific color, chemical resistance or wear protection, those properties are defined by the material underneath the coating. The coating can’t exist without the part that is being coated.

That means that a company manufacturing a PVD coating must care a lot about the work that was done before the part was delivered to them.

And

They must understand how the product will be used after the coating is applied.

While PVD coatings can be robust against specific conditions and designed for certain environments, they can be susceptible to other kinds of damage. For example, a coating may be designed to withstand mechanical impact but may not be able to withstand a 700°C heat treatment.

It’s worth seeking out a manufacturer with the expertise and patience to care about the end to end details. If a company isn’t willing to take the time to learn about your process and how the product will be used in situ, how can you be sure they are creating a solution to meet your needs?

If you’re in the market for a PVD coating, please contact us

We’ll be sure to ask a lot of questions.