Process Advantages Limitations and Applications

One advantage of vacuum arc technology is the relative safety afforded by the low-voltage power supplies, compared with the high-voltage supplies necessary for sputtering and electron-beam evaporation. A second advantage is the relatively benign environmental impact of this technology, compared with competing means for depositing refractory metals, such as chemical vapor deposition.

All types of vacuum arc deposition processes share the same potential for making commercially valuable coatings. However, cold cathode sources produce macroparticles that may need to be removed in certain applications. Although hot sources avoid the macroparticle problem, they have other design constraints that must be evaluated, such as crucible reactions and heating and cooling cycle times.

As of 1994, the most important applications of coatings produced by the vacuum arc process involve the reactive deposition of nitrides for extending the useful life of cutting tools, reducing wear and friction in parts of machines, and providing a gold color in certain decorative applications. In particular, the cold cathode cathodic arc and one form of anodic arc have been used extensively in commercial environments for coating cutting tools with titanium nitride.

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