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Content archived on 2024-04-30

Industrial upscaling of pulsed plasma processes for economic hard coating deposition


* High quality DLC coatings (hardness 10 - 18 GPa, low friction coefficient 0.1 against steel) and high quality TiN coatings (HV " 2000) were obtained with bipolar-pulsed DC plasma technology. The influence of procesparameters on deposition properties was investigated in detail. The plasmas were characterised with optical emission spectroscopy
* Duplex treatments were developed for DLC and TiN coatings. The surface properties of the nitrided substrates were optimised with respect to the scratch adhesion behaviour of coatings
* The duplex DLC process was implemented in an industrial plasma nitriding reactor of 2 m³
* A high power bipolar pulsed DC power supply was designed and constructed in a subcontract and used for process development. Specified power outputs are: 200 kW between 0 and 3 kHz, 40 kW at 33 kHz
* The development of a modelling code combining gas dynamics simulation and plasmaphysics/chemistry calculations was started but not yet finalised. A plasma chemical model for CH4 was developed and experimentally validated and has been published
* All surface treatments were thoroughly characterised: chemical, structural, mechanical, tribological. In addition, selected systems were subjected to industrial tests (sliding rollers test, pinions pitting test). Field tests were carried out with end users outside the consortium.
A breakthrough of high tech coating technology on low cost or large size industrial wear parts is highly hindered by the dimension (and therefore the price) of today's PVD and plasma assisted CVD (PACVD) technology. The main objective of the IPEC project is therefore to expand current PACVD technology to an industrial scale (m3 size). As this industrial size is already achieved routinely for ionic nitriding of engineering substrates, IPEC aims at implementing the deposition of high quality diamond like carbon and TiN coatings with excellent adhesion in commercial plasma nitriding systems (2m3) using bipolar pulsed DC technology. The bipolar pulsed PACVD technology allows to deposit conductive and insulating coatings in one reactor and is favourable for upscaling to large areas and volumes. The combination of plasma nitriding and hard coatings in one process will, besides the improvement in the lifetime of engineering components, also reduce the process duration and therefore the process costs.

Initially, the feasibility of bipolar pulsed DC PACVD technology for hard coating deposition (DLC and TiN), plasma nitriding and combined treatments will be evaluated in pilot coating facilities.
Concurrently, High power bipolar pulsed DC power supplies will be developed and tested. In the second phase of the project, the new power supply and the process technology for depositing DLC and TiN will be implemented on industrial plasma nitriding reactor, together with adequate sensors for closed loop process control. In both phases of the project, industrial testing will be conducted on large batches of engineering substrates. The process optimisation will be supported by extensive modelling of the PACVD reactors.

The consortium comprises a plasma nitriding company (Nitruvid), a manufacturer of bipolar pulsed power supplies (Magtron), two research organisations (VITO and FhG IPA) that contribute their know how for the deposition of TiN and DLC hard coatings and two end users (STC and Renault) active in important European industrial sectors with large interest in low cost hard coating technology.

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Magtron GmbH
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77833 Ottersweier

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Participants (5)