Sputtering and PVD Coating: Choosing The Best Method

March 18, 2021 • Posted in Sputtering & Vapor Deposition

When looking to achieve a high-end look for your custom printed parts, advanced coatings can play an important role. These coatings, applied via “sputtering” or “physical vapor deposition” (PVD), are commonly used on decorative parts and machining tools for their high hardness, wear resistance, and cosmetic edge.

So what’s the difference between sputtering and PVD, and what can they be used to achieve?

At Sanwa, we’re experienced in using both methods to obtain a desired usability or look for our clients’ decorated parts. Our team can make recommendations based on applications (such as appliance or automotive use), environmental exposure (like UV or chemicals), or project budget.

If you’re looking to achieve a chrome-like look with parts that stand out for their aesthetic appeal and longevity, we’ve put together some information that may help when it comes to choosing the method that’s right for you.

lexus emblem sputtering

What Is Sputtering?

Sputtering is a type of deposition method used to produce thin film coatings. In the sputtering process, the condensation of a targeted vaporized material is deposited onto a substrate surface. In other words, sputtering removes material from a source (like a metal or alloy), and transfers it to the surface of another object.

At Sanwa, we’ve used this method for creating long-lasting decorative parts in high-traffic or high-use environments, such as steering wheel emblems and other automotive decals. These parts are resistant to cracking, peeling, scratching and other signs of wear and tear.

Why Use Sputtering?

Sputtering offers strong adhesiveness, long life span, and the ability to pull target material from most metals and alloys. This means a plastic-printed part can achieve a truly metalized look for many years to come. One thing to remember, however, is that sputtering projects can have a comparatively higher cost than PVD, depending on the specifications, uses and desired outcomes.

What Is PVD?

PVD (physical vapor deposition) occurs on an atomic level in a vacuum chamber. During the coating, a solid material is vaporized in a vacuum and then embedded onto a part’s surface of a part. Often, a part will need to be specially positioned or rotated to achieve precise and full-coverage coating. In the process, the compound materials form a thin, bonded surface layer that can greatly improve the appearance, durability, or function of the decorated part.

While PVD also pulls target materials from metals (like the sputtering method), the selection is limited to those metals with lower melting points. However, if your project is flexible with material types, PVD can be an excellent choice when lower costs and quicker turnarounds are priorities.

auto emblem pvd coating

Why Use PVD?

PVD coating can be applied to a wide variety of substrates, including plastics, ceramics and even other metal materials. At Sanwa, we’re typically able to offer PVD at a higher speed and lower cost than most sputtering projects. Also, beyond the aesthetic benefits, PVD often results in higher wear resistance and surface hardness than non-coated parts.

Choosing the Coating Method That’s Right For You

There’s no one coating method that’s the right choice for every part or application. PVD and sputtering can both be used on parts in the automotive, aerospace, appliance or medical supply industries. All types of coating offer their own benefits and challenges, and should be selected based on your unique requirements.

When you’re looking to create decorative emblems, badges or ornaments with specialized coatings, we can help with selecting the method that’s right for you. We’ll discuss your goals, applications, budget and larger-picture project to make sure we can recommend the best-fit coating method.