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topic 43412

Ion Plating (Ion Deposition)

A discussion started in 1998 & continuing through 2017


Q. We have a customer that is asking us to look into ion deposition. We have only a very basic knowledge of this. I would appreciate any help in steering us toward the required information. We are interested in set up/operating costs and the equipment needed.

Ric Wade


A. Ric,

I assume that you mean ion vapor deposition which is a type of PVD processing. The complete subject of PVD processing is covered in the book "Handbook of Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD) Processing" [link is to info about the book at Amazon], Donald M. Mattox, 949 pages, ISBN 0-8155-1422-0, Noyes Publications, Westwood, NJ (1998)

Donald M. Mattox
Society of Vacuum Coaters
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Ed. note:
            Mr. Mattox is
            the author of -->


A. There are many manufacturers in the U.S. that will build a system for your needs. Contact to check the list of equipment mfrs, or look into Thomas Catalog for Vacuum equipment.

Mandar Sunthankar
- Fort Collins, Colorado


A. Ric,

If you are not talking about ion vapor deposition specifically I could help inform you about sputter deposition, ion implantation or ion plating.

John Davis
John Davis
- Berthoud, Colorado, USA

IP vs. PVD plating--what's the difference?

(2004) -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

What is the different between IP plating and PVD plating?

Eva Quasthoff
student - Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Seeking PVD coating of miniature aluminum (6061 T6) parts


RFQ: I am looking to PVD coat approximately 90 6061 T6 aluminum parts. The various pieces range in size from .5" x 0.10" x 0.10" to .5" x .5" x 0.10". The parts are simple in geometry, have three small holes drilled through the part (one hole with 0-80 threads) and will be used for custom watch bands.

The coating must be thin, hard, and offer excellent wear resistance. Additionally, color availability is a must. Black chrome, Dark brown/bronze chrome, greens, blues, oranges, etc. I am ultimately looking for the same range of color, surface finish (glossy, satin, matte) and quality that is used on eyeglass frames.

A cost break down would be appreciated for set-up, piece part or batch cost, and any additional costs for metal prep.


Nathan Hallee
Industrial Designer - Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
^- Sorry, this RFQ is outdated
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To minimize searching and offer multiple viewpoints, we've combined multiple threads into the dialog you're viewing. Please forgive any resultant repetition or failures of chronological order.


Q. Ion Plating is a relatively new advanced technique used for plating, as far as I understand. Could you explain a little about the principles of this technique and the advantage/disadvantage of the technique, when used for Gold and Platinum plating of Silver jewelry? It is said that Ion Plating is more resistant to wear than traditional electroplating? Is it possible to express anything about how much better?

Kind Regards

Knud Torbol


A. Hello Knud,
You are referring to physical vapor deposition. The part to be coated is put into inert gas (usually argon) with a specified coating material. A low voltage arc at a given temperature is applied to actually evaporate the metal in the coating material. Ionized particles are then increased to a high energy. The coating is achieved by the accelerated particles being bombarded. One drawback to the process is cost, another is the learning curve. I know there is a tight profit margin on electroplated jewelry, no matter how you coat it. It would seem to me that PVD would have too long a return on the investment in the plated jewelry market. I can't comment on better wear resistance for PVD because I've not seen conclusive comparisons.

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York

A. Hi Knud. Mark says he isn't able to comment on the relative wear resistance of gold plating applied by ion plating vs. electroplating, which is understandable.

But I think something may be "falling through the cracks" here which might allow you to be confused or misled by the various claims: before gold is ion plated onto jewelry, the jewelry is often/usually first given an ion plating of titanium nitride (TiN). This is an extremely hard, relatively inexpensive material that looks virtually like gold (you've probably seen it on "gold" drill bits).

When a given thickness of gold is applied to this titanium nitride underplate vs. a shiny nickel underplate, it will certainly appear to last longer on the gold-colored TiN. Further, the TiN is sometimes applied in grainy fashion like mountain ranges. In that case, while the subsequent layer of gold will wear off the peaks of the "mountains" quickly, it may be a very long time before the gold in the valleys can wear away. So ion plating of gold on top of titanium nitride will always seem to last longer and in some cases actually does last much longer.

The above remains a simplification applicable to thin gold plating: It is possible to do traditional gold plating that will last a hundred years: you can see it on old pocket watches, although nobody plates gold that thick anymore because it's too expensive. And you can also protect gold plating with a clear topcoat.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

July 23, 2008

RFQ: Sir,
please inform me of any Indian company doing jobworks in ion plating on imitation jewellery.

imitation jewellery works - COCHIN, KERALA, INDIA
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December 20, 2010

RFQ: I have parts that its TiN coating needs to be removed and has TiALN coating after, Do you know any place can perform this service? The base material is AMS 6440/6444 at 55-58RC). Thanks.

Linh Tran
- Livermore, California, USA
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Identifying ion plating vs. electroplating


Q. I have a watch which is supposedly IPS (Ionic Plating Silvertone) plated; after two weeks wear the base metal brass has been exposed in large patches -- not peeling, smooth wear. After SEM examination we have been told the topcoating is Sn, Cu, Zn. Does his indicate wet plating rather than IPS. I would expect to see Ti as the surface finish.

Marc Bradley-Upton
tech. mgr., watch company - Birmingham, West Midlands, England

October 8, 2009

A. IPS is ionization plating that is one kind of PVD electroplating technique. It can provide the color of stainless steel. Factory will vaporize stainless steel and ionize it. Then the ionized metal will stick on the product. This is usually used in medium to high quality watch which can provide a longer duration of life. The plating you found is what is called "Tin Brass" plating. It is nearly the cheapest kind of stainless steel COLOR electroplating in the market which is usually used in cheap watches. The lifetime of this plating is only for a few months under wear.

Oscar Law
- Hong Kong

sidebar November 7, 2011

Q. What about the implication for those who are allergic to the nickel and zinc found in most stainless steel and other metal alloys. Would this finishing prevent the original metal from touching the skin? Would it rub off?

G. Sacco
- Phoenix, Arizona, USA

A. Hi G.
Nickel allergy is a very real thing and I'm not certainly discounting it. But the nickel in stainless steel is usually "non-leachable" so it usually doesn't cause nickel allergy reactions; very similar skin reactions can occur from sweat and bacteria under a stainless jewelry item and be misinterpreted as nickel itch.

Rarely is plating a reliable protection against exposure to nickel because the plating may be microcracked or porous long before it's visibly worn away.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 24, 2014

Q. I am taking training in ion plating industry and I am studying in R.K.University in diploma engineering.
And my question is "why is magnet joined with cathode (titanium & chromium plate) and what is reaction between plasma and magnet?
Please tell me.

Bhoutik Sakhiya
student - Rajkot, Gujarat , India

February 25, 2014

A. I suppose you are being trained in using a (magnetron) sputtering unit. Magnetic field confines the plasma close to the cathode and increases plasma density there. Thus more ions hit the cathode causing ejection (sputtering) of more atoms from the cathode. That means, in effect, the magnets increase coating rate. Sputtering without these magnets would not be of commercial interest as the deposition rates would be too small.
Additionally, in the so called unbalanced magnetrons, the magnetic field helps in ion bombardment of the substrates which can help in getting denser coatings.

H.R. Prabhakara
Bangalore Plasmatek - Bangalore, Karnatak, India

What material are stainless steel ion plating targets made of?

April 30, 2014

Q. My question is "What is grade of target material of stainless steel for ion plating and how much its purity of material?"

Bhoutik Sakhiya [returning]
- Rajkot, Gujarat , India

PVD coating very small parts

March 6, 2017

Q. We are having difficulty finding a way to develop a process to do PVD IP coating on very small parts made of stainless steel.
The parts we have to IP coat now are the size of a rice grain. Specifically they are pins for electric connectors.

Usually for larger parts we hang parts on a rack one by one, but this is very labor intensive, and not suitable for the very small parts.

Moreover price is a concern, because we have million of these connector pins to PVD IP coat.

Jason Lee
product designer - Thailand

March 19, 2017

A. Coating small parts is indeed an issue though there are people who offer PVD coated powders. There are at least two problems- first- exposing all surfaces of all particles/components uniformly to the incoming flux and second- out gassing or virtual leak of gases trapped in the inter granular space. One possible solution is to use some kind of stirrer or vibrator which keep the particles in a state of continuous motion and agitation so that each one of them spend some time on the surface and get coated from the incoming flux. What is the coating you are looking for - TiN, Cu, Al ...?

H.R. Prabhakara
Bangalore Plasmatek - Bangalore, Karnataka, India

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