Technology

Pulsed DC plasma generators for magnetron discharge were first introduced in the late 1990s to reduce arcing during a deposition process for the purpose of improving the quality of thin film materials and throughput. The big breakthrough came in September 2002 when Zond, Inc. filed its first patent for a revolutionary pulsed technology approach.

The origin of Zpulser and its technology

Pulsed DC plasma generators for magnetron discharge were first introduced in the late 1990s to reduce arcing during a deposition process for the purpose of improving the quality of thin film materials and throughput. The problem with this first generation of pulsing technology was that it did not increase the plasma density enough to permit the production of thin films that were of a better quality than those being created using conventional non-pulsed techniques such as DC/AC or RF.

The big breakthrough came in September 2002 when Zond, Inc. filed its first patent for a revolutionary pulsed technology approach—HIPIMS/HPPMS—to produce high-density plasma discharge. This new approach increased the metal ion fraction, which greatly improved the quality, performance and cost of thin film materials, especially compared to those that were produced using the outdated methods available to manufacturers prior to Zond’s great leap forward.

The most significant advances gained from Zond’s revolutionary technology were voltage rise time/voltage fall time control, and voltage oscillations, which are necessary to increase plasma density on a magnetron, and reduce the probability of arcing. Simply put, higher plasma density means high-current discharge.

In April of 2003 Zond brought its concept closer to reality when it built the first high-current pulsed DC generator prototype. This remarkable generator was capable of producing up to 1000A/pulse over a pulse length ranging from 50 microseconds and up to 50millisec with voltage oscillations ranging from 1-62 kHz.

In 2005 Zond established Zpulser, LLC, and launched its first commercial HIPMIS product known as Solo™. Solo was and still is capable of producing pulses with up to 600A/pulse over a 3-microsecond burst. The product not only received a warm welcome from the hard-coating market, but it was also firmly embraced by tier-one OEMs.

It must be emphasized that thin film material property requirements and performance differ from market to market based on the applications. For example, carbon film on a bearing must have different properties than a carbon film on a razor blade. Which is why it is critical to have a technology that allows the user to engineer different thin films with different properties. To effectively address the varied and complex needs of the many thin film markets it serves, Zpulser has developed a suite of innovative products.


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