The Working Principle and Technical Characteristics of Multi-Arc Ion Plating

- Mar 20, 2018-

Multi-arc ion plating is a new coating preparation technology developed on the basis of vacuum evaporation and vacuum sputtering. It is also called vacuum arc evaporation, which uses vacuum arc discharge for arc evaporation source. Because multi-arc ion plating technology has the characteristics of high deposition rate, good coating adhesion, dense coating, and easy operation, it has been widely used in the field of surface modification of materials.

In 1963, Mattox proposed and used ion plating technology for the first time; in 1972, Bunshah et al developed active reactive evaporation (ARE) technology; in 1973, Mulayama et al. invented radio frequency excitation ion plating. In the 1980s, ion plating has become a high-tech industry in the world. The main products include TiN, TiAlN wear-resistant layers and TiN imitation gold decorative coatings on high-speed steel and hard alloy tools. In 1982, Multi-arc Company of the United States first launched commercial equipment for multi-arc ion plating, and in 1986, China began production of multi-arc ion plating equipment. In 1990s, the ion plating technology has made great progress. Compared with the 80s, the ion plating equipment and technology have been greatly improved. In recent years, various kinds of ion coating machine equipment have been manufactured according to the requirements of different use, some of which have reached the level of industrial production.

Working principle of the multi-arc ion plating

The working principle of multi-arc ion plating technology is mainly based on cold cathode vacuum arc discharge theory. After ignition of the vacuum arc, some discontinuities, bright and varied spots of various sizes and shapes appeared on the surface of the cathode target. They quickly move irregularly on the surface of the cathode, some spots are extinguished and some spots are formed in other places to maintain the arc burning. The current density of the cathode spot is up to 104~105A/cm2, and emits metal vapor at a rate of 1000 m/s, one metal atom can be fired for every 10 electrons emitted. And then these atoms are then ionized into highly energetic positive ions. The positive ion is combined with other ions when it is operated in a vacuum chamber and deposited on the surface of the workpiece to form the film.

The vacuum arc discharge theory believes that the migration of electric quantity is mainly due to field electron emission and positive ion currents. And these two mechanisms exist at the same time and restrict each other. During the discharge process, the cathode material evaporates in large quantities. The positive ions produced by these vaporized atoms produce a very strong electric field in a very short distance near the surface of the cathode.

Technical features of multi-arc ion plating

The prominent feature of the multi arc ion plating process is that it can produce plasma made up of highly ionized evaporated materials. And evaporation, ionization, and acceleration are all concentrated in the cathode spot and in the small area around them.


(1) The plasma is produced directly from the cathode.

(2) High incident particles energy and coating density, good strength and durability.

(3) High ionization rate, and generally up to 60% - 80%

(4) The deposition rate is fast and the plating property is good.

(5) The equipment is relatively simple and it is safer to work with a low-voltage power supply.

Technical research results

IKS has actively cooperated with domestic and foreign companies and scientific research institutes, and has made gratifying achievements in some more commonly used coating applications. The coating process can be used to coating the film with high hardness, thermal stability and chemical stability. And various physical vapor deposition coatings, such as TiN, TiCN, AlTiN, AlTiSiN,CrN, DLC, etc.