August 2021

The 16 cm RF source is just one of many ion sources we manufacture.

Ion sources and their uses

Many optical coating companies from around the world know that ion beam deposition is the best way to create some of the most difficult optical coatings ever produced. Ion beam deposition with assist is even better with its ability to compact thin film coatings and remove trapped gas and decrease voids. Less is known about the ability of ion sources to provide assist for e-beam processes. Here also, ion beam sources can be a superior solution for making environmentally stable thin films.

Since the 1980’s ion beam technology has been a staple in the optics industry for nearly every optical coating product there is. From military to Medical, Energy to Biological, ion beam sources have been used. We have seen a variety of uses for ion beam deposition over the years and thankfully for us it remains a top choice for the high-end optics being produced today.

There are a large array of system and equipment requirements out there that we strive to support. Many of these coating requirements continue to evolve. More recently, we are seeing a significant need in the E-Beam industry for the addition of ion beam assist to existing platforms. The addition of ion beam assist to E-Beam systems produces stoichiometric films with near theoretical density while maintaining E-Beams’ inherent fast deposition rates. Many of the chambers being built today are huge because of the need for increased capacity. Plasma Process Group provides a solution to not only get more product with these systems but also to get better quality product.

Our 23 cm ion source can provide assist for just such a system to meet modern thin film quality requirements. Today, users are seeing a significant advantages in the use of gridded ion sources because the ion source control capabilities provide precise inputs to film stoichiometry and density. Please give us a call if you have an E-Beam system that you want to improve with the addition of a modern assist solution.

With the Plasma Optik’s Techne system in full operation, the above image shows the SiO2 deposition during a recent and very difficult thin film deposition run.

Some great news about the new Techne at Plasma Optik

Plasma Optik has been hard at work improving process controls and developing their coating capability. One useful capability that comes with the state-of-the-art optical monitoring system on their Techne ion beam sputtering platform is the ability to manufacture bandpass filters. Bandpass filters are useful in many applications, including LiDAR systems.

If you’re interested in optics, LiDAR technology or autonomous vehicles, please take look at Plasma Optiks’ first white paper, “Optical Filters in LiDAR Systems for Autonomous Vehicles Applications”. The paper provides a nice jumping off point for understanding a little about the optics in these complex systems. Download and decide for yourself if you want your next car to have a LiDAR system and maybe have artificial intelligence driving you home.

There are so many interesting applications in the optics industry. Some of the other types of coatings being produced recently at Plasma Optik toward these include edge filters, high reflectors, wide-band anti-reflection coatings and polarizing beam splitters to name a few. Environmental qualifications are being performed on all new material sets being developed. Careful surface quality analysis shows promising results for the coatings being manufactured currently. Consider contacting Plasma Optik for your next coating project.

Do you have a question about running your custom coating at Plasma Optik in a Techne? Please send Jim an email at [email protected], and see how he can help you.

Our hottest upgrade to your legacy ion source is the I-Beam 703 RF power supply.

Is Your Legacy Equipment on Its Last Leg?

Since the late nineties, ion beam deposition had become the process of choice for the DWDM market especially during the development of the fiber optics industry. Many of the first coating systems that produced the DWDM filters were built with what was, at the time, state of the art power supplies. When you think about it today, that was nearing 30 years ago. Wow…how time flies. Today these older ion source power supplies are still being used in the industry and are expected to continue operation for many years to come. The issue we are seeing now however is that these legacy power supplies have been failing at a record pace.

It has become very difficult to repair these old power supplies and almost impossible to find the parts to repair them with. In 2007 we had decided to design and manufacture the I-Beam Series RF and DC power supplies. We knew at some point the users of this legacy equipment would need a modern replacement. By late 2008, we began selling our first I-Beam power supplies to customers around the world.

With nearly three hundred power supplies in the field today we hope to continue to support those who need an upgrade when they need it. If you are worried of a failure shutting down your system, then it’s time to give us a call. We’d like to see you keep running product. Please contact Dan at [email protected] for questions.

Above image captures some of the most common failure items in an RF Neutralizer.

Tech Tips – RFN failures

Anyone that uses RF ion beam technology and is familiar with how an RF ion source operates, is likely familiar with the RF Neutralizer, (RFN). If you are familiar with the RFN, you may also be aware of the nuances associated with their operation and maintenance. That said, if you are not interested in maintaining your RFN’s in house, we do provide a full-service program for the RFN refurbishments and would be happy to take care of the pain for you. Just let us know.

In this addition of “Tech Tips”, we’d like to talk a bit about the importance of the gas isolator, collector assembly and electrical leads. The gas isolators are subjected to enormous hot and cold cycles over its lifetime. The ceramic to stainless bond is one of the failure points that commonly occurs in them. However, when the gas isolator, collector tab, ceramic discharge chamber back plate and collector are over tightened with the single 6-32 nut, the threaded tube is prone to braking on the older OEM units. This is the most common failure of the older OEM gas isolators in the field.

The assembly must be tight for good contact however in many of the older RFN’s, the threaded gas tube on the gas isolator that extends into the collector/discharge chamber back plate was actually threaded 1/8” tubing. Once this 1/8” tube was manually threaded, the wall thickness was very thin and was very easy to break. When we began building these here at Plasma Process Group, we changed this in our gas isolator by using an actual vented screw so you could easily tighten the collector nut without breaking the gas tube. This added a significant amount of strength and reduced contact failures when being rebuilt. If you have a new gas isolator from us, you need not worry about this failing in the future.

Next is the Collector. Contamination from atmospheric gases or plastic gas lines causes a short life span of an RFN collector. Always be sure to use stainless steel lines for your Argon gas supply to the RFN. Secondly, be sure to allow your RFN to cool at least 30 minutes or more before venting your chamber to atmosphere. Always keep 5 sccm’s of Argon gas flowing through the RFN during and while vented to inhibit absorption of water and reactive gases into the high purity Nickel collector. If you are not getting 1000 hours of operation or more out of your RFN, you may need to investigate these changes in your care procedures to improve the life of your RFN.

Lastly, if you identify frayed stainless steel braided shielding on any of the 3 electrical leads on your RFN, replace them. They tend to get bad over time and these fine wires in the braid can penetrate the internal beads surrounding the electrical lead and short out to ground. Replace them before you end up chasing something you cannot physically see happening. We hope this information provides a bit of knowledge for the future care of your RFN’s. We certainly want to help you succeed.

Please let us know if you have a specific topic you want to hear about in future “Tech Tips” publications. We’d like to hear from you.