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22 July 2013

Cobham introduces simulation software for designing magnetron sputter coaters

Cobham Technical Services of Kidlington, (near Oxford), UK says it has launched a comprehensive simulation solution for designing magnetron sputter coaters. The new software tool provides precision simulation of the complete sputtering process, offering a highly practical means of improving sputter target utilisation, plasma formation and thin film deposition, adds the firm.

Cobham believes the new software (the latest application design option in its Opera finite element analysis multi-physics suite for electromagnetic design) has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars a year in this industry segment because of the costs of the high purity materials required in surface coating applications.

The new Magnetron Sputter version of Opera provides a complete suite of three-dimensional (3D) tools for the finite element modeling, simulation, analysis and optimisation of magnetron sputtering equipment. The software has been validated prior to release in cooperation with two commercial sputter coating companies: Teer Coatings (Miba Coating Group) and Colorado Concept Coatings, and by thin film experts from Thin Film Consulting. The software predicts sputter target utilisation to within 2% of actual measured results.

"Industry spends several billion dollars a year on sputtering target material, and it is typical that less than half of each target is used before replacement," says Kevin Ward of Cobham Technical Services. "Increasing target utilisation alone by just a few percent could save hundreds of millions of dollars annually, without considering the other gains that can be achieved by design optimisation such as improved deposition quality and deposition rates, and reduced equipment downtime for target changeovers."

For the first time, the complete magnetron sputtering design task can now be performed effectively and efficiently by simulation within pragmatic timescales, says Cobham. The virtual prototyping capability offered by the new Opera software allows engineers to investigate a wide range of designs and operating regimes in a fraction of the time of an experimental program, and at a fraction of the cost, enabling the optimisation of full lifecycle costs from the outset.

The high fidelity of the Opera finite element simulation tool allows the engineers to rapidly evaluate and optimise detailed characteristics of the sputtering process such as deposited film thickness distribution, erosion groove profile, and sputter target utilisation.

Opera models can include all significant physical processes in a simulation, and parameters can be varied to explore the design space thoroughly before producing a physical prototype. In addition to user-directed exploration of any design space, Opera also includes a powerful optimiser tool that performs automatic multi-variable, multi-objective optimisation. Users can define objectives (any quantity or combination of quantities that can be calculated in the tool's post-processor can be used) from simple field values to more complex derived quantities such as deposited film profile and target utilisation.

The flexibility of the modeling system and the Opera design toolchain allows any and all styles of magnetron (such as circular, rectangular, balanced or unbalanced) to be investigated and optimised. The computing efficiency of Opera also allows the analysis of multi-target coaters, where the additional complication of stray fields may be investigated and their effects mitigated through design iteration.

Cobham is supporting the launch of the new magnetron sputtering design software with specialist training in the use of the Opera tool and finite element design.

Tags: Cobham Sputtering


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