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METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex The PVD equipment with highest technology standard and maximum flexibility


The METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex meets all the requirements of a flexible, customer-oriented, low-maintenance production machine, which keeps all doors open for special requests. Therefore, the freely accessible octagonal PVD chamber with 2 doors for loading and unloading is an ideal platform for automation and easy operation with reduced maintenance. At the same time, in addition to arc and sputter technologies, PACVD precursor systems can also be used and integrated into the system.

  • APA Arc, HiPIMS sputtering or HI3 technology on up to 6 flanges
  • New etching technology ADVANCED AEGD
  • Double-walled, water-cooled stainless steel chamber accessible from both sides with 2 chamber doors
  • Automatic opening and closing of loading door for automation process
  • Precursors for various PACVD processes, also in combination with a nitriding process
  • Retrofitting of various technologies and analysis systems (plasma) depending on customer requirements

Approaching New Ways in Surface Engineering

The METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex coating system from Oerlikon represents a paradigm shift for modern research and development in the department of materials technology at the Technical University of Dortmund.

Technology feeds off innovation and never stands still. The department of materials technology (LWT) at the Technical University of Dortmund, led by Professor Wolfgang Tillmann, has always sought to be at the cutting edge of technology, following the guiding principle of researching and developing innovative material concepts and solutions for production technology. In line with these aims, research assistants and students of the LWT at the TU Dortmund have focused on addressing the challenges of using advanced materials in joining technology, powder metallurgy, surface engineering and coating technology. Another related area of expertise is destructive and non-destructive analysis and testing of materials for process reliability and quality assurance. The TU Dortmund has therefore decided to acquire an Oerlikon coating system, which gives the LWT maximum flexibility in its surface engineering research.

Industrial firms and other scientific institutes have partnered with the experts at the LWT to develop advanced solutions and services. The LWT offers intensive, professional consultation as part of a comprehensive approach which combines materials, process technology, analytical strategies and users – not to mention a healthy dose of passion for materials technology. Rising to technological challenges, pioneering new solutions and turning innovative ideas into real-world technology is the LWT’s declared aim.

One particularly impressive aspect of the LWT’s work is the wide range of functionality and improved performance of tools and components, achieved through specific adjustments of surface properties using thick-film and thin-film coating technologies and by joining dissimilar materials to save resources and reduce weight. Basic scientific research in this field has gained noticeable momentum in recent years, and it’s now impossible to imagine a research infrastructure without advanced systems and technology. Dominic Stangier leads a PVD technology team researching the structure of thin-film coatings and how their mechanical and tribological properties can be optimized, focusing on the specific load spectrum of real-world applications. These fields of application range from machining, forming, plastics processing, medical technology and sensors to components used in energy, aerospace and transport engineering.

Conducting research with advanced PVD technology

Competition among universities both in Germany and around the world has intensified in recent years. And new EU regulations, which will soon ban the use of environmentally harmful chrome-based galvanic coatings, have increased the pressure on these institutions to research and develop advanced, innovative PVD coatings. The mechanical engineering faculty at the TU Dortmund has positioned itself as a central hub of production technology in order to respond to these challenges.

Stangier explains what makes this area of research so fascinating when combined with PVD technology: “Interdisciplinary approaches have become more important in coating and tool development, and PVD has an important role to play as the interface between materials science and production technology. You have to consider the manufacturing chain as a whole in order to develop higher-performance tools.”

Wanted: a coating system for a wide range of research and practical applications

The list of requirements for the coating system is long and demands maximum flexibility so that it can be integrated as effectively as possible into the numerous research and development projects for coating tools and components.

The scientific researchers are also tasked with investigating correlations between plasma and process properties and the resulting tribological properties of PVD hard coatings, with the aim of expanding the range of applications for thin-film coating technology to develop tools with enhanced performance characteristics.

Another issue to focus on in more detail is strategic orientation: their aim is to investigate new fields of research and address questions which are yet to be satisfactorily answered on hybrid PVD coating technologies involving arc evaporation and sputtering. These two processes offer great promise when it comes to synergizing the high deposition rate and good adhesion of arc evaporation with the very smooth, defect-free top layer of HiPIMS (sputtering) into one coating system.

In terms of applications, the coating system should be able to handle plasma-assisted diffusion treatments and offer coating for additive manufacturing components used in medical technology. And of course the long-term aim is to open up other markets and applications, such as machining workpieces made from carbide.

Professor Tillmann knows all about the challenges of production technology: “To resolve these considerable challenges in materials research, we need very flexible, high-performance coating systems that give us both the degrees of freedom we need and high process reliability.”

The solution: METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex

The department of materials technology at the TU Dortmund found that its research capabilities were increasingly restricted, as Professor Tillmann explains: “Sophisticated, industrial-grade PVD coating systems are crucial for research. And the METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex from Oerlikon is exactly the coating system we were looking for.”

Featuring a free-standing chamber and two doors, the system is designed to be accessible from all sides and now enables integration of plasma analytics and online diagnostics for examining coating processes – and it even allows peripheral equipment to be connected. It also meets the requirements for an expanded range of PVD technologies, with various system components which offer new opportunities for regulating and controlling processes as effectively as possible.

Stangier is also impressed by the modular design of the system: “The METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex gives us the option to add or swap the modules we need to handle new challenges, so we have the flexibility to react quickly to the ever-changing requirements of a research facility like this and to address the latest developments. And we have the freedom to program the coating recipes we want.”

Oerlikon’s system gives the research assistants a crucial level of technical sophistication which benefits them enormously when researching and developing a comprehensive approach to advanced production technology. 

The chemical, structural, mechanical and tribological properties of coatings are examined in the in-house laboratory at the TU Dortmund, which boasts state-of-the-art analytical equipment such as a microprobe with high-resolution spectrometers, X-ray structural and residual stress analysis devices and a 3D X-ray microscope.

Cutting edge technology for successful partnerships

Cutting edge technology for successful partnerships

The behavior and characteristics of the developed thin-film coatings are tested in cooperation with the chairs of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering by performing a load-adjusted evaluation in the fields of machining and forming technology in real life applications.

A joint project with the institute of machining technology at the TU Dortmund, funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), uses the unique capabilities of the METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex for basic scientific research. It focuses on both the ‘Mechanisms and interactions in interface and cutting edge conditioning in hard micro-machining’ and the downstream coating process for micro-tools, and the selected approach of hybrid coating processes in machining hardened high-speed steels has shown particular promise.

Stangier and Professor Tillmann agree that acquiring the METAPLAS.DOMINO kila flex was the right decision. “Materials technology is our passion, and it’s even more exciting when you have the technology you need to take it further. This system brings huge advantages to the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and the department of materials engineering at the TU Dortmund, and is tailor-made for our approach of researching and developing innovative material concepts and solutions for production technology. Oerlikon’s PVD technology helps us do that, and we look forward to many more exciting research projects for state-of-the-art production technology.”

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