In Nizhny Novgorod province have developed the world’s first vacuum deposition of nano-technology, suitable for mass production.
The main activity NPF "Elan Practitioner" — Development and manufacture of industrial vacuum systems and technologies for applying PVD coatings designed for a wide range of products. Additionally — the design and manufacture of industrial vacuum systems ion nitriding.
PVD coatings are obtained by poatomnoy assembly in the undoped vacuum or in an atmosphere of pure gases.
PVD coatings can have almost any composition and structural modifications. In this case, the coating may have unique properties superior to similar composition of compact materials.
In an interview with the head of our company, "Alan Practitioner" is a bit late. "That month I struggle with OVIRov, I can not make a passport" — apologies for the delay, he explained. "Have you had before this passport?" — I did not believe it.
Fifty-year-Yuri Agabeyov the last ten years, leading quite successful, although small business, in fact, was going to her first trip abroad — in Birmingham Design Engineering Show.
Free participation in a meeting this week in England Industrial Exhibition — Award of the British Council, which the company, "Alan Practitioner" from the city of Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod region received for winning the second Russian Innovation Contest organized by our magazine.
Experts estimated the world’s first vacuum coating technology that is suitable for mass production and getting around with no harmful and dangerous electroplating.
Death of electroplating
There is such a technical truism — the performance of any product depends largely on the quality of the surface treatment. In order to stretch more or less acceptable lifetime of metal parts on its surface to cause rust protection layer over a corrosion resistant material.
Now the most common method of applying such coatings — electroplating (deposition of metals from solutions of salts under the influence of an electric current) invented in the late 30-ies of the XIX century, Boris Jacobi. Catching improving existing at the time of plating power supplies, Russian scientist discovered that copper is deposited from the electrolyte to the cathode, follows the shape of the electrode. Later opening Jacobi has been used in a variety of technologies that are not directly related to electrical engineering.
Without electroplating not do tens of thousands of modern industries, from metal cleaning of associated impurities prior to the release of various molds. And corrosion-resistant coatings require reinforcing body cars, watches, spectacles, various accessories and costume jewelry. But here’s the rub — hexavalent chromium, the most commonly used in electroplating anticorrosive coating, — officially recognized carcinogen, in the black list of substances that have been refused in prolonged contact with human skin, made and often used to protect the surfaces of nickel. And, for example when products have galvanic gilding dipping in a bath filled with a strong acid dissolved cyanide.
To deal with galvanic began in earnest in the late 60’s. It was then developed by the so-called vacuum PVD-technology (PVD — Physical Vapour Deposition, literally — the physical methods of deposition of the sprayed substance of steam). PVD-coatings are produced in various ways. For example, thermal evaporation of metals by heating to high temperatures. However, this film is applied very slowly, also due to lack of energy, it turns out "loose" — in its atomic structure remain empty, quickly negate the benefits of hardening and anti-corrosion coating. When an electron-beam evaporation on the target material is exposed high-energy beam of electrons, but due to the high cost of the scope of application of this technology is limited only by optics.
In 70 years at the Kharkov Polytechnic Institute was first developed another vacuum technology — a way of arc evaporation of material — and set up a series of "Bulat". They were intended for reinforcement of superhard coatings for various engineering products: cutting tools, dies, molds. The American company Multiarch, the largest manufacturer of modern vacuum equipment, just started with the fact that, immediately bought a license to install "Bulat" and now generates at its base by the fifth generation of machines. But this method proved to be too expensive for mass production. In the most capital-intensive segments of the global coatings industry electroplating replacement was not found. Meanwhile, an alternative technology based on a further vacuum device — an unbalanced magnetron constructed by skilled craftsmen from the "Elan-Practice" — has already been introduced in several Russian companies.
Rastyapino (now Dzerzhinsk) broke a world leader in vacuum technology primarily due to the fact that the city is located Engineering Research Institute.
In the 80 years of this super-secret institute has a monopoly in the development of non-nuclear warheads for missiles. For the analysis of the test results were needed GosNIImashu thin film thermal flow sensors. But the quality of the delivered then from Alma-Ata and Chernogolovki sensors did not suit Dzerzhinsk missile, and they decided to work on it yourself. Yuri Agabekova, was in charge of the laboratory at the Institute of Physics of combustion and explosions carried away a brand new challenge for him. To improve the efficiency of the surface layer of the sensor had to immerse oneself in PVD-technology and become an expert in this area.
Top 90 defense order finally collapsed, and, according to Deputy Director of Development, "Elan-Practice" Andrei Fedotov, the institute’s authorities honestly offered to employees to "seek the practical application of the accumulated scientific basis for peaceful purposes." A group of seven people, representing all areas of NIImasha (from the lead designer of combat troops to the development of algorithms), consultation, decided to continue the successful start of the study in the field of new coating technologies. Later, these seven and formed the backbone of the future of the company.
By the collapse of the Union of the team managed to make not so little — was radically modernized "Bulat" and gained some experience with vacuum magnetron technology. Pretty soon they found their niche in the market. "We pulled teeth. Dentures — is eternal industry and eternal source of income, — says Yuri Agabeyov — and I know from experience that the titanium nitride coating on the dentures helped out in the nineties is not a vacuum experimenters. After all, most of our fellow citizens are choosing to replace the fallen and broken teeth are not sintered metals, and cheap steel crowns, which are necessary for life cover with a special protective layer ".
Competitors like Agabeyov and tried to do the coating on "Bulat", but the protective layer applied to the upgraded GosNIImashe "Bulat", many times superior in quality that could make other vacuum experimenters, and those within a year were out of work. By 1994, "Elan Practitioner" knocked out all competitors, and at the doors of a queue of dental technicians from all over the Dzerzhinsk and suburbs. Planted "Elan-The practice of" work and local dudes on "Nine", who did not want to listen to the experts: the tinted glass in a vacuum will not last long. Dzerzhinsk
swept vacuum fashion.
Dental business and tinting can provide quite a comfortable life, but the former vepekashniki whether out of habit, or at the call of the heart have decided to develop a new direction. "But this was just boring, — says Yuri Agabeyov — and after some debate, we decided to invest part of the proceeds to the fact that we were by this time terribly fascinated — Technology spraying using an unbalanced magnetron."
How to cheer up a lazy atom
The principle of operation is based on all the magnetrons crossed magnetic and electric fields. The electrons are accelerated by the electric field at first, then slowed perpendicular magnetic. In conventional magnetrons electron braking, transfers its energy to the field, whereby the microwave radiation is generated.
In the balanced magnetrons electron energy is not the generation of microwave radiation and the ionization of the working gas. Positive ions of gas dispersed the field, begin to bombard the negatively charged target — Containers with liquid, which will cover the product. Torn by bombardment of this target atoms fall on the surface of the article (substrate) forming a protective layer on it.
The problem with technology in a balanced magnetron sputtering is that the energy of the atoms that are taken out of the target is very small. They fly up to the substrate substantially to the thermal velocity and the "lazy" sit on the surface where it is necessary. As a result of the loose structure of the coating, number of pores and its properties from the consumer point of view not very appealing — no strength no corrosion resistance.
Another thing unbalanced magnetron. Due to the configuration of the field, not only ions knock out atoms from the target, but also continue to attack them after they have reached the substrate. The ion bombardment causes the ‘lazy’ target atoms rush to the substrate in search of the most profitable in terms of energy availability. The structure of the coating is obtained dense. Moreover, controlling the field and the camera podpuskaya new gas layers can be applied to various substrate materials, forming a composite coating.
"Through this scheme, we have not only a much denser coating structure than on a balanced magnetron, — says Yuri Agabeyov — due to the high energy an additional opportunity to conduct plasma chemical reactions. If, instead of argon fill in a cell with a titanium target reactive gas such as nitrogen or methane, the positive ions generated N2, CH, bombarding the surface of the substrate, will react with the titanium to form titanium nitride or carbide — that is a very hard ceramic thin film. "
Naturally, it is possible to change and the target. So thanks to the unbalanced magnetron can synthesize virtually any new materials and apply them on a variety of products — from spectacle frames to the cutting tool.
All of these advantages are obvious now that is created by the fourth generation of unipolar device (ion spray coatings), then, in 1993-1994, experts’ Elan Practice "was seen continuous ion sputtering Death intractable technical problems: you have to spray the atoms with enough energy, then their transport to the product and to ensure a good grip, and most importantly, you need to atoms on the surface shape in the desired structure: amorphous, poly-or monocrystalline, from which, in fact, depend on the coating properties — electrical resistance, hardness, corrosion and wear resistance.
"Why not give up? Apparently, this advantage amateurs — we were not open-minded experience with only one technology, like other vacuum experimenters, who for years have plowed the same cornfield, we were not keen on any laser sputtering or arc machines, and we had no fear of work with non-traditional methods, "- says Agabeyov.
Slow work on the new device is sprayed into a real rush job after meeting with a senior Chistopolsky watch factory (there is produced the popular "commander" watch "East") at a conversion exhibitions. "Guys — honestly he told Dzerzhinsky — I pay every month for my terrible penalties for draining residual electroplating to Kama, to the same coverage that we put on the watch for this galvanic — crap. Money for development will not give, but if you save me from all this, I promise you’ll buy your equipment. " Equally questionable business proposal did not bother Dzerzhinsky, they at your own risk and on their money and brought experienced his first car, which was a year in the shop Tatar enterprise. Almost immediately received an order for three more cars, and two years later, watchmakers completely dismantled chrome plating line at its plant. As a result, the modernization of the production cost Chistopol instead of more than three million dollars — the price asked for them with Western suppliers for a new electroplating — only half a million, and the cost of the coating as a result of decreased fourfold.
Castle, a world-class
The "Elan-Practice" remains the only chance for you to become haytechnoy star worldwide — Russian industry to catch up to the level of world
For watchmakers to Dzerzhinsky pulled producers spectacle frames, fast smeknuvshie that vacuum coating "Elan-Practice" has greatly reduced the costs of production of the metal rim of medium and premium segment. In the workshop "Elan-practice" is still doing, for example, decorative covers for expensive frames of Filos Group — the third in Italy for the production of these products. Now it is negotiating the sale of the entire line.
However, Dzerzhinsky consider themselves more important to their achievement victory in another market. In 2000, they began a collaboration with one of the best preserved to the present day monsters of the Soviet military-industrial complex — Kovrov Electromechanical Plant, which produces dual hydraulic system. When the plant started to produce, according to Agabekova, "world class" locks of zinc-aluminum-copper alloy (CAM), there were problems with the quality of the coating. The vacuum Pomaia other, they eventually turned to the "Elan Practitioner." "Of course, we raised the possibility of a contract from a large and successful company, but most importantly — we were put on a really interesting in terms of scientific and technological challenge, — says Yuri Agabeyov enthusiasm. — It was not so much in the complex geometry of the covered products as a new material — TsAMe, very difficult in terms of corrosion protection compared to him even brass ‘commander’ clock simply God’s grace. Before us, nobody in the world and did not undertake such a challenge. "
Products from TsAMa — a huge potential market for magnetron equipment. For example, 90% of low-cost Hong Kong and the Chinese are doing hours of this affordable in all respects of the alloy, and its use is growing exponentially. To develop a new coating technology bezgalvanicheskuyu TsAMa, "Elan-Practice" took nearly half a year, but its outcome was a real breakthrough nanotechnology. Coating that Dzerzhinsky taught to do Chistopol watchmakers, consisted of two layers, 0.8 m (10 -6 m), for Kovrov Engineering was established four-component composite coating, which alternate layers with thicknesses on the order of less than three — only 5 nanometers ( 10 -9 m)!
In general, hard ceramic nanocomposite coating in a soft matrix (eg, copper) — a kind of reinforced concrete, where the reinforcing elements are the nanograin superhard materials (nitrides and carbides). This is one of the best strengthening coatings for cutting tools, and very expensive (the cost of applying to the modern analogues "Bulat" in the hundreds of dollars per unit of the instrument). Its hardness is one of the highest in the industry — it is more than 3000 Vickers (limit of diamond — 10000) with a temperature stability of 900-10
00 degrees. This is one of the most sought after materials in the metal world, where the main trend is to increase the intensity of the modes of the instrument — an increase in cutting speed without lubricant and coolant.
KEMP at once grasped the new technology and are now going to apply the nanocomposite not only locks, but also to responsible hydraulic units, and the Moscow Mint has already experienced the technology in their field: the stamp, which is usually enough to mint only 100,000 coins, with nanocomposite coating "Elan-Practice" rapped, without straining, 750,000.
However, the domestic market demand for Supertehnologiya will not be great — on the fingers can be counted those businesses where there is a need and an opportunity for precision or juvenile surface treatment of metal parts, after which it makes sense to apply nano-coatings. But in the West, thousands of such enterprises, and their interest in Dziarzhynsk development is huge — it is likely to confirm and Birmingham Design Engineering Show. But with access to the vast western market at the "Elan-Practice" has already had serious problems. Vacuum technology are included in the list of doubles, and, for example, more than six months Dzerzhinsky can not send to Poland, even a simple first-generation car. If not removed bureaucratic obstacles to exports of technology, the "Elan-Practice" remains the only chance to become a star haytechnoy global scale — the Russian industry has to catch up to the level of the world.