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Conformal Coating & Thin Film Coating Properties 

Protective thin film coatings and conformal coatings play vital roles in diverse industries. Whether it's enhancing the corrosion resistance of solar panel electronic modules, improving the electrical insulation in electronic components, or augmenting the chemical resistance of medical devices, these coatings are critical for product design. 

The properties of these coatings determine functionality, performance, and longevity in various applications. With this knowledge, engineers can optimize their designs, create superior products, and push the boundaries of innovation. So, understanding conformal and thin film coating properties is essential.

As such, we have compiled an overview of conformal coating and thin film coating properties for engineers and manufacturers as a starting point for research. 

The thickness of thin film coatings is a critical property for performance and reliability, directly affecting functionality and the ability to protect the underlying substrate. Therefore, understanding and controlling film thickness is a requirement for achieving desired coating properties.

Measurement and control techniques ensure that the desired thickness is achieved during deposition. Techniques such as spectroscopy, quartz crystal microbalance (QCM) methods, and calibrated micrometer screw gauges are common ways to measure film thickness accurately.


Enhancing adhesion between thin film coatings and substrates is imperative for the integrity and effectiveness of the coatings. Adhesion strength determines the coating's resistance to delamination and its ability to withstand external stresses.

Several factors influence adhesion strength, including the state of cleanliness and the types of contamination on the product's surface, surface preparation techniques, substrate material properties, and coating deposition methods. Techniques such as crosshatch adhesion tape testing, scratch testing, pull-off testing, and peel testing are utilized to evaluate the adhesion of thin film coatings.


The smoothness or surface roughness of thin film coatings significantly impacts their properties, such as optical performance, mechanical behavior, and chemical resistance. Surface roughness can affect the coating's appearance, adhesion, and functionality.

Measurement techniques like atomic force microscopy (AFM), as well as optical and stylus profilometry, are employed to assess surface roughness accurately. By controlling and optimizing surface roughness, desired coating properties can be achieved.

HZO-chemical-resistance-01Thin film coatings are critical for corrosion protection and chemical resistance. Their ability to withstand exposure to corrosive environments and various chemicals is valued in many industries. Material selection is an essential consideration in achieving long-lasting protection. 

HZO-optical-properties-01Thin film coatings exhibit unique optical characteristics, such as reflectivity,  anti-reflective behavior, index of refraction, and transparency. These properties make them valuable in various optical applications, including lenses and display technologies, and are summarized below:

  • Reflectivity: measures a coated surface's efficiency in reflecting incoming light or radiation, influencing visual appearance, optics, and functionality.
  • Anti-reflective behavior: denotes the capability of a coated surface to minimize the reflection of light, thereby reducing glare and enhancing visibility.
  • Index of refraction: indicates how much a coating material bends or changes the direction of light as it enters or exits the coated surface.
  • Coating transparency: pertains to the degree to which a coated material allows light or other electromagnetic waves to pass through it with minimal absorption or distortion.

HZO-mechanical-propertiesAn understanding of the mechanical behavior of thin film coatings is required for their successful application. Properties like hardness, elasticity, toughness, and wear resistance determine the coating's ability to withstand mechanical stresses and environmental conditions.

Mechanical properties are studied using nanoindentation, mechanical test frame, and tribology testing. These properties find applications in industries such as aerospace and automotive. Some fundamental properties follow:

  • The coefficient of linear expansion: describes how a coating material changes in size or dimensions when subjected to changes in temperature.
  • Elongation yield: refers to the capacity of a coating material to stretch or deform under mechanical stress, indicating its flexibility and durability.
  • Tensile strength at yield: represents the maximum pulling force a material can withstand before experiencing permanent deformation or breakage.
  • Young's Modulus: quantifies the coating material's stiffness or elasticity, measuring how much a coating will deform under a given amount of applied stress.

HZO-electrical-properties-01Electrical conductivity and insulation are properties of protective thin film coatings, particularly in electronic applications. Coatings with specific electrical properties allow for precise control and optimization of electrical performance. Understanding these properties aids in developing coatings for microelectronics, sensors, and energy storage devices.

The following properties are relevant to the study of conformal and thin film coatings: 

  • Arc resistance: signifies a material's ability to withstand electrical breakdown or arcing, which is crucial for applications in electrical and high-voltage environments.
  • Dielectric strength: measures the maximum voltage an insulating material can endure without electrical breakdown.
  • The dielectric constant of coating materials: indicates their ability to store electrical energy and influences their response to electric fields in various applications.
  • Dissipation factor: measures the efficiency of a coating material in releasing electrical energy as heat when subjected to alternating current, impacting its performance in electrical and electronic applications.
  • Volume resistivity: gauges the material's ability to impede the flow of electric current through its volume, which is crucial for assessing its insulating or conductive properties in diverse applications.

HZO-environmental-stability-01Thin film coatings may be subjected to various environmental conditions throughout their service life. Investigating the degradation mechanisms and improving the coatings' resistance to factors like moisture, temperature fluctuations, humidity, and UV radiation is important, as enhancing environmental stability ensures longer lifetimes and improved reliability. 

  • UL94 flammability coating material testing: determines the fire-retardant properties of coatings by examining their response to controlled flames, aiding in selecting safer and more reliable materials for various applications
  • Biocompatible coating material: refers to substances compatible with living tissue without causing adverse reactions, promoting safe integration and functionality within the body.
  • Water vapor transmission rate (WVTR): is a property that denotes substances that control the passage of gaseous moisture through a surface, influencing moisture resistance and preservation properties in barrier applications.
  • Hydrophobic: describes the ability of a coated surface to repel water, preventing its adhesion and promoting self-cleaning, making it suitable for applications where water resistance and low-maintenance surfaces are desired.
  • "Waterproof" coatings: can make an electronic fully submersible in water for prolonged periods.
  • Corrosion-resistant coating material: provides a protective barrier against deterioration, ensuring extended durability and reliability of surfaces in corrosive environments.
  • Thermal conductivity: measures a material's ability to transfer heat, determining how efficiently it dissipates or conducts thermal energy through its structure.

The choice of deposition technique heavily influences the properties of the coating. We use several deposition techniques at HZO, Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD), Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition, and Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD).


Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) is a sophisticated thin-film deposition technique involving the controlled reaction of gaseous precursor chemicals that deposit a solid material onto a substrate surface. During CVD, the substrate is placed within a reaction chamber, and the precursor gases are introduced, typically through a chemical reaction at elevated temperatures. The process allows for precise control over factors such as gas flow rates, pressure, and temperature, enabling the growth of uniform, conformal, and high-quality coatings on various substrates. 

HZO-plasma-enhanced-chemical-vapor-deposition-01Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) is an advanced variant of the traditional CVD technique, offering enhanced control and versatility in thin-film deposition processes. PECVD introduces a plasma source into the reaction chamber, where the precursor gases are energized into a high-energy plasma state. This plasma activates the precursor molecules, promoting chemical reactions at lower temperatures and allowing for the deposition of complex materials that would be challenging with conventional CVD. PECVD's unique capability to create films at lower temperatures makes it suitable for depositing materials on temperature-sensitive substrates, such as plastics and organic materials. PECVD's ability to tailor material characteristics with reduced thermal impact makes it a valuable tool in developing cutting-edge technologies and applications.

HZO-Atomic-Layer-Deposition-01Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) is a precision thin-film deposition technique that operates on a molecular level, enabling the controlled growth of ultra-thin films with exceptional uniformity and conformality. In ALD, precursor chemicals are introduced sequentially into a reaction chamber where they react with the substrate surface in a self-limiting manner. This lateral process results in a single atomic or molecular layer deposition at a time, allowing precise control over film thickness and composition. ALD's unique self-limiting mechanism ensures uniform coverage even on complex and high-aspect-ratio structures, making it ideal for nanoscale and three-dimensional applications. ALD's unparalleled precision, scalability, and versatility have established it as a cornerstone technology for advancing materials science and nanotechnology.

HZO-contact-01Thin film coatings are crucial in many industries, including consumer electronics, IoT, rechargeable batteries, and healthcare. Understanding their properties is vital in ensuring the coatings meet the desired requirements and provide the necessary functionality. Manufacturers and engineers can accurately design and produce thin film coatings that optimize performance and durability by reviewing a coating material's optical, mechanical, and electrical properties. If you need help determining which coating is best for your application, contact us to get in touch with an engineer or learn more about thin film deposition techniques