A new approach to applying advanced thin-film coatings to high-value engineering products is being developed in the UK by Teer Coatings, Cobham Technical Services and The Open University. The collaborative project, co-funded by a $900,000 award from Innovate UK, the country’s national innovation agency, will develop a practical tool for simulating sputter coating, thus helping deliver a right-first-time process. The development project brings together experts on non-equilibrium plasma physics, computer-aided engineering software for modeling and simulating electromagnetic and related physics effects, and the design and use of the physical vapor deposition (PVD) magnetron sputtering tools to apply coatings used with a wide range of high-value manufacturing applications. The key aim is to develop a practical software-guided approach to thin-film coating that is both accurate and fast. This tool will provide an intelligent and automated analysis of a proposed deposition process to help users optimize the performance of a coating tool and the characteristics of a surface coating applied to work pieces. Such an approach will potentially prototyping and trials, and will be relevant to intelligent and optimized surface coatings, enabling performance advances in a wide range of engineering sectors. The collaborative project runs until September 2016. A team from The UK’s Open University will advise on the physics of the magnetically confined plasmas that are generated in magnetron tools to vaporize coating materials for deposition onto the work pieces, and provide feedback on the actual performance of the new software-guided process. Cobham Technical Services − developer of the Opera finite-element analysis simulation tool-chain for modeling, simulating, analyzing, and auto-optimizing electromagnetic effects − will develop application-specific solvers for its software. These will provide the means for users to model the entire process, from the plasma field, via ion bombardment of the target coating material, to subsequent deposition. The software will also take into account the properties of the vacuum-processing chamber, including the magnetic fields and substrate movement. The project is led by Teer Coatings, part of the Miba Coating Group. As this company manufactures thin-film deposition tools and provides specialist coating services, it is in a good position to evaluate the new software-guided approach by using it in conjunction with its magnetron tools, and validating its efficiency on a very broad variety of work pieces, from metal cutting tools to medical implants. www.teercoatings.co.uk