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Vapor Deposition Coating on Plastics

Key Takeaways

  • Vapor deposition offers scratch resistant plastic finishes that are both decorative and functional. 

  • Vapor deposition coating on plastics improves electrical and thermal conductivity in non-conductive materials.

  • PVD and CVD create strong, durable barriers and functional coatings in various industries.

Example diagram of vapor deposition setup using evaporation

Example diagram of vapor deposition setup using evaporation

Vapor deposition coating on plastics is a process that occurs in a vacuum and requires energy to sublime material from a solid to the gas phase, then back into a solid through condensation on the target material. Due to the customizability and advantages of this process, vapor deposition coating is a common choice to treat plastics for barrier properties, finishes, and electrical and thermal properties.

Vapor Deposition Process for Plastics 

The vapor deposition begins with the preparation of the plastic surface to promote adhesion, including cleaning, etching, or applying a base coat. The plastic substrate is placed in a vacuum chamber, where the coating material is vaporized. There are numerous subtypes of vapor deposition, with the two most common methods being: 

  • Physical Vapor Deposition (PVD), where the coating material is physically transformed into vapor by means of evaporation or sputtering. The material is heated in a high vacuum releasing atoms in the vapor phase.

  • Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) relies on chemical reactions to produce a vapor that decomposes on the substrate’s surface, resulting in a deposited film. The process gasses are introduced into the chamber, where they react or decompose at high temperatures to form a solid coating on the plastic component.

Why Use Vapor Deposition Coating on Plastic?

Use of Vapor Deposition Coating on Plastics


Enhanced Surface Properties

Coatings offer enhancements such as scratch resistance, UV protection, improved hardness, and chemical resistance.

Decorative Finishes

Plastic parts can receive decorative finishes like metalizing, often using affordable and eco-friendly aluminum. Metals in PVD coatings form ceramic-like alloys with reactive gasses.

Barrier Properties

Vapor deposition coatings act as barriers against gasses, moisture, and environmental factors.

Electrical and Thermal Conductivity

Certain coatings provide conductive properties to non-conductive plastics.

Reflective Properties

Plastics with vapor deposition coatings are used in CDs and DVDs to reflect laser beams.

Food Packaging

Coatings create vapor barriers in snack packaging to preserve food quality.

Electromagnetic Radiation Shielding

Plastic can be coated with 3 to 5 microns of metal for shielding.

Electronic Packaging

Coatings are applied to insulated components in electronic packaging.

Automotive Applications

Functional coatings are used for lighting components in automobiles.

Medical Devices

Barrier coatings are applied to medical devices to prevent contamination.

Eco-friendly Alternative

PVD coatings replace chrome plating, offering environmental benefits and resource efficiency.

Increased Abrasion Resistance

Coatings protect against abrasion.

Electroplating vs Vapor Deposition for Plastics

Although both are similar surface treatments, PVC coating films usually have higher hardness, adhesion, corrosion resistance, and more stable performance than electroplating. Furthermore, vapor deposition can be used for various films, and it produces fewer toxins.

Vapor Deposition Coatings for Plastic Injection Molds

PVD coatings enhance the smoothness of the injection molds, allowing the molten plastic to glide effortlessly and fill intricate spaces more efficiently compared to molds without coatings. PVD-coated injection molds result in a smoother ejection of the final product, which accelerates the manufacturing cycle, diminishes the number of defective items, and boosts productivity. Tools and molds treated with PVD coatings in processes such as injection molding, punching, forming, and cutting benefit from reduced friction.

Deposition Coating for Plastics in Electronics 

Using vapor deposition techniques in electronics manufacturing enhances the performance and longevity of components. Devices with atomic or molecular layers can achieve higher functionality, more efficient electrical performance, and greater reliability. Plastic substrates with vapor deposition coatings can improve the structural integrity within electronic devices, allowing for more complex and miniaturized components—qualities that are fundamental in modern ICs and semiconductors.

Allegro X Advanced Package Designer’s Role

If you’re designing any electronics in a plastic package, you may find some advantages in using a vapor deposition coating on the plastic packaging for some of the previously discussed reasons. For help in designing the packaging for these electronics, Allegro X Package Designer offers cutting-edge capabilities to help in your product development process. Enhance your plastics with custom barrier properties, finishes, and electrical conductivity, and streamline your packaging process. Elevate the performance and longevity of electronic components while ensuring structural integrity.

Leading electronics providers rely on Cadence products to optimize power, space, and energy needs for a wide variety of market applications. To learn more about our innovative solutions, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.