robust thin film products 
are physically coupled systems 

No commercial product is viable until it can address the multiple requirements of cost, reliability, and performance.  When such products incorporate thin film components, these same multiple requirements inevitably place multiple, broadly different, physical requirements on the thin film manufacturing process, as well. 
These multiple requirements can require a good deal more insight into the physical processes afoot than proving of initial performance criteria alone.  A process of acquiring greater physical understanding of the thin film requirements of the prospective product will then result in a more detailed and fully resolved specification.  

Naturally, adding such additional physical requirements to the specification can frequently result in a transformative effect on the process requirements.  Therefore, it’s best to have a handle on all of these issues before concluding the documentation for prospective thin film process tooling.
A more complete prototyping process for the desired thin film product reveals required directions for achieving all such multiple thin film product requirements. Given the coupled nature of these physical outcomes, going through this prototyping process before arriving at the thin film tooling design is advisable, since such prototyping will often provide
 critical insights into global tooling decisions before having made an irreversible commitment.



                          (basic checklist)

1.       CHARACTERIZE AND UNDERSTAND YOUR SUBSTRATE                                                
Establishing any unique requirements and tolerances of a specific application's substrate will tend to save time and money when this characterization occurs before physical prototyping or assessing an optimum thin film process. Substrate geometry and physical composition frequently place fundamental restrictions as to which thin film processes are physically compatible or practical. Also, if the substrate includes unique features, surface morphology, or uniquely tight (or loose) tolerance requirements, this can also be a factor in determining which, of the compatible process options identified, will provide the best results in the intended application.                                                                                                                                                                  
2.               MAKE AN INITIAL, BEST-EFFORT SPECIFICATION DOCUMENT                            
As with any fabrication work, having a documented specification is critical to communicating the desired outcome in thin film work, both within and outside one's organization. Providing a best-effort documentation of all needed coating properties -- dimensional, optical, electronic, environmental/reliability, compositional, tribilogical, etc -- will streamline communications considerably, even if many details of the thin film requirements are still unknown.
3.                      UNDERSTAND YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY REQUIREMENTS                              
Confidentiality is both far more readily maintained and entirely more definitively controlled in Helicon's development services than what is possible in a forward-looking capital purchase agreement for (contractor-supported) custom process equipment that also includes a development burden. The latter scenario inevitably results in unintended consequences.  While confidentiality agreements tend to contain some common clauses, we see large variations in such documents, particularly from start-ups that may not have a legal department.  We have suggestions and stated policies for maintaining confidentiality in your thin film product development.  Please read our policies: Here. 

Product development in vacuum-deposited thin film components can be, and frequently has been, expensive and wasteful, due to premature process trajectories being chosen, based upon an avoidable lack of awareness/understanding of the very materials-specific differences between competing thin film process approaches and equipment configurations. With regard to the effort of obtaining the best available process information up-front, the history of thin film product development repeatedly demonstrates that the risk of being excessively thorough in this formative effort is a risk that is well worth taking. 

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