(A.) facility dedicated to thin film materials & process development.                      

In addition to the more standard vacuum thin film processes, we have been, from our beginning, developing and utilizing energetic 
(electron emitters, plasma and VUV) sources in, fully specified, activated reactive sputtering processes, and other reactive PVD processes, long before certain academics began inventing acronyms for these processes.  Our primary business history is thin film process development for our corporate customers' new product applications.  For applications and industrial sectors in which Helicon is experienced and specifically qualified, please utilize the links below:
  • metrology
  • optical microscopy
  • electron microscopy
  • UV-Vis-NIR-MIR spectrophotometry
  • critical cleaning facilities
  • x-ray diffraction and fluorescence analysis
  • in-house machine shop
  • controlled environment and vacuum furnaces
  • nanosecond laser processing


In addition, whereas our publiexamples page indicates some of our diverse history in thin film applications, Helicon has performed many thin film projects for our industrial clients.  As further indicated in the above links, this includes both a diverse field of practical thin film know-how, and, addressing the practical challenges integral to bringing a thin film technology to market.       

General services in this regard include:              

  •       Coating development for new product development
  •       Thin film development in product upgrade
  •       Coating design and development for target application
  •       Improvement in sputtering target metallurgy
  •       Design of thin film process and associated equipment
  •       Design of thin film process and associated vapor sources
  •       Transfer of coating design to scale-able process metrics
  •       Development of scaleable thin film devices
  •       Optimization of micro-structure and material phase
  •       Determination of optimum composit

General facilities overview:
    • large selection of vapor sources
    • flexible process formats
    • multiple source chambers
    • load-locked systems
    • balanced/unbalanced magnetrons
    • high-density plasma processing
    • activated reactive evaporation
    • multi-layer prototyping
    • small-batch runs
    • surface engineering
    • vapor source engineering
    • large target selection in-house
    • low-res lithography
    • 3D-CAD design & FEA
    • deposition chambers for wafers, cylinders, rods, and pellicles.

  • optical materials
  • optoelectronic materials
  • electrochemical barriers
  • electrolytic thin films
  • high-temperature diffusion barriers
  • Bragg filters
  • Fabry-Perot filters
  • thin-film batteries
  • thin-film solar
  • solar CPV
  • moisture barriers
  • environmental barrier multilayers
  • catalytic layers




 (B.) process-specific, materials-specific, thin film equipment specification.

Helicon has extensive experience in working with our customers' on-site technicians and managers to deterministically convert existing process tools into newly capable thin film processing tools.  This includes not only our primary function of critical process development, but a highly evolved understanding of best-suited vacuum technologies for the specific process at hand, including pump specs and strategy, preferred gauge, monitoring, end-point types, and logic control formats.  

This approach has some major advantages, not least of which are:

  • after a desired tool design is selected, there are many late-model, high-performance, top-tier thin film tools available, at low cost, as a result of various shuttered ventures;with various degress of alteration, such tools can be converted to new processes and integrated, while providing valuable in-house, tool-specific training, on the customer's site and under customer control.
  • parallel execution of tool installation, training, troubleshooting, and process transfer, all in parallel, as tool is brought up "organically" in its ultimate destination.
  • critical advantages in timeline and in intellectual property security.

In short, in-house tool conversion (partial or complete) is a less risk-laden, and more accountable process, both in capital and in total acquisition costs; 
furthermore, such a conversion process can typically be accomplished in less time within each of the various acquisition stages.  This is particularly true when care is taken to select a contractor specializing in process development, rather than what is typically presented as process expertise at typical PVD tool OEMs.  To further mitigate risk in less mature industries or process development roadmaps, the client can also much more readily elect to diversify the expertise and design inputs when the tool is converted in-house.

A primary value included in the development services provided by Helicon is the creation of a specification for our clients' application process requirements, before the large capital outlay required to install a manufacturing line, and without the risks incurred in contracting a tool builder, for process development, who may or may not find it in their interest to depart from their preferred tool platforms; or, not actively provide your competitive advantages directly to your competitors, as the OEM, down the road (not uncommon).


(C.) experienced micro-characterization & reliability testing.

Integral to our work is thin film characterization in numerous forms, including electronic, optical, and materials micro-characterizationHelicon is normally required to perform characterization in conjunction with any of the development work it performs.  We have various optical, surface, impedance characterization, and x-ray diffraction and fluorescence analysis on-site, as well as access to SEM and TEM facilities.  We also perform various mil-spec reliability tests as a normal part of our thin film development projects. 

Characterization and testing feedback required in a project is widely variable with application.  Helicon possesses its own characterization facilities, as well as being partnered with local characterization facilities for additional capabilities in transmission electron microscopy, glancing-incidence x-ray fluorescence, and atomic force microscopy.

For additional information, please also see our notes on characterization in our facilites section.

(D.) on-site vacuum thin film process troubleshooting.

We provide on-site process troubleshooting and processcritiques in existing thin film manufacturing lines for a number of clients.  These interactions are productive for clients who are seeking to either establish options in possible improvement or modification of production equipment that is being pushed beyond its originally intended capability, or who have a well-established thin film production line that is not delivering optimized yield or run-to-run reproducibility.  On-site process consulting is also frequently discovered as advantageous during ongoing tandem thin film process development projects where Helicon further aids transition to a next-generation product line. Reliable confidentiality is core to our business - your business/technical matters are not communicated beyond the persons signing your NDA.


(E.)  beta-level thin film manufacturing.

Depending on the article of manufacture, Helicon Thin Film Systems also has the in-house capacity to perform short-order prototype runs for alpha/beta stages of product development, which can comprise in 10's to 1000's of units, depending upon the product type.  Prototypes and small product runs are typically desired in the maturation of an ongoing development contract, where product must be more exhaustively characterized, and proof of value must be more fully assessed, before management can underwrite the major capital investment of a manufacturing line.

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(F.) due-diligence & feasibility consulting.

Any truly innovative, core hardware technology represents experimental risk.  Many physical technology ventures fail to reach profitability, or break even; frequently, we would submit, in a foreseeable way, due to glossing over of technical materials issues, overlooking practical processing issues, or due to solely relying on academia for technical due diligence.  

Various technical ventures are launched within larger organizations, frequently, with less-than studied analysis, or any independent opinion.  We routinely provide confidential due-diligence in applications relying on thin film materials, process and equipment technical feasibility, as well as market/cost feasibility.   Helicon must perform literature reviews and feasibility reports as part of its day-to-day operation.  As a result, we are well-accustomed to the requirements of investor due-diligence, as well as aware of an expansive cross-section of the research, past and present, in the diverse fields into which thin film materials and processes have been projected

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