Diamond, Diamond-like Carbon/CBN Films and Coated Products: Technology Analysis
The U.S. caught up to and surpassed Japan and Russia in the 1990s and enjoys a dominant position in diamond and diamond-like thin film technologies and markets.
In the last seven years, new and/or improved technologies for depositing diamond and diamond-like thin films have emerged that have much higher deposition rates than conventional PVD and CVD techniques.
According to the companion BCC study GB-173U, the 2001 U.S. market for diamond and diamond-like film was $150 million.
The growth rate for the diamond-like film market is expected to exceed the diamond film market in the next five years.
Diamond has long held a special place in the hearts and minds of both scientists and the public at large. It is the hardest material known and has the highest thermal conductivity among all known materials. Combined with these important properties, diamond has very low thermal expansion and high electrical resistance. Because of its hardness, diamond is far more effective and efficient than other competing materials used for abrasive, cutting, shaping or finishing tools. Its very high thermal conductivity makes it ideal for spreading and conducting the heat out of compact, high-power, high-speed electronic packages. Synthetic diamond is traditionally produced by high-pressure and high-temperature techniques.
A low-pressure technique to produce diamond using chemical vapor deposition (CVD) drew worldwide attention in the mid-1980s. There has been an explosion of interest in CVD diamond, diamond-like, and cubic boron nitride (CBN) films and coatings. These films are expected to be used in a variety of applications, from cutting tools to wear-resistant parts, and from electronics to optical applications. One advantage of CVD diamond technology over high-pressure technology is its low cost and its ability to coat on any shape.
In the mid-1990s, several new mass-production technologies for producing diamond and diamond-like films emerged, including the production of diamond-like coatings for razor blades. Another technology used an interactive laser technique to produce diamond and diamond-like carbon (DLC) films. Yet another technique that used fullerenes in an argon microwave plasma produced nanocrystalline diamond. Since the advent of these new technologies, diamond and diamond-like films, and coated products have reached a greater level of activity in their applications.
Diamond thick/thin films can be incorporated into laser diodes and microwave electronic packages due to their extremely high thermal conductivity coupled with their excellent dielectric properties. Also, large substrates are now available, and a variety of package designs are possible with CVD diamond. Tool inserts with CVD diamond, thick-film blanks or thin-film coatings constitute the newest tool material. Diamond-like thin films are now finding increasing applications in coating automotive components, such as brake rotors and gears. A major application commercialized in the past five years has been the use of DLC for shaving blades. Diamond and diamond-like coatings are also finding increasing applications in optical applications, such as sunglasses, ophthalmic lenses, and IR windows.
STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Since our last report on this topic in 1996, a lot of new developments have taken place in the diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin-film/coated products. Some of the market segments have achieved production scale, while others are still in testing and prototype quantities. There are also several new potential applications, such as semiconductors, protective coatings, as well as medical, consumer and sporting goods applications, and advanced flat-panel displays. These have warranted a need to make a proper analysis of the technological and issues, trends in research, development and manufacturing innovations, as well as the worldwide competition in the diamond film/coated products industry.
Because of the vastness of this subject in terms of research and development, as well as its scope regarding the emergence of several new applications, this topic has been divided into two reports. GB-173U deals with materials, processing, applications, foreign competition, and market opportunities, and this report, GB-173X, deals with technical analyses of emerging technologies, new developments, and patents issued since 1992. In preparing GB-173X, the following objectives have been established:
- To provide a technological overview of the various diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin films and coated products, their production technologies, and status of the current and emerging technologies;
- To identify and describe the U.S. and foreign developments in new technologies associated with diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coated products;
- To identify and describe improvements in existing technologies associated with diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coated products;
- To identify and describe new application developments in diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coated products;
- To provide an overview of R&D issues associated with diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin films/coated products;
- To conduct a patent analysis to evaluate the international competition in the issuance of patents between countries and companies;
- To identify all U.S. producers and those involved in the development of diamond, diamond-like, and CBN film products;
- To identify the U.S. universities and institutions involved in diamond film, diamond-like, and CBN film research; and
- To identify the foreign companies, universities, and other institutions involved in the research on diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coated products.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE STUDY
Communication Company's (BCC's) technical analyses cover all U.S. and foreign developments in new technologies, improvements in existing technologies, and new emerging applications for diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coated products. The patents issued by the U.S. have also been described and listed within the broad categories mentioned above.
This report shows the depth, breadth, and results of recent research in both the U.S. and foreign countries in the growth and characterization of thin films of diamonds, CBN, diamond-like, and similar materials for all applications.
FORMAT AND SCOPE
The report provides a technological overview for diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin/thick films, including their current production techniques, companies involved, and status of the technologies and applications. The section on new developments has been categorized according to diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coatings. Within each of the sections, we have further categorized the technologies according to U.S. and foreign developments, and then according to new technologies, improvement in technologies, and applications-oriented research. All new developments that have taken place within the past 10 years have been included. Some of the new developments listed in this section were presented in our previous report, published in 1996. However, this is a short time period for any technology to take off; therefore, these developments have repeated within this section.
The qualitative and quantitative judgments embodied in this report are a valuable contribution to the current technical knowledge and R&D of diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin films/coated products. Along with new developments comes the need for decisions by a number of companies on future involvement strategies. This report provides an in-depth analysis of the new emerging technologies, improvements in existing technologies, and application developments.
All relevant U.S. patents related to diamond, diamond-like and CBN films issued from January 1992 to December 2001 are listed in each section. Companies and institutions that have been issued U.S. patents are listed in the patent analysis sections.
METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES
The findings of this report are based on information derived from interviews with developers, producers, and potential producers of diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin film materials and their products. Several industry experts were also contacted for this study. Secondary data were obtained from various technical journals, conference proceedings, trade publications, newsletters, and the U.S. Patent Database.
WHO SHOULD SUBSCRIBE?
This report is directed to the various strata of companies and institutions that are interested in the development of diamond, diamond-like, and CBN thin film materials and their products. Interested parties include:
- Companies involved in research, development, manufacturing, and supplying of advanced materials;
- Developers and producers of diamond, diamond-like, and CBN films/coatings;
- Universities, research institutions, and government agencies involved in research and development of thin films;
- Manufacturers and suppliers of diamond and CBN products;
- Producers and suppliers of advanced electronic and optical components;
- Producers and suppliers of machine tool inserts;
- Producers of wear-resistant and automotive components;
- Producers of sunglasses, ophthalmic lenses, IR windows, and other optical materials;
- Electronic, automotive, computer, aerospace, and telecommunication companies;
- Producers of razor blades, shaving sets, surgical blades, and golf clubs; and
- Advanced-material companies that are interested in diversification.
The global market for diamond, diamond-like and CBN films and coated products in 2001 was estimated to be $284 million. This is expected to increase to $725 million by 2006, at an annual average growth rate (AAGR) of 20.6%.
The North American market estimated at $125 million in 2001, and is expected to rise at an AAGR of 18.3% to $290 million in 2006.
Currently, the markets are dominated by consumer applications, such as DLC-coated shaving blades, followed by wear-resistant coatings, tool inserts and thermal -management substrates.
Of the 2001 market in North America, about three-fourths was for diamond-like thin-film products.
In competition with Japan and, to a lesser extent Russia, the U.S. has not only caught up in R&D, but now has surged ahead in commercialization efforts.