Laser Ablation: A PVD Coating Removal Alternative

PVD Coating Removal Alternative

PVD coatings are physical — or plasma — vapor depositions and are commonly used on solar panels and watches to prevent scratching, but it can also be used for more industrial solutions. The military uses it to protect equipment from harsh elements, and the aerospace industry uses it on their rockets. Because PVD coatings are designed to protect the product it covers, it can be difficult to remove without causing damage to the base layer and can be extremely dangerous for the environment. Plasma treatment is used during the process, but it’s not effective for removing the thin PVD layer. Could laser solutions be the answer?


PVD is a process where the material goes from a condensed phase to a vapor phase and then back to a condensed phase in the form of a thin film. This film(s) is what protects products from damage and harsh elements. There are many PVD processes that can occur, but the two most common are sputtering and evaporation. During the sputtering process, a plasma discharge targets the material and ejects some away as a vapor. With the evaporation process, the source material is evaporated inside a vacuum. This vacuum allows for vapor particles to travel directly to the substrate — where they condense back into a solid (thin film) state.


Laser ablation is the process of using thousands of laser pulses per second to absorb into or apply a pressure-induced shock wave and remove contaminants without damaging the substrate. Laser solutions can be more effective than other cleaning options — sometimes cleaning up to 15 times faster. Its effectiveness, paired with the ability to clean without the use of media or baking out moisture from the components, can make it an ideal alternative for PVD film.


Not only are laser solutions a potentially viable option for removing PVD, but it’s the only option for doing so without impacting the substrate. Unlike plasma treatments that leave a thin film or media blasting alternatives which can be dangerous for your product and operators, laser cleaning checks almost all of the boxes for being an effective solution. And, we have proven processes for removal and rework of many material systems — such as DLC, WCC, ITO, CdTe, and many more.



One of the biggest perks of using laser solutions as opposed to other cleaning options is that it requires less total downtime for maintenance. In most situations, PVD shielding is removed and placed in a glovebox for the media blasting process. But, this can cause cross contamination and requires wiping down the equipment after the media blasting process. Laser cleaning eliminates this extra time. And, due to the lack of the IPA wipe down and less surface restructuring — often caused by media blasting — the bake-out process needed to drive moisture from the shielding is reduced. In addition to removing PVD coatings, laser solutions can also be used for:

  • Bonding preparation
  • Coating preparation
  • Surface prep for NDI
  • Welding/brazing preparation
  • Welding post-treatment


While laser solutions are optimal for many PVD processes, they aren’t the most suitable solution for every product. If the thin film is covering metal or some non-metal products, then a laser solution is likely a suitable option. The thickness of the coatings and the substrate material can also impact whether laser cleaning is a suitable option — especially those products with chambers where chamber geometry requires consideration. But, applications made from glass, wood, or other combustible materials can often be difficult to clean. And, larger surfaces and hard-to-see areas are harder to clean efficiently and effectively, so other cleaning options would be more suitable in those cases.

The best way to determine if laser cleaning solutions can remove PVD coatings from your product is to send it to our on-site testing lab — where we’ll determine which laser solution is best suited for your needs. If your product is too difficult to disassemble and move to our lab, we also offer testing at your facilities. Talk to our sales team to learn more.


Adapt Laser specializes in the know-how and application of laser cleaning solutions. We offer products with a range between 20 and 1,600 watts and provide training to ensure your employees can get the most from their laser cleaning solutions. We’ve equipped a variety of industries and companies with laser cleaning solutions — including military and defense for the US Airforce and Navy — and hundreds of organizations trust our state-of-the-art laser cleaning solutions.

Contact us today or call (816) 466-5855 to find the right laser cleaning solution for you.