Physical vapor deposition (PVD) is a process of applying a thin coating to medical devices and equipment. The coating makes the device or equipment more resilient, and creates a different surface texture that makes the device or equipment easier, safer, and more ergonomic to use. PVD coatings are used on nearly anything from dental implants and dental instruments to orthopedics and surgical instruments, and even on pacemakers. When the PVD coating is applied, the underlying substance and design of the device remains fully intact and is never compromised. The two main benefits of the coating include improving the hardness of the surface as well as its durability, and its biocompatibility, allowing the PVD coated devices to be used internally.
One of the most important features of the PVD coating is that it is compatible with the sterilization process used in the facility, such as autoclaving. The sterilization process usually involves exposures to high heat and moisture, and the PVD coating resists corrosion and oxidation. Commonly used surface coatings in the PVD process include Titanium Nitride (TiN), Chromium Nitride (CrN), ZrN, TiAlN, AlTiN, AlTiSiN, CrN, TiCN, and AlCrN. Each can be color-coded for easy identification or specific aesthetic appeal. All of the types of PVD surfacing materials are tested for biocompatibility, to ensure they do not create problems like toxicity, sensitivity, or mortality. Performance of the instrument is also improved with PVD coatings, and the instruments will remain sharp, durable, and viable over time. PVD-coated instruments create minimal friction, are maneuverable, and prevent infection and irritability when they are used on patients. Special types of PVD coatings can be used on orthopedic implants, which come into contact with bone and therefore need to be especially abrasion-resistant and corrosion-resistant without reacting with the surrounding blood or tissue.