Photonics Dictionary

masks for evaporation/deposition

In the context of thin film deposition processes such as evaporation or sputtering, masks are used to selectively deposit material onto substrates, creating patterns or structures with precise geometries. These masks serve as barriers or shields that block the deposition of material in specific areas, allowing the desired pattern to be formed on the substrate.

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Here are some common types of masks used in thin film deposition:

Shadow masks: Shadow masks are thin sheets of material (such as metal or polymer) with precision-cut apertures or patterns. They are placed between the deposition source and the substrate, allowing material to pass through the apertures and deposit onto the substrate in desired patterns. Shadow masks are commonly used in thermal evaporation processes, where the material is heated to generate vapor.

Photomasks: Photomasks are transparent substrates (such as glass or quartz) with opaque patterns formed on their surface using photolithography techniques. These patterns are typically created using photoresist and UV light exposure, followed by etching or deposition of opaque materials. Photomasks are commonly used in photolithography-based deposition processes, such as photolithographic patterning of semiconductor devices or microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

Stencil masks: Stencil masks are similar to shadow masks but are typically made of thicker materials, such as metal or polymer sheets with precision-cut patterns. They are placed close to the substrate during the deposition process, allowing material to pass through the openings in the stencil and deposit onto the substrate in desired patterns. Stencil masks are commonly used in sputtering processes, where material is sputtered from a target onto the substrate.

Lift-off masks: Lift-off masks are temporary masking materials that are patterned onto the substrate using photolithography or other patterning techniques. After deposition of the thin film material, the lift-off mask is dissolved or lifted off, leaving behind the desired patterned thin film on the substrate. Lift-off masks are commonly used in processes where the deposited material adheres well to the substrate but poorly to the mask material.

Direct-write masks: Direct-write masks are patterned directly onto the substrate using techniques such as inkjet printing, laser ablation, or electron beam lithography. These masks allow for on-demand and customizable patterning of thin films directly onto the substrate, without the need for separate mask fabrication steps.

These are just a few examples of the types of masks used in thin film deposition processes. The choice of mask depends on factors such as the deposition method, the desired pattern geometry, the substrate material, and the deposition material. Masks play a crucial role in achieving precise patterning and control in thin film deposition processes, enabling the fabrication of complex structures and devices in various applications, including electronics, optics, MEMS, and microfluidics.
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