Physical vapor deposition describes a specific category of thin-film vacuum coating processes. The definition of PVD coating can be broken down as follows:
The most common of these thin-film vacuum coating processes include evaporation (e.g., using a cathodic arc or thermal technique), ion beam deposition, and sputtering (e.g., using plasmas). All PVD coating processes must occur inside a vacuum chamber so that the vaporized materials do not react with any atmospheric contaminants that could interfere with the microscopic layer of coating, or with the adhesion of the growing thin film to the substrate. In the specific case of cathodic arc, the vaporization occurs as a direct result of the application of an electrical arc to the surface of the target.