Nearly every object you use has a thin layer of coating to improve its characteristics. Metal and plastic parts are often coated to improve their durability, protect them against friction or simply make them look better.
Take the automotive industry, for example. Thin layers of special coating materials improve the appearance of plastic parts in car interiors while reducing the vehicle’s weight, as heavy metal parts can be replaced.
There are many more examples that exist outside the automotive industry. Decorative coatings are very common in mobile phone covers, for example. Most covers that look metallic are actually coated plastic. In the cosmetics industry, highly-reflective coating gives packaging a luxurious look which matches the product inside.
Have you ever had a good look at your screwdriver (or any of your other handheld tools) and wondered what types of technology have been used on them? Strong, thin layers can harden the surface of your metal tools, protecting them against wear and tear and increasing their lifetimes. Even the drill bits you use in your power tools are coated for better performance.
Thin layers of wear protection or decorative coatings are typically applied via physical vapor deposition (PVD), thermal evaporation or electric ARC-evaporation processes.
These processes all require vacuum conditions between 10-2 and 10-6 mbar, delivered by a variety of vacuum pumps: