We propose using ion-beam etching as an additional tool for the accurate control of the thickness of thin films during the manufacture of sensitive optical multilayer coatings. We use a dual ion-beam sputtering system in the deposition and etch modes. In the deposition mode both the assist and sputtering ion beams are used to produce dense films at deposition rates in the range of 0.1–0.3 nm/s. In the etch mode, only the assist ion beam is used to remove material at a rate of less than 0.1 nm/s. A very high precision in the layer thicknesses can be obtained by alternating between deposition and etch modes. We observed that etching did not significantly affect the surface quality and the uniformity of the coatings. We introduced etching into our current manufacturing process and demonstrated its potential for the fabrication of several optical multilayer systems with performances that are very sensitive to the thickness of their layers.
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ErrataDaniel Poitras, J. A. Dobrowolski, Tom Cassidy, and Simona Moisa, "Ion-beam etching for the precise manufacture of optical coatings: erratum," Appl. Opt. 42, 5749-5749 (2003)