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A new compact substrate heater for the pulsed laser deposition (PLD) technique has been developed. The heater is built up of a radiation part, consisting of two quartz halogen lamps, and a rotating absorber, made of a SiC disk, to which the substrate is attached. The advantage of this system in comparison to conventional heaters is its suitability for substrate temperatures up to 800 °C in any ambient (vacuum as well as corrosive gases). The heater is applied for the deposition of thin, multielement films with improved thickness uniformity using off‐axis PLD. This technique makes use of a rotating substrate which is off‐centered from the depositing plasma plume. The thickness profile is modeled using predetermined stationary thickness distributions. For a variety of multielement materials good experimental uniformities in terms of thickness (in close agreement with the calculations) and of chemical composition are obtained. A relation is found between the value of experimental parameters and the achievable uniformity area within a large pressure range. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.