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Effect of mechanical and thermochemical tool steel substrate pre-treatment on diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating durability

Toboła, D, Liskiewicz, T ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0866-814X, Yang, L, Khan, T and Boroń, Ł (2021) Effect of mechanical and thermochemical tool steel substrate pre-treatment on diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating durability. Surface and Coatings Technology, 422. ISSN 0257-8972

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Abstract

Diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings are becoming well established across many industrial sectors including aerospace, automotive, oil and gas, and cold-forming tools. While DLC coatings exhibit good mechanical properties and a low coefficient of friction, the coating–substrate systems may suffer from insufficient wear resistance. This paper describes the effect of mechanical and thermochemical tool steel substrate pre-treatment on DLC coating durability. We have investigated two tool steel substrates, Sverker 21 (AISI D2) and an advanced powder metallurgy alloyed steel Vanadis 8. Initially, the substrates were heat treated in a vacuum furnace and gas quenched resulting in hardness of 59 ± 1 and 64 ± 1 Hardness Rockwell C (HRC) respectively. Subsequently, the samples were subjected to mechanical turning and burnishing with 130 N and 160 N forces, using diamond composite tools with a ceramic bonding phase. Afterwards, a plasma-assisted vacuum nitriding process in a physical vapour deposition (PVD) coating chamber, as a pre-treatment for subsequent DLC coating deposition, was carried out. Coated samples were subjected to a series of ball-on-disc wear tests against Al2O3 and Si3N4 counterparts. X-ray diffraction, instrumented indentation and scanning electron microscopy were employed to examine the mechanical and chemical properties of the wear scars. Selected variable factors, including the type of steel, the burnishing force and the type of counterbody material, were analysed in order to correlate them with the durability of DLC coating deposited on a pre-treated steel substrate. The effect of sequential processes used as pre-treatment on DLC coating durability was demonstrated. The wear resistance was over 180 (Sverker 21 substrate) and 10 (Vanadis 8 substrate) times greater against the Al2O3 counterbody for samples subjected to the following treatment: turning + burnishing with 160 N force + vacuum nitriding + DLC coating, comparing with the sample after grinding. The results are discussed in light of improving the cold-forming tools' tribological performance.

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