Tribology of thin films and their use in the field of machine elements

B. Podgornik, J. Vižintin

Vacuum 68 (2002) 30–47.


A lot of new technologies and thin films with very good tribological properties, like diamond and diamond-like carbon coatings, were introduced in the last decades. However, use of hard thin films in the field of machine elements is the exception rather than the rule. The main problem lies in the relatively high contact pressure and the very complex loading of the machine components, which demand a hard resistant surface and a tough core. It was found during many numerical and experimental analyses that in the case of hard thin films the plastic deformation of the composite will start in the substrate. Therefore, the ability of the film to sustain the loading depends principally on the load-carrying capacity of the substrate.

Although, there is almost an unlimited number of possibilities, we have to be very careful combining different surface treatments and thin-film deposition techniques. It should be pointed out that an improper combination could very easily lead to undesirable deterioration of the properties either of the film or the substrate, instead of their improvement. That is why only a few combinations can be successfully used in practice. One of the most promising ones, already proven in the case of high-speed steel, is the combination of plasma nitriding of the steel substrate followed by the PVD thin-film deposition.


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