Mechanical and thermal stability of hard nitride coatings

Abstract: Hard coating’s thermal stability is essential due to the high temperature environment of high-speed cutting applications, while the phase and microstructure evolution induced by exposing the coating to high temperature affects the mechanical properties. In this thesis, the mechanical stability of arc-evaporated, hard, transition metal nitride coatings annealed at high temperature is analyzed and related to the phase and microstructure evolution. In addition to hardness, fracture toughness is evaluated by surface and cross-sectional investigations by scanning/transmission electron microscopy of damage events following mechanical tests.The crack resistance of Ti1−xAlxN with a range of Al content (x = 0.23-0.82) was studied by contact fatigue tests, where the differences in the microstructure were found to play a major role. Superior mechanical properties were found in Ti0.63Al0.37N; in the as-deposited state as a result of a favorable grain size, and after annealing at 900o C due to the microstructure formed during spinodal decomposition.The mechanical and high-temperature properties of hard coatings can be enhanced by alloying or multi-layering. Within this work, quaternary Ti-Al-X-N (X = Cr, Nb and V) alloys were studied and superior toughness was found for TiAl(Nb)N in both the as-deposited and annealed (1100◦ C) states. The hexagonal (h)-AlN formation in cubic (c)-TixAl0.37Cr1−0.37−xN (x = 0.03 and 0.16) was analyzed by in-situ x-ray scattering during annealing. The energy for h-AlN formation was found to be dependent on the microstructure evolution during annealing, which varies with the coating composition.High Al content h-ZrAlN/c-TiN and h-ZrAlN/c-ZrN multilayers were investigated through scratch tests followed by focused ion-beam analysis of the crack propagation. A c-Ti(Zr)N phase forms in h-ZrAlN/c-TiN multilayers at high temperatures and that contributes to enhanced hardness and fracture toughness by keeping the semi-coherent sub-interfaces.Finally, an in-situ analysis of coatings by x-ray scattering during a turning process was carried out. It demonstrates the possibility of observation of stress evolution and thermal expansion of the coatings or the work piece material during machining. This experiment provides real-time information on the coating behavior during cutting.

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