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Tribology International Vol. 31, Nos 13, pp. 515, 1998 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd.

. All rights reserved Printed in Great Britain 0301679X/98/$19.00 + 0.00

PII: S0301679X(98)000048

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach
I. M. Hutchings

Abrasive and erosive wear tests are increasingly applied to surface engineered components, since they have the potential for use as quality assurance methods as well as for more fundamental tribological characterisation. A simple theoretical treatment of such tests is outlined, in which the concept of the tribological intensity of the test conditions is introduced. Available test methods are reviewed and their suitability for thinly coated samples is discussed. There is considerable scope for further development of tests since only a few are satisfactory for these important applications. 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: coatings, abrasive wear, erosive wear, testing method

Introduction In many engineering applications, surface coatings and other methods of surface treatment are used to increase the lives of components exposed to abrasion or erosion. Reproducible and well-characterised methods are therefore needed to determine the resistance of surface engineered materials to these types of wear1. Reliable methods are also required to assess the mechanical properties of engineered surfaces, in order to provide quality assurance in the manufacturing process and quality control in nished products. For both these purposes, there is thus a considerable incentive to develop innovative methods for abrasion and erosion testing, and much progress has been made in this area over the past two decades. It is the aim of this paper to review these advances, to highlight problem areas which remain to be addressed, and to provide some pointers to future progress. Coatings and surface treatments vary greatly in the depth to which they affect material properties. Depths or coating thicknesses range from less than 01 m in the case of ion implantation, to tens or even hundreds of millimetres for some weld hardfacings24. In terms
Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, University of Cambridge, Pembroke Street, Cambridge CB2 3QZ, UK

of wear testing, and also service performance, a thick homogeneous coating can be treated as if it were effectively a bulk material. Thin coatings, in contrast, pose particular problems since an accelerated wear test is likely to lead to coating penetration. The terms thick and thin used here must be dened. A thick coating (or deep surface treatment) is one which is not penetrated during the service life of the component or during the wear test, and in which the properties of the substrate do not signicantly inuence the tribological performance. A thin coating, or shallow surface treatment, will often be penetrated in testing even if not in service, and the tribologist will then be faced with the problem of extracting information about the performance of the coating from data which may relate at the beginning of the test to the coating alone, but later, as the coating wears, to some composite performance of both coating and substrate. This problem is central to the test methods we shall consider below. A further problem results from the very small mass changes associated with removal of a thin surface layer. Complete removal of a typical coating a few micrometres thick over an area of 1 cm2 will cause a mass change only of the order of 1 mg. Many wear test methods intended for bulk samples rely on weighing to measure the extent of wear, but for thin coatings there are clear advantages in designing a test method in which wear is detected in some other, potentially more accurate, way.

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

A b E m m N Nc Ns Nc Ns P q Qc R r apparent area of contact in abrasive wear chordal radius of spherical wear scar (see Fig 8) mass removed by erosion per unit mass of erodent particles total mass of erodent particles passing along nozzle mass ow per unit time along erosion nozzle normal load applied to sliding contact normal load carried by coating normal load carried by substrate mean load carried by coating over test duration mean load carried by substrate over test duration nominal contact pressure (= N/A) volume lost by wear per unit sliding distance erosion durability of coating (see Equation (18)) radius of spherical counterbody position vector (see Fig 1)

rc S t T Tc U v V Vc Vs x

c s

radius of eroded area from which coating has been removed total sliding distance in abrasion test time test duration time elapsed at which coating is penetrated relative sliding velocity in abrasive wear impact velocity of erodent particles volume of material removed by abrasive wear volume worn from coating volume worn from substrate displacement of surface due to wear (see Fig 1) denes divergence of particle ux in erosion test impact angle of erodent particles ux of erodent particles (mass per unit area per unit time) specic wear rate or dimensional wear coefcient for coating for substrate density of material removed by erosion tribological intensity of test conditions

Theoretical background In comparing the various types of abrasion and erosion test which can be applied to thin coatings, it is useful to start from a common theoretical basis, which will be developed here. The rate of recession of the specimen surface due to wear, dx/dt as dened in Fig 1, can be expected to depend on two factors: the tribological conditions to which the surface is subjected, and the response of the material to these conditions. Although it is recognised that the rate of wear in general depends on all aspects of the tribological system5,6, under the well-dened conditions of a wear test it may be justiable to treat the inuences of the test conditions and the material as independent, and write

dx (1) = (r) (r) dt Here (r) describes the conditions causing wear at the point on the surface dened by the position vector r (Fig 1), and (r) describes the response of the material at that point. For consistency with previous treatments of wear the quantity , which is associated with the behaviour of the material under the test conditions, will be taken to be the specic wear rate or dimensional wear coefcient, commonly expressed in the context of sliding abrasion as volume loss per unit sliding distance, per unit normal load on the contact2. thus has dimensions [mass]1 [length] [time]2, and its value is often quoted in units of mm3 m1 N1. The wear resistance of the material under these test conditions can conveniently be described by 1/ . The quantity describes the severity of the mechanical stimulus applied to the surface which results in wear; we will call it the tribological intensity of the test. has dimensions [mass] [time]3. The assumption implicit in Equation (1), that the materials wear resistance and the tribological intensity of the test can be combined as independent factors in producing wear, is of course a gross simplication, but is nevertheless commonly made in theoretical models of wear. is often effectively constant over quite large ranges of experimental conditions, although any change in wear mechanism will usually cause a substantial change in and invalidate the assumptions of Equation (1). We shall examine below how this equation can be further developed and used to analyse various abrasive and erosive wear tests.

Fig. 1 Schematic illustration of the recession of the specimen surface during a wear test, in which it is subjected to abrasion or erosion with tribological intensity

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

The most straightforward type of test to interpret involves subjecting the whole of the specimen surface, or a well-dened part of it, to uniform abrasion or erosion under conditions of constant tribological intensity. is then constant over the whole wearing area, and for a homogeneous specimen Equation (1) can be integrated to give the depth of material removed after a test of duration T:

thus be interpreted in physical terms as the product of sliding speed and contact pressure. Several practical abrasion tests are available in which both and the worn area are nominally constant during the whole test. These include the Taber abraser method and various polishing and grinding tests. In other methods, such as the dry sand or wet sand rubber wheel abrasion tests and the ball-cratering method, both and the worn area change continuously as wear progresses. We shall examine these classes of test in turn.
Abrasion tests with nominally constant

x(T) =

dt =


This depth, which in an idealised case will be uniform over the whole worn area, can in principle either be measured directly or deduced from a measurement of mass loss, and the specic wear rate can then be readily calculated. If the test is performed on a sample carrying a coating of thickness xc and the coating is penetrated during the test, then the total wear depth x at the end of the test will be related to the wear coefcients of the coating c and the substrate s by
Tc T c 0 T s Tc

x(T) =

dt +

dt = x c +



where Tc is the time elapsed at the moment at which the coating has just been worn through. Interpretation of the test results is then more complex than in the former case, since the wear coefcient of either the coating c, or the substrate s, or the time at which the coating is penetrated Tc must be known independently in order to determine c from measurement of the nal depth of wear or the mass loss.

Various polishing and grinding tests constitute a group of methods in which the nominal tribological intensity remains constant over the worn area. In these tests, illustrated schematically in Fig 2, a plane specimen is loaded against the at surface of a much larger counterface in the presence of abrasive particles, and is subjected to a polishing or grinding action. The method has been used as a wear test for bulk materials and also for coated samples for at least 20 years8,9. In most cases, the test uses a conventional metallographic polishing machine, and has been promoted by at least one manufacturer of such equipment10. Both rotary8,1113 and vibratory polishing equipment11,14,15 have been used. Abrasive particles have included silica sand12, silicon carbide and alumina abrasives13,14 and diamond polishing grits with a wide range of sizes11,16. The progress of wear is usually determined by periodically interrupting the test and weighing the sample, and with sufciently gentle abrasion and accurate weighing this method can detect the removal of very small depths of material. For example, the use of a microbalance with a reproducibility of 5 g can result in measurement errors corresponding to a depth of only 5 nm in steel, although the depth of penetration of the abrasive particles may be considerably greater than this and provide the practical limit to sensitivity11. Nevertheless, changes in wear resistance with depth over a few tens of nanometres have been reliably reported in polishing wear studies on ion-implanted metals, in which peak wear resistance was achieved at a depth of about 100 nm11,17,18. Ideally, a polishing wear test carried out on an evenly coated (or surface-modied) sample should produce

Abrasive wear
Tribological intensity in abrasive wear

The simplest model for abrasive wear under sliding conditions, as derived for example by Rabinowicz7, suggests that the volume lost from the surface per unit sliding distance, q, is linearly proportional to the normal load, N: q= N (4) has the same where the constant of proportionality meaning as in Equation (1). Simple manipulation leads to an expression for the rate of linear recession of the surface, dx/dt: dx = dt UN A (5)

where A is the (apparent) area of contact between the sliding surfaces and U is the relative sliding velocity. Equation (5) can be compared with Equation (1) to show that = UP (6) where P is the nominal contact pressure (P = N/A). For sliding abrasion, the tribological intensity can Fig. 2 Polishing wear test, in which the specimen moves with velocity U over a plane counterface under normal load N in the presence of abrasive particles

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

progressive wear of the coating, leading eventually to complete and even removal of the coating over the whole specimen area. Several critical studies of the polishing method for ion-implanted metals17,18, hard coatings16 and bulk metals15 have revealed that this is unfortunately not the case, and that wear is generally not uniform over the specimen surface. In some cases, wear is most rapid at the specimen edge, while in other work most wear has been observed at the centre. These variations in wear rate may have several origins. It has been suggested that in the case of a coated specimen, residual stress variation across the surface may inuence the local wear resistance16, but the fact that non-uniform wear is also seen in ion-implanted and bulk samples suggests that it must also be due to a variation in the tribological intensity over the specimen. This in turn may be ascribed to uneven contact pressure on the sample16,18, while the complexities of uidparticle ow through the gap between polishing disc and specimen are also likely to play a role. When the wear is uneven, the mass loss after the coating has been rst penetrated will contain contributions from both substrate and coating, as illustrated schematically in Fig 3. Interpretation of the resulting data is then difcult, unless the distribution of contact pressure or wear rate between the coating and substrate is known19. The Taber abraser, shown schematically in Fig 4, provides a further test method in which the tribological intensity and the worn area both remain nominally constant during the test. In this procedure a plane specimen is rotated at a speed of 1 revolution per second about a vertical axis beneath a pair of composite abrasive wheels which rotate freely and independently about a horizontal axis which does not intersect the axis about which the specimen is driven. Various types of wheels are available, containing abrasive grit particles (usually silicon carbide) dispersed in (most commonly) an elastomeric binder; the different grades

Fig. 4 The proprietary Taber abraser tests in which a coated specimen is rotated about a vertical axis beneath two counter-rotating abrasive wheels. The specimen is a sheet typically 100 mm across (not to scale) of wheel contain different binder materials and sizes of grit. The abrasive wheels, which are pressed against the specimen surface under a dead load (typically in the range 110 N on each wheel), roll and slide against the specimen and produce an abraded annular wear track some 12 mm wide20. The use of the Taber tester has been standardised by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) for organic paint coatings21, but it is also quite widely applied to other coated systems. For example, it has been used for relatively thick plasma-sprayed alumina coatings20 and electroplated and electroless plated metals22, as well as for much thinner PVD titanium nitride23,24 and more complex nitride and carbide coatings25. The extent of wear is usually assessed by weighing. The Taber test results in two-body abrasion, and in theory at least, constant tribological intensity. In practice the reproducibility of the test between laboratories is disappointing21. This appears to be largely because of variability in the properties of the abrasive wheels, the hardness of which changes with time as the binder compound ages. Added variability may result from the need to dress the surfaces of the wheels in a standard way before each test in order to expose fresh abrasive; from frictional heating of the wheels and specimen during the test; and from the inuence of the wear debris which is transferred to some extent to the wheel surface, despite measures to remove it continually from the specimen. Although the abraded area remains constant, it is thus clear that will almost certainly change as the test progresses, in a manner which depends to some extent on the properties of the specimen material. A nal method in which would be expected to remain effectively constant has been proposed recently by Axen et al.19, and is illustrated in Fig 5. A hollow cylinder is rotated with its axis normal to the specimen surface, in the presence of a slurry of abrasive particles. As in the Taber test, an annular wear scar results, but the constant supply of fresh abrasive particles to the contact zone should avoid some of the problems which cause to change in that method. The cylinder diameter can be small, so that the wear test can be per-

Fig. 3 Comparison of the response of a coated specimen, and an uncoated substrate, to an abrasive wear test. The coating is penetrated unevenly and the subsequent mass loss contains contributions from both substrate and coating

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

standardised by ASTM with dry silica sand as the abrasive26, and is widely used as a standard method for evaluating low-stress abrasion in bulk materials. A short-duration test is specied for use on coatings (Procedure C), although non-standard conditions have also been used by several investigators. A similar test can be performed with an aqueous slurry of silica sand, and has also been standardised27,28. When a thick coating is tested by rubber wheel abrasion, wear may be conned to the coating alone. The ASTM test has been used, for example, to provide useful information on the relative abrasion resistance of various electroplated and electroless plated metallic coatings, all at least 40 m thick, as well as anodized aluminium29. When the test is applied to thin coatings, however, the coating is rapidly penetrated and the specimen mass loss involves contributions from both substrate and coating30. These contributions cannot be separated unless the variation of tribological intensity over the worn area is known. This in turn will depend on the distribution of contact pressure over the wear scar. Although in principle this might be derived from an analysis of the elastic deformation of the rubber wheel in contact with the worn prole of the specimen surface, such an analysis has not, as far as is known, been attempted. It must be concluded that if the coating is penetrated during the test, interpretation of the mass loss data from a rubber wheel abrasion test is not straightforward, and that for this reason such methods are not suitable for use on thin coatings. An important group of tests consists of those in which and the worn area change during the test, but in which the geometry of the wear scar is imposed by the test apparatus. An example of such a method is the ball-cratering test illustrated in Fig 7(a), in which a hard sphere is pressed and rotated against the specimen surface in the presence of an abrasive slurry. In a typical implementation of the test a steel ball about 25 mm in diameter rests against the surface of the specimen and is driven by friction from a rotating shaft. The normal force acting on the specimen derives from the weight of the ball, and can be varied to a limited extent by moving the drive shaft relative to the specimen. Other test methods can be devised which employ the same principle, such as the use of a rotating cylindrical disc (Fig 7(b)). A rotating disc with a spherically domed rim can also be used, in combination with rotation of the specimen about an intersecting perpendicular axis (Fig 7(c)). With the correct rim prole this then produces a wear crater in the form of a spherical cap, of the same form as that produced by the ball-cratering method. This method is often referred to as a dimple grinder test, since it can be carried out with commercially available equipment more commonly used for the mechanical thinning (dimpling) of specimens for transmission electron microscopy. The important distinction between all these methods and the rubber wheel abrasion test lies in their use of a much more rigid counterbody. Elastic deformation of a rubber wheel results in displacements of the wheel rim which are comparable to the depth of the wear scar in the specimen. The shape of the scar is thus

Fig. 5 Abrasive wear test proposed by Axen et al.19 in which a hollow at-ended cylinder is pressed and rotated against a plane specimen surface in the presence of an abrasive slurry formed on a specimen area only a few millimetres across. Only preliminary results have so far been published, but the method appears to offer signicant potential for further development.
Abrasion tests with variable and abraded area

Several practical abrasive wear tests involve continual and progressive changes in both the tribological intensity during the test and the area exposed to wear. One important example is the rubber wheel abrasion test, in which a rubber-rimmed wheel slides against the surface of a plane test sample in the presence of abrasive particles. Although the applied load is held constant, as the sample wears the contact becomes more conformal and the area of contact increases; the pressure P and the value of therefore fall. The test, which is shown schematically in Fig 6, has been

Fig. 6 The dry sand rubber wheel abrasion test (not to scale). A plane specimen is pressed against a rotating rubber-rimmed wheel, 230 mm in diameter. Abrasive particles (silica sand) are fed into the gap between the specimen and wheel and are dragged through the contact zone

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

Fig. 8 Geometry of an imposed spherical wear scar on a coated sample, as produced by the ball-cratering of dimple grinder test

has been used since at least 1956 to investigate depth proles in modied surfaces and to measure the thicknesses of thin coatings32,33; it has been standardised by ASTM for the latter purpose34. The use of a spherical counterbody was rst reported in 197935, and commercial ball-cratering equipment is now widely available for the determination of coating thickness. It is only recently, however, following the important work of Kassman et al.36, that abrasive wear tests which utilise the principle of imposed wear scars have become established. For thick coatings it is possible to perform abrasive wear tests by the imposed wear scar method without penetrating the coating. In that case, or for bulk uncoated samples, it is straightforward to measure the dimensions of the wear scar, and to note that Equation (5) can be recast in the following form: A dx dV = = UN dt dt (7)

Fig. 7 Examples of abrasion tests which produce imposed wear scar geometries. In each case a hard counterbody is pressed and rotated against the specimen surface in the presence of a slurry of abrasive particles. (a) Spherical counterbody: ball cratering test. (b) Cylindrical counterbody. (c) Domed cylindrical counterbody combined with rotation of the specimen about a perpendicular axis: dimple grinder test determined by both the distortion of the wheel and the wear resistance of the specimen. With a rigid counterbody, in contrast, any local reduction in wear resistance in the specimen will lead to a local increase in wear rate, which will however increase the gap between the specimen and counterbody at that point, reducing the contact pressure and thus reducing the wear rate. This mechanical feedback results in a wear scar with a conformal geometry which almost precisely replicates the shape of the counterbody, as illustrated in Fig 8. The use of a cylindrical steel wheel for abrasion testing (Fig 7(b)) dates back to the work of Brinell in 192131, and the principle of an imposed wear scar geometry

where V is the volume of material removed by wear. With an imposed wear scar geometry, V can be calculated from either the scar width or its depth, and the value of simply derived provided that N remains constant during the test and is known. For example, the volume of a spherical scar with chordal diameter 2b (Fig 8) is given to a close approximation by V b4 64R (8)

for b R, where R is the radius of the spherical counterbody. If the total sliding distance during the test is S, Equation (7) can be integrated over the test duration and combined with Equation (8) to give: SN 1 b4 for b 64R R (9)

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

A plot of b4 against S should therefore be linear, and the value of can be readily deduced from its slope. Results which conrm the validity of this approach have been reported from tests with both the dimplegrinder and the ball-cratering apparatus on a wide range of bulk specimens and thick coatings: materials have included silicon single crystals, high speed steel and cemented carbide36; soda-lime glass, various engineering ceramics, copper and aluminium37; ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene for orthopaedic prostheses38; and relatively thick polymeric paint lms39. When thinly coated samples are tested, the substrate is often revealed at an early stage of the test unless particularly low loads and/or short test durations are employed. The fact that the load applied by the rotating counterbody is then partitioned between coating and substrate, and that this distribution changes during the test, would seem to suggest that derivation of the wear coefcients for the coating and substrate via Equation (5) would not be straightforward. However, Equation (7) will apply to both the coating and the substrate separately, so that we can write dV s = UN s dt dV c = UN c dt

past 5 years to assess the abrasive wear resistance of thin hard coatings4046; it should be noted that these methods are not restricted to use on plane specimens, but can be applied successfully to any coated surface, even one with compound curvature47. Both methods, and recent renements, have been comprehensively reviewed by Rutherford and Hutchings48 and Ghlin et al.49. In particular, important advances have been made in understanding the inuences of imperfections in the wear scar geometry, which are a disadvantage of the dimple-grinder method49, and in optimising the method of data analysis to reduce errors37,48. There is still further scope for development of this type of abrasive test, however. For example, in the most common implementation of the ball-cratering method, the normal force acting on the specimen is linked to the weight of the ball and can be varied within only a small range; it must be measured during the test since it is inuenced by the friction between the specimen and the ball37. For some purposes it may be useful to vary the load more widely, and alternative implementations of the test are possible in which the ball is driven positively through a shaft and the load is applied through a lever arm. Such an arrangement also makes it possible to measure the depth of penetration of the ball continuously during the test50. Although throughout their original work on the dimpler test Kassman et al. expressed their theoretical analysis in terms of wear scar depth, they and subsequent investigators of both the dimple-grinder and the ballcratering test actually measured the surface diameter of the scar. There may be signicant advantages in modifying the test so that depth is the primary measurement, and recent work has shown that the practical problems involved in making such a delicate measurement continuously during the test can be solved51.



which can be integrated over the test duration to yield: V s = SN s s (11a) V c = SN c



where Vs,c are the total volumes removed by wear from the substrate and coating respectively, and N s,c are the mean loads supported by each component over the duration of the test. Since the total normal load, N is equal to (N c + N s ) at all times, Equation (11)a Equation (11)b can be combined to give: SN = Vc

Erosive wear
Tribological intensity in erosive wear



In order to derive an expression for the tribological intensity associated with an erosive wear test, we shall assume a simple model for E, the mass lost from a surface due to the impact of unit mass of abrasive particles at velocity v (see Ref. 2): E= 2 v2 (13)

This important equation was rst derived by Kassman et al.36 who used it to deduce values of c and s from abrasive wear experiments performed with a dimple grinder (Fig 7(c)) on TiN and TiC coated steel and cemented carbide substrates. For a spherical wear scar geometry the volumes Vc and Vs can be readily computed from measurements of scar diameter made on the surface of the specimen. Although Kassman et al. performed a supplementary test on an uncoated substrate to measure s, an alternative method of data reduction can be used by which the values of both c and s can be determined from a single test on a coated sample37. The ball-cratering and dimple-grinder methods have been further developed and used extensively over the

where is the density of the surface material. Here has the same interpretation as in Equation (1). If the ux of erodent particles represents the mass of particles striking unit area in unit time, the rate of linear recession of the surface, dx/dt, at any point on the surface can be expressed as: dx E = dt (14)

On substituting for E from Equation (13), and comparing the resulting expression for dx/dt with Equation (1), we deduce that for erosive wear the tribological intensity is given by:

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

1 2 v 2


is thus equal to the kinetic energy of the particles striking unit area in unit time. The model used to derive Equation (13) is very simple; in practice, E is usually found to depend on a higher power of v (typically about 24), and also on the impact angle . A more general expression for is therefore: = f(v, ) (16) For the purposes of the present discussion, it is is important to note that the tribological intensity linearly proportional to the particle ux for constant v and , and that it is a strong function of the particle velocity v.
Erosion tests

Although several other types of erosive wear test have been devised, only two basic designs are in widespread use. In the gas-blast rig (Fig 9), erodent particles are accelerated along a nozzle in a owing stream of gas, usually air. The nozzle may be a parallel cylinder, as specied for example in an ASTM standard52, or may have a more complex shape. The specimen is mounted at a xed stand-off distance from the end of the nozzle. The centrifugal accelerator, shown schematically in Fig 10, uses rotation to accelerate particles fed into the centre of the rotor, and produce a stream of particles in a (usually) horizontal plane. The apparatus can be used to test more than one specimen simultaneously,

Fig. 10 Centrifugal erosion accelerator in which particles are fed into the centre of the rotor and move outwards along radial channels. On leaving the rim of the rotor they strike xed specimens (of which four are shown) mounted around the circumference held at suitable angles around the periphery of the rotor. Both methods produce divergent streams of particles, so that the particle ux will in general vary over the surface of the specimen. The impact velocity and angle may also vary over the specimen, so that signicant variation of the tribological intensity is to be expected. Some investigators have masked the specivaries little over the exposed men area so that area23,5355, and very few have attempted to quantify the distribution of ux over the eroded area56,57; most, however, appear to have ignored the effect. Shipway and Hutchings57 have recently reviewed the application of solid particle erosion testing to coated samples. As in abrasive wear testing, by far the most common method of quantifying the extent of wear is by mass loss. Sufciently thick coatings can be tested in the same way as bulk samples, but as for abrasion, problems arise in the interpretation of the results once the coating is penetrated. Attempts have been made to separate the mass loss due to the coating from that of the substrate, but the method depends on detecting a change in the rate of mass loss as the substrate is revealed, and can be used successfully only if the erosion rate of the substrate is signicantly greater than that of the coating, or if there is little variation of over the specimen surface58. Some investigators have accepted penetration of the coating as inevitable, and used the mass of erodent particles, or the time of exposure to the particle stream, required to remove the coating completely, as a measure of its erosion resistance5961. Alternative approaches, which do not demand continuous observation of the specimen during the test and are thus less prone to operator error, can also be used to assess the durability of the coating in terms of the dose of particles required to penetrate it. Both energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDX] and back-scattered SEM

Fig. 9 Gas-blast erosion test in which particles are accelerated along a parallel cylindrical nozzle and strike a plane coated specimen

Tribology International Volume 31 Numbers 13 1998

Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

imaging have been applied to a small area of the eroded specimen, over which can be assumed to be effectively constant, to quantify the extent of coating removal56,62; the erosion resistance of a coating has also been described by the particle dose just required to expose 50% by area of the underlying substrate42. If the durability of a coating under erosion conditions is of interest, however, it is better to measure the dose required to remove the coating completely; Hedenqvist and Olsson63 demonstrated in principle how this could be done by exposing a specimen to a spatially varying ux of erodent particles, and noting the position on the surface at which the coating has been fully penetrated. Hedenqvist and Olsson used a centrifugal accelerator and inferred the distribution of particle ux over the specimen surface by eroding glass specimens. An essentially similar approach has been further developed by Shipway and Hutchings using a gas-blast apparatus57. The particles leaving a long parallel nozzle in a gasblast erosion apparatus form a divergent plume, the properties of which can be deduced from erosion experiments on coated specimens64. To a good approximation, the ux of particles (r) striking the specimen at a radial distance r from the nozzle axis is: (r) m

with an accurate method of quantifying the extent of wear. In addition, tests which are to be applied to coated or surface engineered materials should allow the wear rate of the coating to be determined independently of the substrate, and this condition imposes signicant constraints on the test. It is important also to acknowledge the purpose of the test. As outlined above, samples may be subjected to abrasion or erosion testing in order to assess their durability when exposed to this type of wear. In this case, it is important that the conditions of the test reproduce, as far as possible, those of the practical application for which the component is intended1. In particular, the inuence on wear rate and wear mechanism of the size, shape and most importantly, hardness of the abrasive or erosive particles must be recognised2. In the case of brittle materials, transitions in wear mechanism can occur as the test conditions are varied, which in the extreme case may render the results from a particular wear test completely irrelevant to the behaviour of a material in a given application68. Wear tests may also be employed in a more general way as part of the process of characterising a material; for example, tribological tests of various kinds combined with measurements of scratch response and information from indentation testing can be used to generate a tribological prole which is particularly relevant to coated systems41. Abrasion and erosion can also be used as controlled methods of mechanically loading the surface of a material, and can be used to generate information on the adhesion of a coating56,57,63,66. In this respect, such tests may have a valuable role to play in the quality assurance of coated or other surface engineered components, although there is still much progress to be made in understanding the complex interaction between test conditions and tribological response, and in relating this response to more fundamental properties such as interfacial adhesion. Any test which is intended for quality assurance on surface engineered components should ideally be applied directly to those components, and not to samples specially produced for test purposes, even if these have been made from the same material as the production components and surface treated in the same batch. Of the abrasion and erosion tests described above, only a few can readily be used to test sufciently small areas to be applicable to most coated components; these include the imposed crater geometry abrasion tests (e.g. by ball-cratering), the rotating cylinder abrasion test19 and the erosion test described by Shipway and Hutchings57. It is clear that there has been signicant progress over the past 20 years in devising and developing new approaches to the wear testing of surface engineered materials, and that these can make a valuable contribution to our understanding and use of these economically important technologies. There is, however, still ample opportunity for further development of versatile and robust wear test methods, and for building on our current understanding of material response to abrasion and erosion.

exp( r) 2


where m is the mass feed rate of particles along the nozzle, and denes the divergence of the particle ux. The divergence of the particle stream is radially symmetrical, and as the coating is penetrated there is a circular boundary on the specimen between the central region over which the substrate is revealed and the outer region over which coating material is still present. It can be shown that the radius of this circular wear scar, rc, after a total mass m of particles have passed down the nozzle is given by 57: rc = 1 ln m 1 ln 2 Qc


where Qc is the dose of particles (mass per unit area) required to remove the coating. A plot of rc against the logarithm of the mass of erodent particles should therefore be linear, with slope 1/ , and Qc can be derived from the intercept of the line. Equation (18) has been found to be valid for many different coating systems tested by the gas-blast erosion method with a parallel cylindrical nozzle; these include thin hard PVD coatings, anodized lms on aluminium, diamond-like carbon lms and polymeric paint coatings39,45,57,65,66. The value of Qc, which has been termed the erosion durability of the coated system, has been shown to be a sensitive indicator of coating adhesion for thin hard coatings, and to vary in a systematic way with impact velocity, coating thickness and erodent particle size67.

General discussion and conclusions

To be useful, a laboratory wear test method must involve a reproducible and well-characterised means of subjecting the sample to abrasion or erosion, coupled

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Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings

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Abrasive and erosive wear tests for thin coatings: a unied approach: I. M. Hutchings
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