The application of the soft impression technique to evaluate flow stress, creep and frictional deformation of polycrystalline diamond and cubic boron nitride
Metal shaping processes are clear examples of engineering applications where a hard material is worn by a softer one - i.e. the tool and workpiece respectively. The soft impressor technique, introduced by Brookes and Green (1973), has proved valuable in measuring the relevant mechanical properties of tool materials - e.g. the measurement of the flow stress of diamond single crystals at temperatures up to 1500°C (Brookes, 1992). In this work, the technique has been extended further in order to form a basis for the comparison and evaluation of ultra-hard materials. Three main aspects of the performance of these tool materials have been covered: the effect of temperature on flow stress; cumulative deformation under point loading conditions; wear due to repeated traversals (fatigue). In the first part, the technique has been extended to determine the flow stress of polycrystalline diamond and cubic boron nitride as a function of temperature and a mathematical model has been proposed to estimate the flow stress in isotropic polycrystalline materials. This model was first analysed by Love (1928) and was used as the basis on which to identify the threshold pressure above which dislocation movement is initiated in diamond single crystals (Brookes et al (1990)). The applicability of this model for polycrystals was verified by correlating the yield strength of polycrystalline copper, measured in tension, with the determination of minimum contact mean pressure to plastically deform the same material. According to the model, the first evidence of plastic deformation should be observed at the contact periphery and this has been verified in this work. Consequently, using this approach, the effect of temperature on the flow stress of polycrystalline diamond (Syndax) and polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (Amborite) has been established and it is shown that there are three distinct regimes. In regime I, the deformation is brittle and fracture occurs above a given mean pressure; in regime II dislocations are mobile and the flow stress decreases sharply as the temperature rises; and in regime III the flow stress is independent of the temperature. In the earlier work, the brittle-ductile transition temperature (BOT) has been identified as that temperature where regime I ends and II begins. Above the BDT, time dependent plastic flow has been observed, in all of these materials, leading to a measurable increase in the size of the impression. However, this particular type of cumulative deformation, described as impression creep, is shown to be different to conventional creep as measured under uniaxial stress conditions. Finally, the room temperature friction and deformation of various polycrystalline diamond based specimens, Le. aggregates with a binder phase of cobalt (Syndite) or silicon carbide (Syndax), a polycrystalline coating produced by a chemical vapour deposition processes (CVDite) and cubic boron nitride (Amborite) were studied when softer metallic and ceramic sliders were used. As a result of increasing the number of traversals, significant wear of the CVDite diamond coating by softer metallic sliders (aluminium and mild steel) was observed. This could be attributed to the high level of residual stresses in the diamond layer which is thought to be due to the difference in the thermal expansion coefficients of the coatings and their substrates. Burton et al (1995) reported a strain of 0.3% on the surface of the diamond coating and hence the tensile stress on the upper side of the coating will be equivalent to about 3.0 GPa. This value is comparable to the theoretical cleavage strength of diamond. It is suggested an additional tensile stress, due to the sliding friction, could have caused cleavage of individual diamond crystals. The resultant wear debris then becoming embedded in the metallic slider. These embedded diamond particles in the tip of the slider could be responsible for the increased friction and wear.