Tribological characteristics of coatings on aluminium and its alloys
Hard anodising on aluminium and its alloys has been widely practised for many years in order to improve the resistance of the otherwise poor wear characteristics of aluminium. In recent years there has been an increasing interest in other treatments and coatings, on both aluminium and other base metals. The aim of this investigation is to explain the tribological performance and wear mechanism(s) of an uncoated aluminium alloy, four anodic coated alloys, and also an electroless nickel alloy. All of the coatings are produced on three different aluminium alloys. The thickness of the anodic films is 30-35 micron, as this thickness falls within the range commonly used by industry. In an endeavour to explain the role of coating thickness on wear life, electroless nickel alloy has been produced in a range of thicknesses of 10, 20 and 30 micron. To evaluate abrasive and adhesive wear, the samples were rubbed against a single point diamond and steel ball, respectively, in a reciprocating movement at room temperature and 65-75% relative humidity, under a wide range of load and sliding distance. Some tests continued to run until a breakdown of the coatings occurred, whilst other tests were interrupted at intermediate stages. This enabled the initiation and propagation of failure mechanisms to be studied. Abrasive wear was performed under dry conditions, whereas, adhesive wear was evaluated under both dry and lubricated conditions. Wear of these coatings was proportional to the applied load and sliding distance, but there was no direct relationship between wear and hardness. The tribological performance of these coatings appears to be dictated by a) the composition of the substrate, b) the chemical and physical nature of the coatings and c) the test conditions. Under boundary lubricated conditions there was a considerable increase in the wear life of the coatings. A three dimensional surface texture is superior to a machined surface, in controlling contact conditions. There is an approximate linear relationship between coating thickness and wear life for electroless nickel alloys. These coatings predominantly fail by adhesion, plastic deformation and brittle fracture. A microscopic model for fracture of brittle materials, under both static and dynamic conditions for abrasive and adhesive wear correlates very well with the behaviour of these coatings. Analytical interpretation of adhesive wear was made by separately calculating the coefficient of wear "K" of the counterbodies. This information enables an improved understanding of the wear test itself to be added to the model of the wear mechanisms involved.