COATINGS AND THIN FILMS can be produced by a large variety of deposition techniques. Typical processes are physical vapor deposition (PVD), chemical vapor deposition (CVD), electroplating, electroless deposition, anodizing, thermal growth, and thermal spraying. Since the early 1980s, considerable progress has been made in improving deposition processes for a wide range of high-technology applications. Consequently, many new ceramic coatings and films have been introduced in various industries. Typical examples are metal-oxide semiconductors for microelectronics; titanium nitride, titanium carbide, aluminum oxide, and silicon nitride for machining tools; and thermal-sprayed tungsten carbide/cobalt, M-chromium-aluminum-yttrium (where M stands for iron, cobalt, or nickel), and yttrium oxide/partially stabilized zirconia coatings for aerospace applications.

Residual stresses, which are internal and therefore locked in, are contained in materials that are produced by nearly every mechanical, chemical, and thermal process, either alone or in combination. As a result, most coatings are in a state of internal stress, including metallics and ceramics. The stress can be either compressive or tensile. It is generally recognized that compressive stresses in coatings are more favorable than tensile stresses, because they increase resistance to fatigue failure. However, extremely high compressive stresses may cause either coating separation from the base metal or intra-coating spallation. Generally, if a tensile stress causes strain that exceeds the elastic limit of the coating, then it will cause cracking in the coating perpendicular to the direction of the stress. Therefore, understanding the formation of residual stress in the coating is important to prevent the coating from peeling or cracking during service. Furthermore, residual stresses have significant influences on the mechanical and physical properties of the coatings, particularly electrical resistivity, optical reflectance, fatigue, and corrosion.

There are three types of residual stresses:

• Macrostresses, which are nearly homogeneous over macroscopic areas of the material

• Microstresses, which are nearly homogeneous over microscopic areas, such as one grain or subgrain

• Inhomogeneous microstresses, which are inhomogeneous even on a microscopic level

Residual macrostresses are the ones of most interest in engineering practice, because they can substantially affect component service performance. Both residual and inhomogeneous microstresses are of more interest in material science.

This article intends to provide a useful guide for measuring residual macrostress on a coating. The most commonly used measurement methods are mechanical deflection, x-ray diffraction, and hole-drilling strain-gage. After a discussion on the origins of residual stress, the fundamental principles, as well as examples of practical measurements, are described for each method.

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