Carbon based DLC films: Influence of the processing parameters on the structure and properties

ABSTRACT Hydrogenated carbon-based films, such as DLC (“Diamond Like Carbon”), have interesting properties such as excellent tribological behavior, low friction coefficient, high superficial hardness and good wear resistance; they are chemically inert and highly corrosion resistant. They are deposited by means of PACVD (plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition) with variable film thickness. The load carrying capacity grows with the thickness, so it is possible to deposit thick films on “soft” steels (e.g. low alloyed steels). When increasing coating thickness, surface defects are generated during the deposition process compromising their excellent properties. In this work, different metal substrates have been used to compare adhesion and quantify superficial defects: AISI 316L, DIN 42CrMo4 (AISI 4140) and Böhler K110 (AISI D2). The films were deposited at different temperatures, changing the silicon content and the coating thickness. The samples were placed in the furnace on different positions (standing, lying or up-side down). The films were analyzed with optical and electron microscopy, 3D topography profilometer, and they were tested under sliding wear conditions. Friction coefficient and wear volume were measured, with an average friction coefficient which resulted below 0.05. A higher amount of surface defects was obtained on lying samples compared to the ones up-side down. The quantity of defects increased with the thickness of the coating and decreased with the temperature. The geometry and the growth mechanism of the defects were analyzed.