High sliding wear resistance is generally attributed to high hardness and high mechanical strength. Novel near net shape process technologies such as metal injection moulding (MIM) or lost foam casting (LF) lack forming processes that typically increase strength. Consequently, the materials exhibit large-grained microstructures with low defect densities. Commercial copper alloys (CuSn8, CuNi9Sn6, CuSn12Ni2) well known for good sliding properties were produced using MIM and LF and characterised in the current study. Their wear and friction behaviour was compared to conventionally produced variants in a lubricated, reciprocating sliding test against steel. The results showed an equal or superior wear resistance and lower friction levels for large-grained microstructures evolving in MIM and LF. SEM, FIB and EBSD studies revealed a tribolayer on the surface and a tribologically transformed layer (TTL), composed of a nano-crystalline zone or partially rotated grains, and selective hardening of grains. The extent of the TTL was different for alloys that were chemically identical but exhibited different initial microstructures. Innovative production routes investigated here showed no tribological drawbacks, but present the potential to increase lifetime, as nano-crystalline zones may render the sample more prone to wear. We present a hypothesis on the cause for these behaviours.
Part of the book: Tribology in Materials and Manufacturing