Surface texturing-plasma nitriding duplex treatment was conducted on AISI 316 stainless steel to improve its tribological performance. Tribological behaviors of ground 316 substrates, plasma-nitrided 316 (PN-316), surface-textured 316 (ST-316), and duplex-treated 316 (DT-316) in air and under grease lubrication were investigated using a pin-on-disc rotary tribometer against counterparts of high carbon chromium bearing steel GCr15 and silicon nitride Si3
balls. The variations in friction coefficient, mass loss, and worn trace morphology of the tested samples were systemically investigated and analyzed. The results showed that a textured surface was formed on 316 after electrochemical processing in a 15 wt % NaCl solution. Grooves and dimples were found on the textured surface. As plasma nitriding was conducted on a 316 substrate and ST-316, continuous and uniform nitriding layers were successfully fabricated on the surfaces of the 316 substrate and ST-316. Both of the obtained nitriding layers presented thickness values of more than 30 μm. The nitriding layers were composed of iron nitrides and chromium nitride. The 316 substrate and ST-316 received improved surface hardness after plasma nitriding. When the tribological tests were carried out under dry sliding and grease lubrication conditions, the tested samples showed different tribological behaviors. As expected, the DT-316 samples revealed the most promising tribological properties, reflected by the lowest mass loss and worn morphologies. The DT-316 received the slightest damage, and its excellent tribological performance was attributed to the following aspects: firstly, the nitriding layer had high surface hardness; secondly, the surface texture was able to capture wear debris, store up grease, and then provide continuous lubrication.
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