In addition to the bulk properties of a workpiece material, characteristics of the tribofilms formed as a result of workpiece material mass transfer to the friction surface play a significant role in friction control. This is especially true in cutting of hardened materials, where it is very difficult to use liquid based lubricants. To better understand wear performance and the formation of beneficial tribofilms, this study presents an assessment of uncoated mixed alumina ceramic tools (Al2O3+TiC) in the turning of two grades of steel, AISI T1 and AISI D2. Both workpiece materials were hardened to 59 HRC then machined under identical cutting conditions. Comprehensive characterization of the resulting wear patterns and the tribofilms formed at the tool/workpiece interface were made using X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy and Scanning Electron Microscopy. Metallographic studies on the workpiece material were performed before the machining process and the surface integrity of the machined part was investigated after machining. Tool life was 23% higher when turning D2 than T1. This improvement in cutting tool life and wear behaviour was attributed to a difference in: (1) tribofilm generation on the friction surface and (2) the amount and distribution of carbide phases in the workpiece materials. The results show that wear performance depends both on properties of the workpiece material and characteristics of the tribofilms formed on the friction surface.
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