The effects of film thickness on the tribological behavior have been investigated for hydrogen-free diamond-like carbon coating in this paper. The film was deposited on cemented carbide substrate (YG10C) by applying a high power impulse magnetron sputtering (HiPIMS) technique. The reciprocating ball on the disc test was conducted on the film with different thicknesses from 0.66~1.26 μm against the ZrO2
ball. The friction coefficient and wear resistance of the coating with different thickness showed a unimodal change. Numerous defects were observed on the surface of the film with a thickness of 0.66 μm and the wear mechanism was mainly plow-grinding. Therefore, the steady-state friction coefficient reached the maximum value of 0.22. The coating with a thickness of 1.01 μm had a higher sp3
content and a smoother, dense surface. A graphite transfer layer with low shear strength was detected on the ZrO2
ball against the film with a thickness of 1.01 μm, which led to the reduction in friction, thus the steady-state friction coefficient reached the minimum value of 0.10. However, the internal stress of the film increased with increasing thickness due to the distortion of the bond angle of internal structure when the film was bombarded by high-energy particles. The peeling coating was observed under reciprocating sliding, which both played the role of plowing and boundary lubrication film. The steady-state friction coefficient was 0.14 with a coating thickness of 1.26 μm. As a result, the hydrogen-free diamond-like carbon coating with optimized thickness shows a smooth and compact surface, low internal stress, high sp3
content, and better tribological properties.
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