The introduction of new light-weight high-strength materials, which are difficult to form, increases demands on tool properties, including load-carrying capacity and wear resistance. Tool properties can be improved by the deposition of hard coatings but proper combination and optimization of the substrate properties are required to prepare the tool for coating application. The aim of this paper is to elaborate on tool steel substrate properties correlations, including hardness, fracture toughness, strength and surface quality and how these substrate properties influence on the coating performance. Results show that hardness of the steel substrate is the most influential parameter for abrasive wear resistance and load-carrying capacity, which is true for different types of hard coatings. However, high hardness should also be accompanied by sufficient fracture toughness, especially when it comes to very hard and brittle coatings, thus providing a combination of high load-carrying capacity, good fatigue properties and superior resistance against impact wear. Duplex treatment and formation of a compound layer during nitriding can be used as an additional support interlayer, but its brittleness may result in accelerated coating cracking and spallation if not supported by sufficient core hardness. In terms of galling resistance, even for coated surfaces substrate roughness and topography have major influence when it comes to hard ceramic coatings, with reduced substrate roughness and coating post-polishing providing up to two times better galling resistance.
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