Ta–B–C coatings were non-reactively sputter-deposited in an industrial batch coater from a single segmented rotating cylindrical cathode employing a combinatorial approach. The chemical composition, morphology, microstructure, mechanical properties, and fracture resistance of the coatings were investigated. Their mechanical properties were linked to their microstructure and phase composition. Coatings placed stationary in front of the racetrack of the target and those performing a 1-axis rotation around the substrate carousel are compared. Utilization of the substrate rotation has no significant effect on the chemical composition of the coatings deposited at the same position compared to the cathode. Whereas the morphology of coatings with corresponding chemical composition is similar for stationary as well as rotating samples, the rotating coatings exhibit a distinct multilayered structure with a repetition period in the range of nanometers despite utilizing a non-reactive process and a single sputter source. All the coatings are either amorphous, nanocomposite or nanocrystalline depending on their chemical composition. The presence of TaC, TaB, and/or TaB
phases is identified. The crystallite size is typically less than 5 nm. The highest hardness of the coatings is associated with the presence of larger grains in a nanocomposite structure or formation of polycrystalline coatings. The number, density, and length of cracks observed after high-load indentation is on par with current optimized commercially available protective coatings.
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