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Performance of Ultra Hard Carbon Wear Coatings on Microgears Fabricated by Liga

  • Joel W. Ager (a1), Othon R. Monteiro (a1), Ian G Brown (a1), David M. Follstaedt (a2), James A. Knapp (a2), Michael T. Dugger (a2) and Todd R. Christenson (a2)...

Abstract

Stiction and friction are of concern for the reliable, long-term application of Ni-alloy micromachines. We have found that the application of a 30 - 70 nm hard carbon coating produces a significant reduction in the friction coefficient and wear rate of electroformed Ni substrates in reciprocating sliding contact under simulated MEMS operating conditions. To evaluate the performance of coated components, a series of 70-μm-thick microgears ranging in diameter from 0.2 to 2.2 mm were fabricated from electroformed Ni via standard LIGA processes and fixtured on posts in preparation for the coating procedure. A pulsed vacuumarc deposition process was used to deposit a carbon coating on the gears with the plasma incident at a shallow angle to the gears' top surface. A sample bias of −2 keV was used in order to produce a coating with relatively low stress and good adhesion while maintaining high hardness. This coating process is known to be somewhat comformal to the component surfaces. The coating uniformity, particularly in the high-aspect-ratio areas between the gear teeth, was evaluated with micro-Raman spectroscopy. It is shown that the coating can be applied uniformly on the top gear surface. Between the gear teeth the coating was the same thickness as on top of the gear down to a point 50 μm below the top surface. Below that point (i.e. between 50 and 70 μm), the coating thickness is somewhat thinner, but is still present. These results demonstrate that it is possible to a deposit hard carbon coating on microgears to reduce friction and wear in micromachines.

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