There have been many studies performed with respect to the indentation of thin films affixed to a corresponding substrate base. These studies have primarily focused on determining the mechanical properties of the film. It is the goal of this paper to further understand the role that the film plays and how a potential prestressing of this film has on both the film and substrate base. It is equally important to be able to understand the material properties of the substrate since during manufacturing or long-term use, the substrate properties may change. In this study, we establish through spherical indentation a framework to characterize the material properties of both the substrate and film as well as a method to determine the prestress of the film. It is proposed that through an initial forward analysis, a set of relationships are developed. A single spherical indentation test can then be performed, measuring the indentation force at two prescribed depths, and with the relationships developed from the forward analysis, the material properties of both the film and substrate can be determined. The problem is further enhanced by also developing the capability of determining any equibiaxial stress state that may exist in the film. A generalized error sensitivity analysis of this formulation is also performed systematically. This study will enhance the present knowledge of a typical prestressed film/substrate system as is commonly used in many of today’s engineering and technical applications.

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