## Abstract

The application of stainless steel 420 is noted in various industrial sectors such as aerospace, automobile etc. However, the wear mechanism of stainless steel 420 is greatly affected by the use of 100Cr6 balls due to the adhesion and abrasion mechanism generated between the contact surfaces. In this work, the ball-on-flat experiments were performed on stainless steel-420 versus 100cr6 friction pairs under dry, minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) and pool conditions. Then, the wear studies in terms of volume loss, profile tracks, micrographs, coefficient of friction, etc. were performed. The results demonstrated that the MQL and pool conditions help to improve the tribological properties of stainless steel 420 alloy against 100Cr6 ball.

## 1 Introduction

Materials supplied in annealed conditions are treated after processing, and the most critical point in the corrosion resistance of this material is the selection of the right heat treatment parameters [1]. Martensitic stainless steels are generally used in the annealed, tempered, or quenched state [2]. The cooling rate during heat treatment performs a significant part in the formation of martensite [3]. The carbon content of martensitic stainless steel extremely affects its mechanical properties. On the other hand, the increase in carbon ratio has a negative effect on the toughness as well as ductility of the material [4]. Martensitic stainless steels are mostly used in the cutting tool industry, mixers, pressure valves, pumps, and some defense industry equipment [5]. The major disadvantages of these alloys are their limited mechanical properties. Therefore, its tribological properties are weak. Due to its relatively low hardness and poor tribological properties, 420 stainless steel deform in a short time under tension and service conditions subject to friction [6,7]. To eliminate these negative features, lubrication and cooling can be preferred in the working environment of stainless steel materials [8].

It is abundantly clear that there have been insufficient or not enough studies conducted on the martensitic stainless 420 steel wear performance when compared to the studies on the wear behavior of stainless steels in dry or different lubrication environments. The evaluation of the tribological wear performance of 420 martensitic stainless steel in comparison to 100Cr6 alloy under dry and lubrication pool conditions with ecologically friendly vegetable oils is the innovative aspect of this research. In addition to this, one of the purposes/motivations is to utilize the vegetable oil that was indicated in the minimum quantity lubrication (MQL) approach in order to determine whether or not the MQL method is superior to the pool method. The findings of the wear test have been thoroughly examined based on volume loss, wear depth as profile, coefficient of friction (420 steel vs. 100Cr6), and power consumption, among other factors.

## 2 Materials and Methods

### 2.1 Material Details.

In this work, the stainless steel-420 having 35 mm diameter in addition to 5 mm thickness have been utilized for the ball-on-flat test. This is a highly corrosion- and heat-resistant alloy having wide applications in surgical instruments, valves, and shear blades. On the other hand, a ball of 100Cr6 with a 6-mm diameter was used against stainless steel 420. The chemical components and the microstructure of the 420 steel with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX), as well as 100Cr6 alloy, are shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Close modal

### 2.2 Ball-on-Flat Test and Cooling Condition Details.

The ASTM G133 ball-on-flat tribometer was used to measure the wear performance of subjected materials at room temperature, as reported in Ref. [30]. The ball on flat tribometer can slide at a maximum speed of 75 mm/s. A stylus 2D profilometer and a surface roughness tester (SJ-410 SERES) that satisfies the standards of ANSI were employed to record the outcomes of the wear profile tests, which were then converted into a volume loss measurement in mm3.

Further, the tribology tests were performed under dry, pool, as well as under MQL conditions. In dry, the experiments were performed at room temperature without using any cutting fluid. In the pool, the oil pool of the test setup used is about 32 ml. The same type of lubrication is used for both the pool and MQL conditions, that is, vegetable volatile oil, Wertemist. The pressure of 5 bar has been adjusted since it is the most suitable pressure suggested by the MQL setup company.

### 2.3 Experimental Conditions.

Loads of 20, 30, and 40 N in addition to the sliding speeds of 40 mm/s have been used as wear parameters [31] under the environments of dry, lubrication pool, and MQL spraying as shown in Fig. 2. The determined wear length is 100 m according to ASTM standards, and the stroke length of the test setup is 13 mm. For that reason, one wear test takes about 38 mins.

Fig. 2
Fig. 2
Close modal

### 2.4 Tribological Characteristics Measurement.

Different elements are applied to assess the friction force, friction coefficient, and friction moment. The majority of the issues to be considered when measuring friction force are related to measuring instruments. The most important problem is the selection of functionally suitable sensors and measuring devices. The second important issue can be listed as the sensitivity of the measurement system or sensor, its linearity, the rate of being affected by ambient conditions, vibration sensitivity, and filtering ability. For this study, load cells are used to determine the friction coefficients between 100Cr6 alloy (ball) on 420 stainless steel (flat) under different wear environments. The standards of ASTM-G99 have been used for ball-on-flat wear experiments. The formulation of the determination procedure for friction coefficient is given in Eq. (1). Here, Ff and Fn indicate the friction force from the load cell and normal force onto the wear specimen, respectively
$μ=FfFn$
(1)
On the other hand, for the amount of volume loss in a material (ΔV), it has been stated that it can be expressed with a relation in the form of Eq. (2)
$ΔV=23*ww*wd*s$
(2)
where ΔV is the volume loss (mm3), ww is the wear width, wd is the wear depth, and s is the sliding distance (mm).

In the end, the detailed morphology and chemical composition of samples were analyzed with an SEM equipped with EDX.

## 3 Results and Discussion

### 3.1 Thin-Film Mechanism of Lubrication During Wear Testing.

During tribology tests, it is very important to analyze the lubricating mechanism observed during performing the experiments. It is helpful in showing the real picture and mechanism behind the results observed. In this work, two lubrication conditions, i.e., pool and MQL, are applied during the experiments and in demand to effectively minimize friction along with wear and to avoid seizures; it is critical to interject a lubricating layer of small shear strength among two solid surfaces moving comparatively to one another. A hidden regime exists in lubrication theories: film thicknesses of hydrodynamic lubrication (HL) are generally 0.1–1 µm, even though boundary lubrication (BL) film thicknesses are frequently many nanometers [32]. Thus, the thin-film lubrication inquiry focuses on determining the unknown range of film thickness. Additionally, to the piezo-viscous influence besides solid elastic deformation, it is commonly believed that HL is based on a continuous process and includes viscous fluid layers. However, surface physical/chemical qualities are at the root of boundary lubrication in adsorption films, whether it is due to physisorption or chemisorption [33]. In order to bridge the gap between HL and BL in terms of working mechanisms and research techniques, it is critical that thin-film lubrication be used as a primary research objective. Thin-film lubrication (TFL) is mostly associated with a lubrication procedure in which the liquid layer thickness is on the request of nanometers or molecules, rather than micrometers. Featuring in the literature, the term super or partial or molecular thin-film lubrication is utilized to characterize this innovative type of lubrication that has film thicknesses on the order of sub-micron or nanometer scales. The phrase “thin-film lubrication,” on the other hand, becomes increasingly popular. Until now, it has been broadly agreed that TFL is a distinct lubrication status that exists between the high- and low-lubrication states, each with its unique set of lubricating properties. As the lubrication layer thickness drops, the lubricating condition will alter as follows: hydrodynamic lubrication, thin-film lubrication, boundary lubrication, and dry friction. TFL has lately been established to bridge the gap between HL and BL. The mechanism of the tribological condition under different environments is shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3
Fig. 3
Close modal

Luo et al. [34,35] evaluated the divergence of elastohydrodynamic lubrication (EHL) qualities produced by a superior viscosity surface sheet similar to Fig. 3 and concluded that light layer lubrication with ordered plus adsorbed particle sheets was crucial. Alternatively, texture lubrication techniques have garnered considerable attention in recent decades due to their ability to increase load-bearing capacity while decreasing coefficients of friction [36,37]. Wang et al. [38,39] demonstrated that via running-in with water lubrication, a superior-low coefficient of friction of 0.001, or else a smaller amount may be produced between SiC–SiC parallel plates. They theorized that the tribochemical response effect of SiO2 along with its hybrid disperse in water behaves as lubrication, and they discovered that tribochemical wear resulted in extremely smooth contact surfaces. Adach et al. [40] demonstrated that increasing significant load and lowering the coefficient of friction within the SiC–SiC lubrication, water technique is possible using surface multiscale textures including 350 and 40 m diameters. As a result, Nishikawa et al. [41] showed that by running in considerably reduced surface textures in conjunction with a diameter of various micrometers in addition to a depth of several nanometers, a greater load capacity as well as a smaller coefficient of friction within SiC–SiC water lubrication may be achieved. Based on investigations concerning the land area's surface roughness, it is expected that the thickness of the working film will be fewer than 10 nm at the maximum crucial load and will have the lowest coefficient of friction at the maximum critical load.

### 3.2 Volume Loss.

$dVdL=kaPH$
(3)
where wear volume is described as V, sliding distance is termed is L, ka is the wear coefficient, load is P, and hardness of the workpiece is demonstrated by H. From Eq. (3), it has been clearly noticed that the loss in volume is directly proportional to load and inversely proportional to hardness. As the load increases, the volume loss increases, and when no noticeable changes in microstructure were noticed during the sliding friction test, the volume loss of the material was shown to increase linearly with the increasing load and the same mechanism is shown in this work. In addition, the effect of lubrication conditions was analyzed on volume loss values, and the results already stated that the volume loss is minimum in the case of pool lubrication followed by MQL and dry conditions. This phenomenon shows that the lubrication conditions have improved with the pool environment, and the transition from border-mixed lubrication to mixed lubrication regime has been achieved. When a third substance (lubricant) with certain physical properties is placed between two metal surfaces in contact with each other, and it is assumed that a continuous lubricating film does not form under the current load and sliding speed conditions, it is stated that there are three basic components of frictional resistance. It is stated that as the oil amount increases, the adhesive contact areas decrease and the resistance decreases, and it reduces the volume loss under pool conditions. The same mechanism was already discussed under Sec. 3.1. Cetin and Korkmaz obtained results similar to those in this study, and they determined that the lubricant-containing medium causes less volume loss and therefore less wear than the dry condition [43].
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
Close modal

Fig. 5
Fig. 5
Close modal

### 3.4 Coefficient of Friction.

Fig. 6
Fig. 6
Close modal

Due to the increase in load under MQL conditions, the oil film that is located between the two surfaces becomes extremely thin, and the film breaks at some locations along its length. As a consequence of this occurrence, the peaks (protrusions) that are located on the surface come into direct touch with one another, as illustrated in Fig. 7(a). The oil coating is unable to perform its duties of lowering friction and preventing wear on the component. When it comes to pool lubrication, the weight is carried not by the oil layer but rather by the protrusions that are found on the surface. The hydrodynamic lubrication condition is characterized by the presence of a continuous oil coating that prevents surfaces from coming into touch with one another (Lubrication Pool). As shown in Fig. 7(b), the oil makes the proper thin lubricating film with unbroken contact on both surfaces. In this state, there is not a single spot on one surface that is in contact with the other, and due to the pressure of the oil, the surfaces do not undergo any kind of deformation. The oil film thickness grows as a result of an increase in velocity in conjunction with the viscosity, but it shrinks as a result of an increase in the normal force that presses the surfaces against each other and that is the main reason for reducing the coefficient of friction values under pool lubrication.

Fig. 7
Fig. 7
Close modal

### 3.5 Worn Surface Analysis.

The analysis of worn surfaces in terms of wear tracks under different cooling/lubrication conditions was analyzed with the help of SEM and EDX analyses, as shown in Fig. 8. The following observations were noticed after the wear tests at 20-N load under all cooling conditions:

• cracks and grooves;

• debris;

• smooth surface with black area;

• deposited surface.

Fig. 8
Fig. 8
Close modal
Fig. 8
Fig. 8
Close modal
Fig. 8
Fig. 8
Close modal

Starting from the analysis of Fig. 8(a), it has been noticed that the maximum cracks and deposited material from an abrasive ball are observed under dry conditions. This is because of the fact that the friction coefficient grows as a result of the deformation, in addition to the bond energy resistance under dry conditions [47]. Indeed, the generation of high friction coefficient is also responsible for the cracks and material deposition under dry conditions. On the other hand, the number of cracks and deposited material is reduced by changing the lubricating conditions. This is a result of the fact that the lubricating effect lessens the friction force along the workpiece surface and the abrasive ball in wear tests, which therefore limits the generation of cracks and material fracture at the contact temperature. In addition, fewer black surface has been observed under pool and MQL conditions, as shown in Figs. 8(b) and 8(c). This is because the wear tests were performed with vegetable volatile oil, Wertemist, and this black area is unlikely the thin oil film from that cutting fluid. In this context, it is named as generation of tribo-film, and this is properly formed under pool conditions. Similarly, the compact lubricating film is observed under MQL conditions, and as a result, the grooves and less debris are observed on the surface of the workpiece material. Although the difference between the observations of the coefficient of friction and other tribological properties is not fully visible under different cooling/lubricating conditions, still this lubricating film is helpful in reducing the amount of debris and fractures under pool lubrication conditions. The same mechanism of tribo-film and its beneficial effect on tribological behavior are already discussed in Sec. 3.1. In the end, the EDX analysis has been also performed to study the effect of material deposition under different lubrication conditions. The phenomena of material deposition are only observed under dry conditions because the ball material, i.e., 100 Cr6, is deposited on the workpiece surface during the period of high friction, i.e., under dry conditions. When pool and MQL lubrication conditions were used, there was a significant reduction in the development of micro-welds and adhesive wear on the surface. Because of this, the depth of the pittings and ripples that developed on the surface of the soft material could be reduced, and the surface could be stabilized. That is the reason the pool and MQL lubrication reduces the effect of material deposition by lowering the contact temperature and providing a good lubrication effect at the main contact point during wear tests. The same observations of lubrication and its effect on surface morphology were reported by Cetin and Korkmaz in the wear test studies of metallic materials [43].

Further, the surface analysis using SEM was performed by varying the load and lubrication conditions, as shown in Fig. 9. The variations in the morphology of the worn surfaces suggest that the stainless steel 420 samples lost material via a variety of wear mechanisms. Additionally to the cracks and pits under dry conditions (shown in Fig. 8(a)), a buildup of plowing and various wear traces were found at low loads (20 N) (Fig. 9). It is assumed that the typical force exerted on the surface of the stainless steel 420 during sliding friction is responsible for pressing the worn debris into the steel and this causes the material loss and cracks and fractures by propelling wear debris along the worn surface. In addition, the spalling and adhesion were formed at high loads because the friction heat throughout the experiment causes the conglutination of the material between the ball and the workpiece surface. As a result, spalling and adhesion mechanisms were the dominant mechanism observed under dry conditions. On the other hand, the application of lubrication conditions reduces this effect and only wear debris is formed at lower values of loads, as shown in Fig. 9. In addition, minor grooves were produced under MQL conditions, as shown in Fig. 8(c), and this is because stainless steel 420 has great strain-hardening abilities, which increase its resistance to wear, and when the wear debris simply cuts into the substrate rather than being forced into it and it helps in generating small grooves. Further, the sliding friction generates heat during the wear tests, which reacts atmospheric oxygen with the stainless steel 420 surface to produce significant amounts of oxide. A significant amount of research has led researchers to the conclusion that the oxide layer is continuously consumed and created throughout the sliding friction process [42], which helps to eliminate the adhesion effect between the rubbing pair and the alloy and reduces the weight loss of the alloy especially under lubrication conditions.

Fig. 9
Fig. 9
Close modal

In addition, the interesting thing noticed in this surface morphology test that all figures follow the trend of friction coefficient results. For instance, the friction coefficient values were increased by increasing the load from 20 N to 40 N, which can be also seen by the help of Fig. 9. These new oxide layers or phase transitions on the surface may be caused by an increase in the friction coefficient, which increases the material's plastic deformation ability as with the change in temperature and load values. The growth of friction coefficient under dry conditions with the increase in load increases the plastic deformation marks on the surface (Fig. 9).The abrasive wear on the contact surfaces of dry sliding wear tests removes some of the wear components over a period of time while others become stuck in the wear track channels on the surface results in fracture or plastically deform. A similar situation was observed on the surface after the MQL and lubrication pool wear tests at room temperature. Thanks to the lubrication process, instead of metal-metal friction, that produces liquid-metal friction. Reduced friction between metals, less stress on the surface, and increased hardness of the substance all contribute to less adhesive wear. A lack of metal-to-metal contact is caused by oxide and lubricant. In this way, micro-welding zones can be minimized or eliminated under pool and MQL lubrication conditions.

## 4 Conclusions

The objective of this research is to determine the tribological characteristics of 420 martensitic stainless steel against 100Cr6 alloy in dry, MQL, and pool lubrication conditions using environmentally friendly vegetable oil. The wear results have been thoroughly studied in terms of volume loss, wear depth as a profile, and friction coefficient (420 steel versus 100Cr6). The results are summarized below:

In MQl conditions, the volume loss at 40-N load is found to be 0.0748 mm3, whereas under pool lubrication, these values are quite low. However, the change in load from 20 N to 40 N results in an increment of volume loss by 169.84% from 20 N to 40 N and by 83.72% from 30 N to 40 N. When comparing MQL and pool lubrication, the pool lubrication has the lowest volume loss values, and at 30-N and 40-N load levels, there was a only volume loss of 0.0096 mm3 and 0.0107 mm3. When the dry test circumstances with the highest volume loss value were compared to the pool lubrication settings with the lowest volume loss value, the material loss value rise by 381.63, 466.03, and 460.23 times, respectively, at 20-, 30-, and 40-N loads. The weight loss is expected to increase as load speed increases due to the concept of plasticity. A significant volumetric loss will occur, and the scar depth will deepen proportionately.

• When wear depth results are analyzed, it has been noticed that the maximum wear depth is found at dry conditions followed by MQL and pool conditions. In order to lessen the amount of wear that occurs in applications subjected to high pressures and temperatures, it is anticipated that the fluids will have improved lubricating and cooling capabilities.

The maximum friction coefficient is obtained when a 40-N load is applied under dry test conditions. At a load of 20 N and 30N, the friction coefficients are 0.59 and 0.64, respectively. The friction coefficients at 20-, 30-, and 40-N loads are 0.062, 0.075, and 0.089, respectively, under MQL lubrication conditions. The results indicate that when the load increases, the friction coefficient varies significantly. However, it is feasible to mitigate tribological difficulties with the use of lubricant.

• The lubrication molecules can carry some of the pressure due to the boundary layer generated by the lubrication molecules. Internal friction and pressure cause the cutting fluid molecules in the boundary region to heat up during the load transfer process.

• In general, considering all the results, it can be thought that the MQL and the pool environment are close to each other and that the environmental approach and MQL environment can also be used effectively in future studies.

## Acknowledgment

The research leading to these results has received funding from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014–2021, Project Contract No. 2020/37/K/ST8/02795. The authors also acknowledge the “Polısh Natıonal Agency For Academıc Exchange (NAWA) No. PPN/ULM/2020/1/00121” for financial support.

## Conflict of Interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

## Data Availability Statement

The data sets generated and supporting the findings of this article are obtainable from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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