Selected applications of tribology for the characterization of friction and wear of polymers

The term ‘polymers’ includes a variety of materials in the form of molded and formed products, fibers, coatings, varnishes, and paints which are currently found in many applications since chemical formulae and synthetic processes allow the simple manipulation of desirable properties including hardness, strength, density, thermal stability, and corrosion resistance among others. Polymers exhibit excellent tribological properties, often demonstrating low coefficient of friction and high wear resistance making them ideal materials in many tribological applications. Anton Paar tribometers are excellent tools for the evaluation of tribological properties of polymers under precisely defined conditions which simulate real applications.

Polymeric materials began to be manufactured in large quantities in the early 20th century. Since then, various chemical formulae and synthetic processes have been developed in order to produce polymers with application specific properties such as mechanical strength, density, temperature resistance, color, etc. Plastic materials can be found today in many industrial areas including: automotive, biomedical, consumer appliances, cookware, electronics and packaging. Polymers are also increasingly being used for 3D printing owing to their relatively low melting temperature and wide array of resultant physical properties.

Some polymers (Teflon, polypropylene, etc.) have excellent tribological properties with low coefficient of friction (CoF), high wear resistance and good chemical resistance. Therefore, they are used widely in cost saving applications where energy efficiency is desired [1,2]: excessive friction causes damage of materials, either directly by wear mechanisms or indirectly by frictional heat generation. Characterization of the tribological properties of polymers and plastics is therefore very important for assuring a long life time for a product.

Tribology is the science which studies the behavior of interacting surfaces in relative motion. It includes mainly studies of friction, wear, and lubrication. The experimental tribological system is generally represented by two bodies in contact under specific conditions (pressure, sliding speed, temperature, humidity etc.) and sometimes by a third body (lubricant, particles, etc.) which is present at the interface between the two bodies.

The Anton Paar tribometer is an excellent tool for evaluating tribological properties of polymers with various test parameters: sliding speed, normal loads, sliding modes (rotation, angular, or linear) and environmental conditions (temperature, lubricant). The tribological measurements allow for recording the evolution of the coefficient of friction and for studying wear which is generated during sliding motion. This application report presents several examples of tribological testing of polymers for industrial and academic fields using a pin-on-disk tribometer TRB3.

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