Mechanical testing of thin films

ZHN nano-indenter

Nano-indenter machine from Zwick Roell provides a means of performing mechanical tests including hardness testing on thin films.

The trend towards miniaturisation of components has created a corresponding need for methods of determining the mechanical load capacity of thin films and coatings, including adhesive strength and wear. Zwick Roell claims that its new nano-indenter will facilitate the characterisation of films just a few µm thick.

Until recently, investigation of the mechanical properties of thin films and coatings has been time-consuming and cost-intensive. Zwick states that its ZHN nano-indenter offers a new, highly efficient solution. It is specifically tailored for testing the adhesive strength and wear of films and coatings, while its modular design allows it to cover a wide range of other applications. Tests involving forces up to 2N and indentation depths smaller than 0.2 µm are performed in accordance with ISO 14557-1.

Zwick says that an outstanding feature of the ZHN is that its two measuring-heads can be combined in any way required. Using the normal measuring-head the instrument functions as a depth-sensitive hardness tester in the micro range. The second, lateral measuring-head, which similarly features resolution in the nano range, also enables dynamic measurement in the lateral direction. This combination considerably increases the number of possible measurement procedures. The instrument can also be used as a micro scratch tester, micro wear tester, fatigue tester and high-resolution profilometer. Two patents cover ZHN‘s measuring heads.

As force generation and force measurement are completely independent of each other, force and displacement control are both possible. External influences such as adhesive forces can also be detected. Other advantages are said to include the excellent optics with high positioning accuracy and rapid measurement, as the use of two cameras for two magnifications eliminates the need for lens changes. The machine operator also has the benefit of support from the intuitive InspectorX software, which features individually tailored user rights, easy positioning and special algorithms for determining indenter area function and instrument stiffness.

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