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Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

Case study

Mechanisms of abrasive wear in the grinding of titanium


(TC4) and nickel (K417) alloys
Xipeng Xu , Yiqing Yu, Hui Huang
College of Mechanical Engineering and Automation, Huaqiao University, Quanzhou, Fujian Province 362011, PR China

Abstract
The present investigation was dedicated to elucidate abrasive-wear mechanisms during surface grinding of a titanium alloy (TC4)
and a nickel-based superalloy (K417) by using silicon carbide (SiC), alumina (Al2 O3 ), and cubic boron nitride (CBN) wheels. The
temperature at the wheelworkpiece contact zone was measured using a workpiecefoil thermocouple. SEM and EDS were used to
examine the morphological features of ground workpiece surfaces and worn wheel surfaces. It is shown that the grinding with either SiC or Al2 O3 is characterized by the high temperatures reached in the grinding zone since either of them is easily worn during
the grinding processes. Along with the presence of high temperatures, strong adhesion was found between the abrasives and workpieces, which might be attributed to the chemical bonding between the abrasives and workpieces at the elevated temperatures. The
increasing ductile deformation of both TC4 and K417 at the elevated temperatures may also be a factor. Therefore, the wear of SiC
or Al2 O3 is both chemical and physical. In the grinding with CBN wheels, however, the wear of abrasive grits is mainly physical
since CBN is more stable to higher temperatures. At extremely high temperatures, CBN was found to undergo dislodging prior to being gradually worn. In order to reduce the grinding temperatures, a segmented wheel was incorporated into the grinding with CBN
wheels.
2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Abrasive wear; Grinding; Titanium alloy; Superalloy; Temperature

1. Introduction
Titanium alloys and superalloys are widely used in the
aerospace and defense industry owing to their favorable mechanical strength and resistance to surface degradation. Unfortunately, the unique physical and chemical properties that
make these alloys suitable for many applications also contribute to the difficulty with which they are cut or ground.
During grinding using abrasive wheels, which has been one
of the most popular processes for titanium alloys and superalloys, short wheel life and severe surface abuse of ground
workpiece are the most important among the factors impairing their grindability.
Although extensive research has been conducted on the
grinding of superalloys and titanium alloys over the past
30 years with a specialization in the thermal damage to the
workpiece [14], relatively fewer studies have been dedicated to identify the mechanisms of abrasive wear. It was
previously mentioned that there might exist the possibility

of a chemically assisted wear process in grinding of titanium alloys or superalloys [1,4], however, no temperature
data was provided.
As one of the most commonly used titanium alloys, TC4
(Ti6Al4V) has an alphabeta structure and is widely used
for aircraft components. Among the commercially available superalloys used in the aeronautical industry, K417
(Ni15.2Co8.79Cr5.5Al4.9Ti3.23Mo) is a relatively
new nickel-base cast superalloy designed especially as turbine vane materials. In order to provide a technological
basis for optimizing the grinding of these two alloys, the
present investigation was undertaken to elucidate the mechanisms of abrasive wear during grinding of them using
three different abrasives wheels: Al2 O3 (for K417), SiC (for
TC4), and CBN (for both K417 and TC4). Temperatures
at the wheelworkpiece contact surface were measured
in the grinding processes to provide direct evidence for
mechanism analysis.
2. Experimental

Corresponding author. Tel.: +86-595-2997830;


fax: +86-595-2693999.
E-mail address: xpxu@hqu.edu.cn (X. Xu).

The experimental set-up is schematically illustrated


in Fig. 1. Straight surface grinding experiments were

0043-1648/03/$ see front matter 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/S0043-1648(03)00163-7


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X. Xu et al. / Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

Fig. 1. Illustration of the experimental set-up.

conducted on a precision grinder. Three grinding wheels


vitrified Al2 O3 wheel (WA100KV), vitrified SiC wheel
(GC46EV), and resin bonded CBN wheel (grit dimension
dg = 91 m, 100 concentration)were used in the experiments. It needs to mention that the wheel identification system for the Al2 O3 and SiC wheels is the standard marking
system used in China and many other regions such as North
America. The diameter ds is 250 mm for the CBN wheel and
300 mm for the Al2 O3 and SiC wheels. The wheel width is
10 mm for the CBN wheel and 20 mm for the Al2 O3 and
SiC wheels. The workpiece velocity vw and wheel depth
of cut ap (see Fig. 1) were varied giving different material
removal rates. A 3% solution of oil-in-water emulsion was
used as coolant for the grinding tests, in which case mineral oil 20 was used as the base oil for the emulsion, and
chlorinated paraffin, chlorinated stearic acid, oily sodium
of sulfoacid, and oily plumbum of sulfoacid were used as
the main compositions of emulsifiers and extreme-pressure
agents.
The two workpiece materials, K417 and TC4 were prepared according to conditions for precisely casting turbine
vanes. The hardness values for the two materials are HRC45
and HRC32, respectively.
The temperature response on the workpiece surface
was measured using a grindable foil/workpiece thermocouple consisting of a constantan foil of 35 m thickness
insulated on both sides by 10 m sheets of mica and
sandwiched between two pieces of a split workpiece. The
workpiece acts as the other thermocouple pole. The cold
junction was immersed in ice water. The signal from the
foil/workpiece thermocouple was obtained by a single pass
of the grinding wheel over the workpiece. The output from
the foil/workpiece thermocouple was fed to a dynamic
signal recorder. The assembly of the thermocouple is also
shown in Fig. 1. The details about the measurement using foil/workpiece thermocouple can be found elsewhere
[5,6].
The morphologies of ground workpiece surfaces and worn
wheel surfaces were analyzed by using a scanning electron
microscope (SEM) together with an energy dispersive spectrometer (EDS).

Fig. 2. SEM pictures of the K417 surfaces ground with Al2 O3 and CBN
wheels: (a) Al2 O3 grinding when grinding temperature is 90 C; (b)
Al2 O3 grinding when grinding temperature is 1000 C; (c) CBN grinding
when grinding temperature is 70 C; (d) CBN grinding when grinding
temperature is 1000 C.

3. Results
3.1. Morphological features of ground K417 surfaces and
worn wheel surfaces
Fig. 2 shows SEM pictures of the ground K417 surfaces
generated by either Al2 O3 or CBN wheels. It can be seen
that the ground surfaces, which underwent different grinding temperatures, are featured with different topographies.
When the grinding temperature is around 90 C, which is below the critical threshold temperature for film boiling [7], the
ground surfaces for either Al2 O3 or CBN grinding are relatively smooth. The surfaces consist mostly of overlapping
scratches produced by the interactions of abrasive cutting
points with the workpiece (see Fig. 2a and c). However, the
morphologies of the workpiece surfaces ground with Al2 O3
become more complicated when the surface temperature is
up to 1000 C, in which case some kind of plastically deformed coatings prevail on the workpiece surfaces as indicated in Fig. 2b. As compared to Al2 O3 grinding, the coatings on the workpiece surfaces for CBN grinding are much
less even though the grinding temperature is up to 1000 C
(see Fig. 2d).
Fig. 3 shows the micro-observations made on the worn
surfaces of the Al2 O3 wheel, also indicating the effects of
grinding temperatures. When the temperatures on the workpiece surfaces are 70 or 90 C, either Al2 O3 or CBN appears
to be sharp as newly dressed (see Fig. 3a and c). However,
adhering materials can be found on Al2 O3 grits when the
temperature is up to 1000 C (see Fig. 3b). EDS analysis
of the adhering materials showed that there was no difference in chemical compositions between the adhering layers
and K417. Unlike Al2 O3 grits, no workpiece materials directly adhere to CBN grits even when grinding temperature

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X. Xu et al. / Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

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for the CBN grinding by using a material removal rate much


greater than that used in the Al2 O3 grinding.
3.2. Morphological features of ground TC4 surfaces and
worn wheel surfaces
Analogous to the grinding with Al2 O3 wheels, SiC wheels
were worn to dulling in a very fast speed during the grinding
of TC4 and as a result of the dulling, high grinding temperatures were also easily generated at the wheelworkpiece
contact surface.
Fig. 4 shows SEM pictures of the ground TC4 surfaces
produced by either SiC or CBN wheels. Analogous to the
situation mentioned above for K417, the ground TC4 surfaces having undergone different temperatures have rather
different textures. Compared with the ground surfaces with
regular scratches as shown in Fig. 4a and d, morphologies
of the workpiece surfaces ground with SiC become increasingly complicated with increasing temperatures. When the

Fig. 3. SEM pictures for the worn surfaces of Al2 O3 and CBN wheels:
(a) Al2 O3 wheel when grinding temperature is 90 C; (b) Al2 O3 wheel
when grinding temperature is 1000 C; (c) CBN wheel when temperature
is 70 C; (d) CBN wheel when temperature is 1000 C; (e) heat induced
holes on CBN wheel.

is up to 1000 C. Although a few adhering particles can be


seen on the worn surface of CBN wheel (see Fig. 3d), they
look more like metal grinding chips physically adhering to
the grinding wheel since the particles disappeared after the
wheel was cleaned with water in an ultrasonic cleaner. Moreover, molten resin binder was also observed around a few
CBN grits (see Fig. 3e).
It needs to point out that Al2 O3 wheels wore to dulling in
a very fast speed during the grinding of K417 and as a result
of the dulling, high grinding temperatures were quiet easily generated at the wheelworkpiece contact surface. Compared with Al2 O3 , CBN wheels wore at a much slower speed
due to its much higher hardness than Al2 O3 and high temperatures were not easily generated under the same material
removal rates as the Al2 O3 grinding. The high temperature
as stated above, like 1000 C, was purposefully generated

Fig. 4. SEM pictures of TC4 surfaces ground with SiC and CBN wheels:
(a) SiC grinding when temperature is 100 C; (b) SiC grinding when
temperature is 500 C; (c) SiC grinding when temperature is 1000 C;
(d) CBN grinding when temperature is 80 C; (e) CBN grinding when
temperature is 600 C; (f) CBN grinding when temperature is 1300 C.


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X. Xu et al. / Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

Moreover, a few holes resulting from CBN pop-outs were


also observed (see Fig. 5f) on the surfaces of the CBN wheel
when the grinding temperature is up to 800 C.

4. Analysis of abrasive-wear mechanisms


One of the most possible chemical reactions in the grinding of K417 involves the oxidation of its main constituents,
like Ni, Al, Ti and Cr. Based on our previous study on the
characterization of the chemical reactions on ground K417
surfaces [8], it was found that Ni2 O3 , Cr2 O3 , Al2 O3 , and
TiO2 existed on the K417 surfaces having plastically deformed coatings as shown in Fig. 2b. In effect, Ti may react
actively with O2 when temperature is only 500 C:
Ti + O2 TiO2

(1)

The titanium oxide subsequently reacts with the Al2 O3 grits,


thereby leading to a strong bonding between the grit and
workpiece:
Al2 O3 + TiO2 TiO2 Al2 O3

Fig. 5. SEM pictures for the worn surfaces of SiC and CBN wheels: (a)
newly dressed SiC wheel; (b) SiC grinding when temperature is 1000 C;
(c) EDS data on the adhering materials in (b); (d) newly dressed CBN
wheel; (e) CBN grinding when temperature is 1300 C; (f) heat induced
holes on CBN wheel.

temperature is up to 500 C, plastically deformed coatings


gradually prevail on the workpiece surfaces as indicated in
Fig. 4b and c. Scales-like markings can be seen on the workpiece surface (see Fig. 4c) while the temperature is up to
1000 C. As compared to SiC grinding, much fewer coatings
can be seen on the workpiece surfaces for CBN grinding
even though the grinding temperature is up to 1300 C and
micro-cracks appear on the workpiece surface (see Fig. 4e
and f).
Again, micro-observations made on the abrasive grits as
shown in Fig. 5 indicate the different effects of grinding
temperatures. Compared with sharp grits as shown in Fig. 5a
and d, adhering materials can be seen on SiC grits while the
temperature is up to 1000 C (see Fig. 5b). EDS analysis
indicated that the adhering materials are nothing more than
TC4 (see Fig. 5c). Although adhering materials can also be
seen on CBN when the temperature is up to 1300 C (see Fig.
5e), they seem to be more like a physically adhering. Similar
materials was also found adhering to the bond surface of the
CBN wheel and they were easily dislodged from the wheel
after it was cleaned with water in the ultrasonic cleaner.

(2)

The affinity of Al2 O3 for other metal oxides identified on


the K417 surface may also be a contribution to the bonding
between Al2 O3 grits and K417 owing to the mutual solid
solubility of the oxides mentioned above.
For SiC grinding, the main chemical reaction appears to
be the dissociation of SiC at elevated grinding temperatures
[7]:
SiC + O2 SiO2 + C

(3)

Then, the carbon from the abrasive reacts with Ti in the


workpiece:
Ti + C TiC

(4)

Both the chemical reactions may cause interface diffusion


between SiC grits and TC4, thereby leading to a strong bonding between them.
Because of the existence of chemical bonding, strong
welds may form either between TC4 and SiC or between
K417 and Al2 O3 , at elevated grinding temperatures. When
the bonding force between the abrasive grit and workpiece
exceeds the shear strength of the metal in the main body of
the workpiece surface layer, the adhering layer on the abrasive grit forms. On the side of workpiece, scars are generated on its ground surface. The adhering layer is a dynamic
body. Usually, the previous adhering layer grows gradually
in size during its successive contact with the workpiece and
consequently a layered structure forms on the worn abrasive grits, which can be seen from Figs. 3b and 5b. When
the adhering layer becomes large enough the force loads
the adhering layer as a cantilever and eventually the moment at the base of the adhering layer becomes sufficient to
pry it loose. As a result, the metal particles adhering to the
abrasive grit is redeposited on the workpiece and forms a

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X. Xu et al. / Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

plastically deformed coating on the workpiece ground surface. Along with the dislodging of adhering layers from an
abrasive grit, adhesive wear may occur at the abrasive grit
by a mechanism similar to the formation of scars on the
workpiece.
Aside from chemical activity, purely mechanical factors
also contribute significantly to the adhesion between the
abrasive and workpieces. Actually, metals which are more
adhesive, such as titanium and nickel-base alloys, tend to
exhibit more ductility at elevated temperatures, thereby leading to possible cold-welding between the abrasive grits and
workpiece materials. Therefore, the plastically deformed
coatings on the ground workpiece surfaces and the adhering
materials on the worn abrasive grits should be attributed to
the combining effect of the chemical interactions and the increasing amount of ductile deformation at elevated grinding
temperatures.
Compared with Al2 O3 and SiC, CBN is more chemically stable to higher temperatures. Although some studies
suggested a possible chemical interaction that may occur
with CBN at very high temperatures, the kinetics of the
reaction must be considered because the oxidation of CBN
is a timetemperature reaction. Actually, a CBN grit is
heated only during its contact with the workpiece and the
heat flowing into the grit is extracted during the remaining
portion of a single revolution of the grinding wheel. The
fact that much fewer workpiece materials purely physically adhering to the CBN wheels seems to indicate that
chemical activity is at least not the dominant factor in
the CBN grinding. Therefore, the much fewer plastically
deformed coatings on the ground workpiece surfaces as
shown in Figs. 2d and 4e should be mainly attributed to the
enhancement of plastic deformation at elevated temperatures.

5. Application of interrupted grinding


In the authors previous studies on the grinding of superalloys and titanium alloys [9], it was found that surface temperatures for CBN grinding are much lower than Al2 O3 or
SiC grinding under identical material removal rates. However, the temperatures for CBN grinding can also be easily
raised to much higher, just as the cases for Figs. 2d and 4f, at
much greater material removal rates. The elevated grinding
temperatures may not only have adverse effects on the workpiece surface (as shown in Fig. 4f), but also cause pre-mature
pop-outs of CBN grits (as shown in Figs. 3e and 5f). Therefore, an interrupted grinding wheel was incorporated into
the present study to increase the maximum material removal
rate, under which CBN wheels can work effectively. To analyze the temperatures in interrupted grinding, a moving, and
periodically changing heat source, model is proposed and
illustrated in Fig. 6. Based on this model, the dimensionless temperature rise, [], in the workpiece can be written
as

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Fig. 6. Thermal model for calculating temperature rise in interrupted


grinding.

St

[] =
0

E(St S) e

erf(B)] +

2S A2
[e
L

X + L + 2S 2

[erf(A)
L

2
eB ] dS
(5)

Z2 /4S 2

where
vw
(X, Z, S),
2q
X L + 2S 2
,
B=
2S

[] =

X=

vw x
,
2

X + L + 2S 2
,
2S
vw z
vw l
Z=
,
L=
,
2
2

v2w t
S = St =
,
2l = lc = (ds ap )1/2
2
A=

lc the length of the cutting zone, ds the diameter of grinding


wheel, ap the depth of cut, the thermal conductivity of
workpiece, the workpiece density, c the workpiece specific
heat, (=K/c) the thermal diffusivity, z the depth beneath
the workpiece surface, q the total average heat flux at the
cutting zone, erf the error function, and t the time. E(St S)
represents the periodical change of heat source and can be
written as

0,
nT < t (n + 1 )T,
(6)
E(St S) =
1, (n + 1 )T < t (n + 1)T
where is the interrupted ratio and is equal to the ratio of
active length to total wheel circumference.
Calculated results of [] on workpiece surface are plotted
in Fig. 7a for different . The horizontal axis corresponds
to the dimensionless distance x/l from the mid-point of the
grinding zone of length 2l. It can be seen that the temperatures for interrupted grinding ( < 1) decrease obviously
compared with continuous grinding ( = 1). Temperature
rise decreases with a reduction of .
Coupled with Eqs. (5) and (6), it was found that the temperature rise decreases with increasing slot numbers. With
respect to the difficulty in manufacturing a wheel having


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X. Xu et al. / Wear 255 (2003) 14211426

In order to incorporate interrupted grinding into CBN


grinding, a segmented CBN wheel was designed and used
with respect to the manufacturing reason. The grinding results for the segmented grinding and continuous grinding are
compared in Fig. 8 for both K417 and TC4. It can be seen
that the segmented CBN wheels raised the maximum depth
of cut to a higher level, under which the grinding temperature is kept below 100 C.

6. Conclusions

Fig. 7. Calculated and experimental temperature rises in interrupted grinding.

1. Strong adhesion was found between the abrasives and


both workpiece materials during the grinding with SiC
or Al2 O3 wheels.
2. Workpiece adhesion can be mainly attributed to the chemical interactions at the wheelworkpiece interfaces at elevated grinding temperatures although an increase in the
ductile deformation of both TC4 and K417 at the elevated
temperatures may also be a factor.
3. Adhesion, plastically deformed coatings, and scale-like
scars were produced on the ground workpiece surfaces,
and workpiece materials adhered to Al2 O3 and SiC grits.
4. CBN grinds K417 and TC4 with less surface damage
than Al2 O3 or SiC due to the more chemical stability of
CBN to higher temperatures. However, CBN was found
to undergo dislodging prior to being gradually worn when
the grinding temperatures are extremely high.
5. Grinding with segmented CBN wheels can increase the
maximum depth of cut and still maintain a workpiece
temperature less than 100 C.

Acknowledgements
The present work was supported by the Natural Science
Foundation (NSF) of Fujian Province in China, by the Special Funds from Huaqiao University for Selected Faculty
Members Holding Ph.D., and partially by the Aeronautical
Science Foundation of China.
References

Fig. 8. Temperatures for continuous and interrupted grinding with CBN


wheels: (A) continuous grinding of TC4; (B) interrupted grinding of TC4;
(C) continuous grinding of K417; (D) interrupted grinding of K417.

too many slots, 32 slots were adopted in the present study.


Fig. 7b shows the experimental results of temperature rise
during grinding with an interrupted wheel, supporting the
analytical results shown in Fig. 7a.

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