Dr Tony Pilkington

Development and evaluation of plasma-assisted alumina based coatings – University of Sheffield

Dr Tony Pilkington was awarded his PhD in March 2014. Dr Pilkington is a DMTC Research Fellow at RMIT University working with industrial partner Sutton Tools in DMTC Project 1.1.1b – Next Generation Cutting Tool Development. Dr Pilkington’s thesis was concerned with the development of wear resistant alumina based Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) coatings to increase the productivity of round shank tooling for difficult to machine materials. The cutting tool design, manufacture, PVD development and tool life testing was carried out with DMTC industrial partner Sutton Tools.

Dr Pilkington’s research work was aligned with a DMTC project that aims to develop and optimise cutting tools for the production of components made from the latest aerospace composites and alloy materials. Optimisation focuses on improving the performance and reliability of round shank tools for drilling, milling and thread making. This will support the development of internationally competitive (e.g. high speed machining) technology for the advanced manufacture of aerospace components from difficult-to-machine materials (such as beta annealed – titanium alloys and high nickel alloys). The outcomes of Dr Pilkington’s research are the improved understanding of the role of tool surface integrity, reliability improvements in cutting tool life through reduced edge brittleness and new production ready AlCr oxy-nitride tool coatings for round shank tooling developed specifically by Sutton Tools for difficult to machine materials. A major objective achieved in this thesis was to develop a large scale PVD process for alumina based coatings offering high performance and a stable repeatable process with a commercially useful deposition rate of 2-3µm/hour. The use of pulsed plasmas in the state of the art INNOVA deposition system was the key to success for the alumina based coatings.

Dr Pilkington is continuing his research work in DMTC at RMIT University through involvement in PVD coating development, tribology and improvement in tooling manufacturing technology.