Tools for hot wire rolling are exposed to high thermal, mechanical and tribological loadings during service. Ceramic materials such as silicon nitride possess good mechanical and tribological properties up to temperatures where most of today' roller materials do not exhibit acceptable reliability. In the present paper basic mechanical properties under thermal and mechanical loading as well as the damage behaviour of Si3N4 have been investigated in high cycle thermal fatigue and dynamic as well as cyclic four point bending tests. In fretting fatigue tests the behaviour of Si3N4 under near-service conditions, as they appear during application in the hot wire rolling process, has been analysed. It is shown that in the temperature range investigated pure thermally induced loading leads to the same damage mechanism as pure mechanical loading and therefore thermally induced stresses can be directly added to any mechanical loading. The isothermal four point bending tests confirm the existence of a cyclic fatigue effect. With the fretting fatigue experiments the limits of high-performance ceramics such as Si3N4 are shown. Under the complex loading, surface flaws are produced leading to a severe lifetime reduction compared to plain mechanical and thermal loading.
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