Silver is a precious metal that has traditionally been used for jewellery and money. It also possesses desirable properties such as being corrosion resistant and having good electrical conductivity, resulting in its use for industrial applications. Furthermore, it is also recognised for its tribological properties in non-cost prohibitive applications. Silver can be used as a surface coating and can be deposited using an electroplating process. The utilisation of silver as a surface coating is advantageous and sustainable, as the substrate material properties are enhanced while usage of silver is kept to a minimum. On the other hand, electroplating has been used for over a century. It is a process which is able to produce a layer of uniform and dense coating that adheres well to the substrate metal, thus modifying the properties of the substrate. It benefits from being relatively low cost and is scalable. Silver is electroplated onto stainless steel threaded compression fittings to prevent galling. Traditional silver electroplating, which contains the use of cyanide as a complexing agent in the electroplating bath, is still in use within industry, even to this day. Cyanide, in its various forms can be poisonous, toxic and even lethal, which presents a risk during the silver electroplating process. Furthermore, the toxic wastes created during the cyanide silver electroplating process are detrimental to the environment.
The aim of this work is to develop a self-lubricating non-cyanide silver PTFE composite coating suitable for use in threaded compression fittings of the ferruled type. The composite can be considered self-lubricating when a concentration of 8% or more by volume of the self-lubricating PTFE substance is incorporated. My original contribution to knowledge is firstly the successful development and characterisation of a self-lubricating non-cynanide Ag-PTFE coating on stainless steel without a strike resulting in improved Coefficient of friction (CoF) of 0.06 from the CoF of 0.6 based on an unlubricated surface. Secondly is the application of a non-cyanide Ag-PTFE MMC for threaded compression fittings. Thirdly is the characterisation of the make-up process of threaded compression fittings through the proposed use of the torque-angle slope in assessing coating performance for threaded compression fittings during make-up. Conclusions that can be drawn for the work are that the performance non-cyanide Ag-PTFE coating exceeded the performance of the pure Ag coating made using the same non-cyanide process. Moreover, the performance of the Ag-PTFE coating shows promising results when compared to the performance of the commercial silver cyanide coating. As a viable replacement to the current silver cyanide process, the self-lubricating non-cyanide Ag-PTFE coating, will improve the working conditions and have a positive contribution to the environment. Moreover, a thinner coating with has the potential to reduce raw material usage and electroplating waste disposal costs.