Reliability and durability assurance poses a serious challenge for surgical instruments manufacturers. Hard working conditions, such as intermittent contact with body fluids and hard bone tissues, as well as necessity to undergo frequent sterilisation processes, induce constant research into solutions capable of ensuring high wear resistance while maintaining satisfactory imperviousness to corrosion. Plasma nitriding is marked as the modern corrosion resistance improving method suitable for surgical instruments steels. The paper presents findings from the heat treated and plasma nitrided AISI 440B (PN EN or DIN X90CrMoV18) steel corrosion resistance studies. Three conventionally heat treated (quenched with tempering in 250, 390 or 605°C) and three additionally plasma nitrided in N2:H2 reaction gas mixture (50:50, 35:65 and 20:80 ratio, respectively) specimens groups were examined. Furthermore, the authors evaluated the effect of machining - polishing and sandblasting - on investigated steel corrosion resistance. Microscopic observations and electrochemical corrosion tests were performed using a variety of analytical techniques. Results showed that, in comparison to conventional heat treatment, plasma nitriding of 440B stainless steel does not significantly affect its corrosive characteristics as far as the uniform nitride layer over the entire detail surface is obtained. The layer heterogeneity results in intensification of corrosion processes, making the material even more susceptible to corrosion than after conventional heat treatment, and contributing to severe, visible even with the unaided eye damages development.
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