The aim of this paper is to present current status and future prospects of nano-enabled tribological thin film coatings based on worldwide patent landscape analysis. The study also presents an overview of technological trends by carrying out state-of-the-art literature analysis, including survey of corporate websites. Nanostructured tribological coatings encompass a wide spectrum of nanoscale microstructures, including nanocrystalline, nanolayered, nano-multilayered, nanocomposite, nanogradient structures or their unique combinations, which are composed of single or multi-component phases. The distinct microstructural features of the coatings impart outstanding tribological properties combined with multifunctional attributes to the coated components. Their unique combination of remarkable properties make them ideal candidates for a wide range of applications in diverse fields such as cutting and metalworking tools, biomedical devices, automotive engine components, wear parts, hard disc drives etc. The patent landscape analysis has revealed that nano-enabled tribological thin film coatings have significant potential for commercial applications in view of the lion’s share of corporate industry in patenting activity. The largest patent portfolio is held by Japan followed by USA, Germany, Sweden and China. The prominent players involved in this field are Mitsubishi Materials Corp., Sandvik Aktiebolag, Hitachi Ltd., Sumitomo Electric Industries Ltd., OC Oerlikon Corp., and so on. The outstanding potential of nanostructured thin film tribological coatings is yet to be fully unravelled and, therefore, immense opportunities are available in future for microstructurally engineered novel coatings to enhance their performance and functionality by many folds.
Keywords: Arc evaporation, chemical vapour deposition, cutting tools, end mills, milling, hard coatings, machining, medical implants, multilayer, nanocomposite, nanostructured, physical vapour deposition, thin films, magnetron sputtering, turning, drilling, wear components.