CoCrMo alloy has long been used as a pairing femoral head material for articular joint implant applications because of its biocompatibility and reliable tribological performance. However, friction and wear issues are still present for CoCrMo (metal)/CoCrMo (metal) or CoCrMo (metal)/ultrahigh molecular weight polyethylene (UHMWPE) (plastic) pairs in clinical observations. The particulate wear debris generated from the worn surfaces of CoCrMo or UHMWPE can pose a severe threat to human tissues, eventually resulting in the failure of implants and the need for revision surgeries. As a result, a further improvement in tribological properties of this alloy is still needed, and it is of great interest to both the implant manufacturers and clinical surgeons. In this study, the surface of CoCrMo alloy was laser-treated by a fibre laser system in an open-air condition (i.e., no gas chamber required). The CoCrMo surfaces before and after laser remelting were analysed and characterised by a range of mechanical tests (i.e., surface roughness measurement and Vickers micro-hardness test) and microstructural analysis (i.e., XRD phase detection). The tribological properties were assessed by pin-on-disk tribometry and dynamic light scattering (DLS). Our results indicate that the laser-treated surfaces demonstrated a friction-reducing effect for all the tribopairs (i.e., CoCrMo against CoCrMo and CoCrMo against UHHMWPE) and enhanced wear resistance for the CoCrMo/CoCrMo pair. Such beneficial effects are chiefly attributable to the presence of the laser-formed hard coating on the surface. Laser remelting possesses several competitive advantages of being a clean, non-contact, fast, highly accurate and automated process compared to other surface coating methods. The promising results of this study point to the possibility that laser remelting can be a practical and effective surface modification technique to further improve the tribological performance of CoCr-based orthopaedic implants.
- laser remelting; fibre laser; CoCrMo alloy; tribological performance; wear resistance