This paper examines the frictionless adhesive elastic contact problem of a rigid sphere indenting a thin film deposited on a substrate. The result is then used to model the elastic phase of micro-nanoscale indentation tests performed to determine the mechanical properties of coatings and films. We investigate the elastic response including the effects of adhesion, which, as the scale decreases to the nano level, become an important issue. In this paper, we extend the Johnson–Kendall–Roberts, Derjaguin–Muller– Toporov, and Maugis–Dugdale half-space adhesion models to the case of a finite thickness elastic film coated on an elastic substrate. We propose a simplified model based on the assumption that the pressure distribution is that of the corresponding half-space models; in doing so, we investigate the contact radius/film thickness ratio in a range where it is usually assumed the half-space model. We obtain an analytical solution for the elastic response that is useful for evaluating the effects of the film-thickness, the interface film–substrate conditions, and the adhesion forces. This study provides a guideline for selecting the appropriate film thickness and substrate to determine the elastic constants of film in the indentation tests.
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