In this study, the tool life of plasma immersion nitrogen-implanted cutting inserts while machining AISI 4140 steel has been investigated. The implantation time was 5 h and the temperature was in the range 320-520 degrees C. Implantation dose was similar to 2 x 10(18) ions cm(-2) for all treatments. Surface topography of the implanted surfaces was obtained from atomic force microscopy. Results of the turning tests are discussed in terms of tool life (flank wear) and surface roughness of the workpieces. The results show that plasma immersion nitrogen implantation increased tool life by about 85%. (C) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.