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Mechanical Properties of Cast Carbon and Low Alloy Steels

For the purpose of this article, carbon steels are considered to be those steels in which carbon is the principal alloying element. Other elements that are present and that, in general, are re uired to be reported are manganese, silicon, phosphorous and sulfur. !n a sense, all of these elements are residuals from the raw materials used in the manufacture of the steel, although the addition of manganese is often made during the steelma"ing process to counter the deleterious effect of sulfur and silicon is added to aid in deo#idation. $he ma%or source of sulfur is the co"e used in the blast furnace or cupola. $he ma%or sources of phosphorous, manganese and silicon are the iron ore, the limestone used as a flu#, and the additions used to deo#idi&e the steel. A minimum amount of silicon is needed to pro'ide the necessary fluidity for the casting operation. Other elements, particularly those not easily o#idi&ed, e.g., copper and nic"el, will be reco'ered from the scrap charge. $he amounts of these two elements and others, such as chromium, molybdenum and 'anadium, may or may not ha'e to be reported by the manufacturer depending upon the specification. Alloy steels are considered to be those steels to which elements, other than carbon, are added deliberately so as to impro'e mechanical properties, physical properties and(or corrosion resistance. )Mechanical properties are measured by plastically deforming or brea"ing the material. Physical properties are those, the measurement of which does not re uire that the metal be plastically deformed*. $he American !ron and Steel !nstitute has defined alloy steels as containing one, or more, of the following elements in uantities as follows+

and cobalt, columbium, molybdenum, nic"el, titanium, tungsten, 'anadium, &irconium, and any other element added to obtain a desired alloying effect. $he effecti'eness of any alloying element is greatest when it is completely soluble in the steel. !f a particular element forms, or tends to form, a compound with iron or another element present in the steel, the effecti'eness of both elements is decreased. For e#ample, if chromium is added to a carbon steel to increase hardenability, the austeniti&ing heat treatment must be at a temperature high enough to dissol'e the chromium carbides, otherwise the presence of chromium carbides diminishes the effect of both chromium and carbon on increasing hardenability. MECHANICAL PROPERTIES For all alloy systems, the mechanical properties are controlled by the chemical composition and the microstructure of the alloy. ,ith respect to the carbon and alloy steels, the influence of microstructure is so great as to o'ershadow that of chemical composition and, for cast steels, the only practical method for changing the microstructure is by heat treatment. ,ith few e#ceptions, the mechanical properties of the cast carbon and low alloy steels are controlled by heat treatment. Among the e#ceptions are the effect of carbon on increasing hardness, the effect of nic"el on increasing toughness, and the effect of combinations of chromium, molybdenum, 'anadium, and tungsten on increasing ele'ated temperature strength. Hardenability -$he ma%or reason for using alloying elements in steels, wrought as well as cast, is to ma"e the role of heat treatment on increasing strength effecti'e o'er a wide range of metal thic"nesses. $his effecti'eness is termed hardenability, i.e., a steel with low hardenability can only be strengthened by heat treatment in thin sections whereas a steel with high hardenability can be strengthened in thic" sections. .ardenability is the retarding of the austenite formation during cooling and is increased by all of the alloying elements, e#cept cobalt. .ardenability, or austenite retention, should not be confused with austenite formation, which is the e#pansion of the austenite field at high temperature. Only a few elements increase the austenite field/ these are carbon, cobalt, copper, manganese, nic"el and nitrogen. A large number of elements, particularly those that ha'e a tendency to form carbides, delay the softening of steel that occurs during the tempering operation. $he carbide forming tendency need not be strong. For e#ample, silicon, not a particularly strong carbide former, will delay the softening during tempering, but its effect is not as strong as that of chromium/ li"ewise, the effect of chromium is not as strong as that of 'anadium, etc. !n addition to retarding softening, some carbide forming

a fine grain steel has better toughness. otherwise the aluminum nitrides will dissol'e and a 'ery coarse austenite grain si&e will result. Of these characteristics. and. $he term describes the grain si&e of the austenite at the heat treating temperature before uenching. which is uite large. cause an increase in hardness due to the precipitation of the alloy carbides )precipitation hardening*. probably. Methods for determining and measuring the austenitic grain si&e are described in AS$M Specification 5220. . An e#ception is carbon. Although these 'alues were de'eloped for wrought steels. Hardness and Strength -All elements dissol'ed in steel increase its hardness and strength/ howe'er. caution must be ta"en to a'oid the use of austeniti&ing temperatures abo'e about 2611F )360C*. which is high for low carbon steels and is negati'e for high carbon steels )about 1. although not as large as the effect of heat treatment. Multiplying factors for each element as published by the American !ron and Steel !nstitute are shown in Fig. the effect of carbon on increasing the strength of annealed carbon steels is+ $he carbon effect on the strength of uenched and tempered martensite in low alloy steel is more dramatic+ . during tempering.elements will. less distortion on heat treatment. they probably can be used for cast steels with some minor corrections. Another result is the ability to estimate the hardenability of a gi'en steel from calculations based upon the chemical composition of the steel.34 C* because it forms carbides. 2. 7eferring to the AS$M specification. Although a steel ha'ing a coarse austenitic grain si&e has higher hardenability. tempered martensite. !n addition to alloying elements. A steel ha'ing a fine austenitic grain si&e has lower hardenability than a steel ha'ing a coarse austenitic grain si&e. not the grain si&e of the ferrite. $he role of the alloying elements on increasing hardenability and retarding softening during tempering was the sub%ect of an e#tensi'e. nor the effect of boron. A word of caution+ $he term aluminum-"illed fine-grain steel often is misinterpreted. lower internal stresses. $his figure does not illustrate the effect of carbon. A890(A890M. the steel should be of the fineaustenitic-grain type.hen heat treating aluminum-"illed )aluminum deo#idi&ed* steels. the effect of which is large. international research effort during the first half of the 01th Century. as compared with the increase obtained by heat treatment. or martensite at room temperature. for structural applications. this effect is small. lower tendency to de'elop uench crac"s. the impro'ed toughness is the most important and. the grain si&e of the austenite before uenching affects hardenability.

!n non percentage terms. or endurance limit.* Se tion Si#e$ Mass E%%e ts -Mass effects are common to steels. and e'ery engineering structure will contain some sort of one or more discontinuities )notches*. All of the test methods used to measure toughness in'ol'e the use of a sample containing a sharp notch or a crac". the alloy content selected must be that re uired to achie'e the hardenability needed for the section si&e )thic"ness* being considered.9 4 total alloying elements. For structural carbon and low alloy cast steels.e. yet all ha'e the same minimum tensile strength. the desired strength. !C :291 has about 2. the toughness )resistance to brittle fracture* of a steel decreases with increasing carbon. to achie'e a high strength steel.. $his tendency has some 'alidity but entails some penalties. at a gi'en strength le'el. Conse uently. i. as cast. Toughness -$oughness. a preferred plan is to select a steel ha'ing a combination of the lowest possible carbon content and the re uired amount of alloying elements to achie'e. $he reason for employing such samples is that for e'ery ser'ice failure caused by brittle fracture. or mass effect.. namely A02. $he section si&e. and because the microstructure components. is an essential property for structural components sub%ect to high loading rates.:1 to 1. Conse uently.ith respect to elements other than carbon. there could be a tendency to use carbon. A028. For e#ample. machined )not polished*. and A:68. Fatigue strength 'alues are affected by the mass effect in a manner similar to tensile strength. grain si&e. <ecause of the close relationship between hardness and tensile strength of alloy steels. chemical composition and heat treatment of the steel. both the endurance limit and the endurance ratio decreases. rapid fracture. is of particular importance to steel castings because the mechanical properties are typically assessed from test bars machined from standardi&ed coupons which ha'e fi#ed dimensions and are cast separately from or . the toughness )impact test* re uirement of A819 may be used based upon agreement between the producer and the user. and crac"s. >nder conditions of rough surfaces.=1 and is termed the endurance ratio. )See Alloy and .14 total alloying elements/ and !C 6. Fatigue Strength (Enduran e Li!it" -For cast steels. and nonmetallic inclusions increase in si&e from surface to center. whether rolled. in a tempered martensite microstructure. the fatigue strength.eat $reatment !nfluence on Section Si&e 5ffects. As illustrated by $able 2 the endurance ratio is largely independent of the tensile strength. the source of the fracture has been found to be a discontinuity in the metal. an ine#pensi'e element. forged or cast. notches. $his negligible effect of alloying elements on strength further emphasi&es the pre'ious statement that the most important role of the alloying elements in steel is their effect on hardenability. this relationship is e#pressed as 1.91 has about 2. because the cooling rate during the heat treating operation 'aries with section si&e.. the following specifications either contain a toughness re uirement or pro'ide for a toughness test in the supplementary re uirement+ • A2:6(A2:6M • A9=0(A9=0M • A:68(A:68M • A819(A819M • A8=8(A8=8M • A862(A862M For those specifications not mentioned. A963. the test procedures used for toughness e'aluations are aimed at determining the resistance of the metal to the rapid propagation of a discontinuity.04 total alloying elements/ !C :991 has about 9. Of course. the ability of a steel to resist brittle. as determined by tests on smooth bars is generally in the range of :1-=14 of the tensile strength.

g.e.2211F ):8=. $he hydrogen can be remo'ed by heating the steel at about :11F )01:C*. Care should be ta"en to dry all steelma"ing and refining additions as well as molds. $he optimum utili&ation of these steels can be obtained best from a thorough understanding of the specifications co'ering these steels. )019.2211F ):08. Hydrogen E%%e ts -. the amount of either of these elements re uired to impart the necessary o#idation resistance may cause a serious loss in ductility and toughness. e#cept cobalt. . $he role of the alloying elements in cast steel may be summari&ed as follows+ • All elements. low alloy steels for ele'ated temperature ser'ice contain chromium. phosphorous. the remo'al from hea'y sections. the use of the special melting-refining should be considered. arsenic. abo'e 6in. chromium. • Sulfur causes hot crac"s. Additions of aluminum and(or silicon are at least as effecti'e as those of chromium/ howe'er.hen many alloy steels are heated in or slowly cooled through the range 611. .owe'er. the attainment of the low amounts )less than 9 ppm* of hydrogen in steel can be achie'ed by the use of ladle 'acuum treatments. $his loss in toughness is belie'ed to be caused by a grain boundary precipitation of iron compounds rich in phosphorous.=39C* is sufficient. • Phosphorous. Another form of hydrogen crac"ing of steel occurs when the steel is e#posed to hydrogen at high pressure and high temperature. minor additions of nic"el. and tin accelerate temper embrittlement. the use of melting practices to achie'e low phosphorous )the practice to lower phosphorous also will lower arsenic. such practices are e#pensi'e. antimony and tin* is desirable.owe'er. • Manganese plus sulfur impro'e machinability. re uires a 'ery long heating time at :11F )01:C*. 'anadium. and molybdenum retards the effect. the pressure of which becomes high enough to rupture the steel. as already stated. diffuses into the steel and reacts with the carbides to form methane gases. At ele'ated temperatures increasing amounts of chromium increase resistance to o#idation and. the most important are the raw materials used in the melting and refining process and traces of moisture in the molds used for casting. As is true for the wrought steels. Fortunately. molybdenum.hen present in amounts as low as 9 parts per million. increase hardenability. $o remo'e test bars from the casting is impractical because remo'al of material for testing would destroy the usefulness of the component or re uire costly weld repairs to replace the material for testing purposes. and the metallurgical characteristics of the steel. • ?ic"el impro'es toughness. . and tin/ manganese and silicon enhance the action of these elements. • Chromium impro'es o#idation resistance. arsenic. hydrogen remo'al from hea'y castings intended for se'ere structural applications is essential. • All carbide forming elements retard softening during tempering. $he steel does not need to ha'e high 'alues of hardness or strength. e. a significant loss in ductility and toughness occurs. and for most applications the use of molybdenum and(or a'oiding heating-in or slow cooling through the critical range 611. . One e#ample is in sour crude wells. Su!!ary Structural carbon and low alloy cast steels en%oy a wide application for load bearing applications.hen these practices are impractical. . and. hydrogen can enter solid steel as a result of a corrosion reaction at the surface of the steel. Also. antimony. Se'eral specifications pro'ide for the mass effect by permitting the testing of coupons which are larger than the basic "eel bloc". occasionally. $he mass effect discussed abo'e. the benefit of achie'ing a low hydrogen content must be sufficient to %ustify the high cost of the 'acuum treatment. the differences in cooling rate between that of test coupons and of the part being produced. and because resistance to crac" propagation decreases as the section si&e increases. $he physical mechanism at wor". at the high pressure and temperature. Of course. antimony. Amongst the sources of hydrogen in steel. • Carbon increases strength but decreases toughness. . • Molybdenum retards temper embrittlement and increases ele'ated temperature strength. i.attached to the castings.hen this occurs in steels ha'ing a hardness abo'e 09 . Corrosion Resistan e -$he cast carbon and low alloy steels are not considered to be corrosion resistant materials. is that hydrogen.7C. Te!&er E!brittle!ent -.=39C*. Ob'iously. hydrogen in steel significantly reduces toughness and ductility.0mm*. copper and silicon will increase resistance of cast steels to atmospheric corrosion to the e#tent that for some applications no protection such as paint is re uired. $he solution to the problem is to add alloying elements that form stable carbides which will not react with the hydrogen. is the fundamental reason for this situation. For this reason. crac"ing may occur and the susceptibility of a steel to crac"ing increases rapidly as the hardness increases abo'e 09 . .7C.ydrogen is an undesirable element in steel/ none of the effects of hydrogen are good. • @anadium and tungsten impro'e ele'ated temperature strength.. the petroleum industry has imposed a ma#imum hardness restriction of 7c 09 on steels intended for ser'ice where corrosion will generate hydrogen absorption in the steel. and such practices ha'e been de'eloped 'ia ladle treatments. $he elements most commonly used are chromium. !t cannot be routinely e#pected that test specimens remo'ed from a casting will e#hibit the same properties as test specimens machined from the standard test coupon designs for which minimum properties are established in specifications.

$his obligation re uires a sound understanding of the metallurgical characteristics of the steel.<oth the manufacturer and the user ha'e an obligation to cooperate in the preparation of specifications that reflect and combine both the needs of the users and the capabilities of the manufacturers. and $S% &nternational' . p blished b! the Steel "o nders# Societ! of $merica. fabrication and ser'ice performance. and a continuous communication between the two groups on the pertinent problems encountered in manufacture. * This article was excerpted with permission from Chapter 18 of the 6th Edition of the Steel Castings Handbook.