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Hardness Testing

Hardness is not a bulk property of a material so hardness values are
arbitrary and have no standards of hardness.
Macro, micro, and nano tests are used to measure hardness of a material.

Macro is a larger measurement for bulk properties and is not suitable for
surface hardness or coatings like in the case of my research.

Micro indenting often done by Vickers or Knoop indenter is best for surface
hardness in my problem.
I. A tip is pressed into the sample
II. Constant measuring of applied load, penetration depth, and cycle time

Nano indentation usually involves very small indentation forces on the order
of nano-Newtons.

Typically used in the metal industry for accuracy are the Brinnell, Rockwell,
and Vickers hardness tests.


ASTM Standard E 18, Standard Test Methods for Rockwell Hardness of
Metallic Materials.

Different scales available and has no units. However, the higher the number
in the relative scales indicates a harder material. According to University of
Maryland, the Rockwell hardness test is the most used and versatile of the
tests. For soft materials such as aluminum alloys, a 1/16 steel ball with a
100 kg load is used and the results are read from the B scale.

Measures difference between depth of first indent, minor indent (Used at

smaller load to seat the indenter correctly) and the second indent, major
indent (Heavy Load). It measures depth of immersion.

Reading Rockwell hardness numbers is done like so: 60 HRB stands for a
Rockwell Hardness of 60 on the B scale.


Does measurements by pressing a known diameter steel ball into the
surface under a known load and then measuring the diameter of the
resulting indentation. Numbers produced are found by dividing the load in
kg by the surface area of the indentation in mm^2. Unit is a pressure
measurement and units arent often used but are described as the Brinnell
Number. Typical loads for cast aluminum is 1500 kg and 3000 kg for iron
and steel for about 10-15 seconds.
Reading Brinnell hardness is done like so: 75 HB 10/500/30 stands for a
Brinnell Hardness of 75 was obtained used a 10 mm diameter ball with a
500 kg load for 30 seconds.

Brinnell tests make the largest and widest indentations so the test covers a
larger amount of material which will account for multiple grain structures,
irregularities, and more grains.


Vickers is the standard for measuring hardness of metals, particularly
metals with extremely hard surfaces. A pyramid-shaped diamond tip is used
as the indenter.

Advantages of the Vickers hardness test is that there are no arbitrary

scales, measurements of indentations are more accurate, all measurements
are used with the same indenter.


Similar to the Vickers hardness test but alls the hardness testing of brittle

Considerations for my selection of a hardness test:

Surface Finish - If I polish my surface then I lose some of the residual
stress from my casting. Brinnell and Rockwell need a smooth surface, not
necessarily polished.