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Hardness Testing

Learn Learn more mor about the types of hardness tests.


Hardness, as applied to most materials, particularly metals, has been defined in many ways by physicists, metallurgists and engineers. These definitions range from a "conglomeration of properties of a mate- rial more or less related to each other" to the commonly accepted idea of "resistance to permanent indentation." These varied definitions point out the complexity of truly defining hardness so that it satisfies all the criteria associated with the charac- teristics of hardness.

Before considering the widely used indentation method of hardness testing, mention should be made of other con- cepts of hardness determination, such as resistance to scratching, wear or abrasion and cutting, in addition to rebound and the measurement of rebound velocity. The general categories or types of hardness tests are as follows:

Static Indentation Test. As the most commonly used type of static indenta- tion test, a ball, diamond cone or a specific shaped diamond is forced into the material being tested. The relationship of the test force to the area or depth of the indentation is the measure of hardness. The Rockwell, Brinell, Knoop, Vickers and Ultrasonic hardness tests are of this type. This test shows how materials deform in their plastic range after having first passed through their elastic limit and acquiring a permanent set.

Scratch Test. One material is capable of scratching another. The Moh's scale and Bierbaum scratch are of this type. Moh's scale, developed in 1822, is still used today for classifying minerals. The scale consists of 10 original minerals numbered arbi- trarily from one to 10 as follows:

Diamond 10

Apatite 5

Corundum 9

Fluorite 4

Topaz 8

Cakite 3

Quartz 7

Gypsum 2

Orthoclase 6


Dynamic Hardness Test. The dynamic hardness of a material is the measure of rebound or velocity of the rebound produced by a rapidly falling mass that

NDT Specia l Settio n | Apri l 2007

includes an indenter. The most com- monly used test method employs the Scleroscope tester, invented in 1906 by A.R Shore and still used today. In this test, a diamond-tipped hammer inside

a graduated glass tube is allowed to fall

under its own weight from a fixed height on to the test specimen. The resulting rebound is measured from the graduated glass scale. A variation on this test is done

by measuring the return velocity of the hammer instead of the height of rebound. The Leeb test is a modern electronic ver- sion of the Scleroscope. It uses a carbide ball hammer that is spring rather than gravity powered. An electronic sensor measures the velocity of the hammer as it travels toward and away from the surface of the sample.

Abrasive and Cutting Hardness. There are two types—one relating to

a material's resistance to wear and the

other to the cutting ability. The abrasive mode usually requires the specimen

to be mounted on a rotating table and is subjected to a wearing action of an abrasive wheel applied at a specific pres- sure. The cutting mode is an indication of the workability of metals and involves variables such as sharpness, speed and amount of pressure applied to the cutting tool. Abrasion of materials has been the subject of many investigations through

the years and is associated to hardness in

a more comparative manner than other methods of testing.

Because of the many variables associ- ated with this testing, such as friction, lubrication, speed of test, surface condi- tions and other factors, no one method is recommended for determining abrasive

hardness. Wear is closely related to fric- tion and lubrication and these two factors are distinct phenomena. As a result, test procedures and interpretation varies with this type of testing. The development of

a wear tester gives the material engineer

and scientists an invaluable source for determining ranking wear resistance for the purpose of optimizing material selec- tion or developing a given application.

The Rockwell, Brinell, Knoop, Vickers and Ultrasonic hardness tests are types of static indentation hardness tests. Source.-/

Electromagnetic (Eddy Current). This test uses the principle of electro- magnetism. An electric current is applied to a coil, producing an electro-magnetic field in the coil, which builds and collaps- es with the frequency of the current. The test specimen of a conducting material is placed within this field and generates its own alternating current called eddy cur- rent. By using devices such as a magnetic bridge system, an eddy current tester can

distinguish variations in mass, shape, conductivity, permeability, hardness and alloy content to that of a known material by the relative amounts and types of eddy current produced. An experienced opera- tor can determine, to some degree, case depth hardness, but not as accurately as through indentation hardness. Also, this type of testing is extremely fast—restrict- ed only by how fast the test specimen can be passed through the coil—making it suitable for in-line, high volume sorting

of ferrous metals.

Ed Tobolsk! is a hardness product manager at Instron

(Norwood, MA).

e-mail ed_tobol^ii§>

For more information, call (800)

4737838. m