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Laboratory 2: Hardness testing

L a b o ra t o ry 2

Hardness Testing
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Objectives

• Students are required to understand the principles of hardness testing, i.e., Rockwell,
Brinell and Vickers hardness tests.
• Students are able to explain variations in hardness properties of selected materials
such as aluminium, steel, brass and welded metals and can explain factors that might
affects their hardness properties.
• Students can select appropriate macro-micro hardness testing techniques for suitable
materials-property analysis.
• Students are able to analyze the obtained hardness values in relevant to the nature of
each material to be measured and use this information as a tool for selecting suitable
materials for engineering applications.

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1. Literature Review

Hardness is one of the most basic mechanical properties of engineering materials.


Hardness test is practical and provide a quick assessment and the result can be used as a good
indicator for material selections. This is for example, the selection of materials suitable for metal-
forming dies or cutting tools. Hardness test is also employed for quality assurance in parts which
require high wear resistance such as gears.

The nomenclature of hardness comes in various terms depending on the techniques used for
hardness testing and also depends on the hardness levels of various types of materials. A scratch
hardness test is generally used for minerals, giving a wide range of hardness values in a Moh.s scale
at minimum and maximum values of 1 and 10 respectively. For example, talcum provides the lowest
value of 1 while diamond gives the highest of 10. The basic principle is that the harder material will
leave a scratch on a softer material. Hardness values of metals generally fall in a range of 4-8 in
Moh.s scale, which is not practical to differentiate hardness properties for engineering applications.
Therefore, indentation hardness measurement is conveniently used for metallic materials. A deeper or
wider indentation indicates a less resistance to plastic deformation of the material being tested,
resulting in a lower hardness value.

The indentation techniques involve Brinell, Rockwell, Vickers and Knoop. Different types
of indenters are applied for each type. The standard test methods according to the American Society
Testing and Materials (ASTM) available are, for instance, ASTM E10-07a (Standard test method for
Brinell hardness of metallic materials), ASTM E18-08 (Standard test method for Rockwell hardness
of metallic materials) and ASTM E92-41 (Standard test method for Vickers hardness of metallic
materials) These hardness testing techniques are selected in relation to specimen dimensions, type of
materials and the required hardness information. Their principles and testing methods are mentioned
as follow.
1.1 Brinell Hardness Test

Brinell hardness test was invented by J.A. Brinell in 1900 using a steel ball indenter with a
10 mm diameter. The steel ball is pressed on a metal surface to provide an impression as
demonstrated in figure 1. This impression should not be distorted and must not be too deep since this
might cause too much of plastic deformation, leading to errors of the hardness values.

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Different levels of material hardness result in impression of various diameters and depths.
Therefore different loads are used for hardness testing of different materials as listed in table 1. Hard
metals such as steels require a 3,000 kgf load while brass and aluminium involve the loads of 2,000
and 1,000 or 500 kgf respectively. For materials with very high hardness, a tungsten carbide ball is
utilized to avoid the distortion of the ball.

c) Impression on Brinell hardness


test sample

Figure 1: (a) Brinell indentation (b) measurement of impression diameter and c) Impression
on Brinell hardness test sample [1].

In practice, pressing of the steel ball on to the metal surface is carried out for 30 second,
followed by measuring two values of impression diameters normal to each other using a low
magnification macroscope. An average value is used for the calculation according to equation 1
P P
BHN = = ; (1)
(πD / 2)( D − D 2 − d 2 ) πDt

where P is the applied load, kg


D is the diameter of the steel ball, mm
d is the diameter of the indentation, mm
t is the depth of impression, mm

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Note: This BHN values has a unit of kgf.mm-2 (1 kgf.mm-2 = 9.8 MPa) which cannot be
compared to the average mean pressure on the impression.

Generally, the metal surface should be flat without oxide scales or debris because these will
significantly affect the hardness values obtained. A good sampling size due to a large steel ball
diameter is advantageous for materials with highly different microstructures or microstructural
heterogeneity. Scratches or surface roughness have very small effects on the hardness values
measured. However, there are some disadvantages of Brinell hardness test. These are errors arising
from the operator themselves (from diameter measurement) and the limitation in measuring of too
small samples.

Figure 2:Plastic deformation surrounded by elastic material underneath a Brinell indenter

If we considered the plastic zone beneath the Brinell indenter, this plastic region is
surrounded by elastic material which obstructs the plastic flow. This condition is said to be plane
strain compressive where plastic deformation is limited. If the metal is very rigid, the metal flow
upwards surrounding the indenter is possible as illustrated in figure 1 a). However this situation is
rarely seen because the metal displaced by the indenter is accounted for by the reduced volume of
elastic material.
1.2 Rockwell Hardness Test

Rockwell hardness test is commonly used among industrial practices because the Rockwell
testing machine offers a quick and practical operation and can also minimize errors arising from the
operator. The depth of an indentation determines the hardness values. There are two types of

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indenters, Brale and steel ball indenters. The former is a round-tip cone with an included angle of
120o whereas the latter is a hardened steel ball with their sizes ranging from 1.6-12.7 mm. Therefore
different combinations of indenters and loads selected are suitable for hardness testing of various
materials. This is for example; the R scale is employed for soft materials such as polymers while the
A scale is suitable for hardness testing of hard materials such as tool materials according to table 1.

The testing procedure starts with indenting a flatly ground metal surface with a diamond or
hardened steel ball with a minor load of 10 kgf to position the metal surface as shown in figure 3. .
The depth of the impression caused by the minor load will be recorded as H1onto the machine before
applying a major load level according to a standard as shown in table 2 and is recorded as H2. The
difference of the depths (∆H= H1-H2) when applying the minor and the major loads indicates the
hardness value of the material. If the depth difference is small, the deformation resistance of the
metal is high, resulting in a high Rockwell hardness value. The hardness value will be displayed on a
dial or a screen, having 100 divisions and each division represents a depth of 0.002 mm. Therefore
the hardness value can be determined from a relationship as follows
∆H
HRX = M − ; (2)
0.002

Where ∆H is H1-H2 and M is the maximum scale which equals 100 in general for testing
with the diamond indenter (scale A, C and D). The M value equals 130 when testing with a steel ball
for Rockwell scales B, E, M, and R.

Figure 3: Rockwell hardness measurement showing positions to apply the minor and major loads.

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The Rockwell hardness units are in RA, RB and RC (or HRA, HRB, HRC), depending on
material.s hardness. Tables 1 and 2 summarize loads and types of an indenter utilized for each scale.
There are two types of indenters used, Brale indenter and steel ball indenters as mentioned previously.
The applied major loads vary from 60, 100 and 150 kgf, also depending on the Rockwell hardness
scale utilized. For instance, hardened steel is tested on a Rockwell scale C using a Brale indenter and
at a major load of 150 kgf. On the Rockwell scale C, the obtained hardness values range from RC 20 F
RC 70. Metals with lower hardness are tested on a Rockwell scale B using a 1.6 mm diameter steel
ball at a 100 kgf major load, providing RB 0 F RB 100 hardness values. Rockwell scale A offers a
wider range of hardness values which can be used to test materials ranging from annealed brass to
cemented carbide. Due to high accuracy, the Rockwell hardness test is commonly conducted for
measuring hardness of heat-treated steels. Furthermore, the smaller indenter (in comparison to that of
Brinell hardness test) facilitates hardness measurement in small areas. However, this technique
requires good surface preparation since the hardness values obtained is significantly affected by rough
and scratched surfaces.

There are several considerations for Rockwell hardness test


- Require clean and well positioned indenter and anvil
- The test sample should be clean, dry, smooth and oxide-free surface
- The surface should be flat and perpendicular to the indenter
- Low reading of hardness value might be expected in cylindrical surfaces
- Specimen thickness should be 10 times higher than the depth of the indenter
- The spacing between the indentations should be 3 to 5 times of the indentation diameter
- Loading speed should be standardized.

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Table 1: Rockwell hardness scale for various mateirals

Minor Load Major Load


Scale Indenter kgf kgf
A Diamond cone 10 50
B 1/16" steel ball 10 90
C Diamond cone 10 140
D Diamond cone 10 90
E 1/8" steel ball 10 90
F 1/16" steel ball 10 50
G 1/16" steel ball 10 140
H 1/8" steel ball 10 50
K 1/8" steel ball 10 140
L 1/4" steel ball 10 50
M 1/4" steel ball 10 90
P 1/4" steel ball 10 140
R 1/2" steel ball 10 50
S 1/2" steel ball 10 90
V 1/2" steel ball 10 140

Table 2: Applied loads and types of indenter used in Rockwell scale A,B and C hardness testing.

1.3 Vickers Hardness Test

Vickers hardness test requires a diamond pyramid indenter with an included angle of 136o.
This technique is also called a diamond pyramid hardness test (DPH) according to the shape of the
indenter. To carry on the test, the diamond indenter is pressed on to a prepared metal surface to cause
a square-based pyramid indentation as illustrated in figure 4.

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www.twi.co.uk

c) Impression on Vickers hardness test


sample

Figure 4: Vickers hardness test (a) Vickers indentation, (b) measurement of impression diagonal.

The Vickers hardness value (VHN) can be calculated from the applied load divided by
areas of indentation, at which the latter is derived from the diagonals of the pyramid as expressed in
the equation below
2 P sin (θ / 2 ) 1.854 P
VHN = =
d2 d2 ;(2)

Where P is the applied load, kg


d is the average length of the diagonals = (d1+d2)/2) , mm
θ is the angle between the opposite faces of the diamond) = 136o

Generally, the applied load should be carefully selected to achieve a perfect square-based
pyramid indentation for accurate hardness values, see figure 5 (a). The pincushion indentation as
shown in figure 5 (b) normally observed in annealed metal results from sinking of metal surrounding
the pyramid faces. The measured diagonals would be too long, thus, giving an under-estimated
hardness value. In figure 5 (c), a barrel-shaped indentation usually achieved from cold-worked metals
provides an indentation with metal pile-up at the pyramid faces. In such a case, the measured
diagonals would be too small and lead to an over-estimated hardness value obtained.

Vickers hardness is widely used in experimental and research areas because the VHN scale
practically offers a wide range of hardness values. For instance, the VHN values range from 5 to
1,500 can be obtained from measuring materials from dead soft to full hard. This method is therefore
more convenient and provides a wider range of the hardness values in comparison to those obtained

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from Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests. The applied loads vary from 1-120 kg, which depends on
the materials being tested. However, Vickers hardness test is incommonly used for company daily
checks. This is due to errors which might occur in the measurement of the diagonals and longer time
required to finish the test.

Figure 5: Vickers hardness indentations a) perfect indentation, b) pincushion and c) barrel-shaped.


1.4 Micro Vickers hardness test

Micro Vickers hardness requires a micro-sized indenter (figure 6), which allows hardness
measurement in very limited areas such as surfaces of fine wires, thin sheets and foils. Moreover
hardness measurements at specific microstructural phases of materials, for instance, hardness
measurment of ferrites and pearlites existing in steels is also possible. This is beneficial for
identifying any hardness variation caused by metallurgical changes such as hardening, quenching,
plating, welding, bonding processes, where the larger indenter used for macro Vickers hardness test
limits its application in this case. The testing procedure of micro Vickers hardness is similar to that of
macro Vickers hardness. However, the prepared surface should be well polished without any fine
scratches in order to minimize errors which might occur when indenting on these scratches.

Another useful type of micro hardness test employs a Knoop indenter as shown in figure 6
(right) in order to accommodate limited testing areas such as on cross-sections of heat-treated
surfaces. The Knoop hardness number (KHN) can be calculated from the applied load divided by the
unrecovered projected area of the indention as follows
14.2 P
KHN = ;(3)
l2

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Where P is the applied load, kg


l is the length of the long diagonals, mm

Figure 6: Micro hardness indentations a) Vickers diamond-pyramid indenter, b) Knoop diamond-


pyramid indenter.

Furthermore, the strength of some metals can be determined from the plastic area under the
stress-strain curve. This is of interest when the strength of the materials can not be measured directly
from the standard tensile test. In this case, the yield strength at 0.2% offset can be determined from
the Vickers hardness number as shown in the expression
VHN
σo = (0.1) n ;(5)
3

where σo is the yield strength at 0.2% offset, kgf mm-2 (= 9.8 MPa)
VHN is the Vickers hardness number, VHN
n is the work hardening exponent

In summary, hardness measurements for example Brinell, Rockwell, Vickers and Knoop
are considered to be fast and easy ways to acquire hardness values of materials. Suitable hardness
measurements should be selected depending on the nature of the materials, dimensions, specimen
locations to be measured, metallurgical microstructures or phases of interest, etc. Analysis of the

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hardness data leads to better understanding of materials and further development in advanced
materials. The selection of proper materials to be used in desired applications can be therefore
effectively made. Moreover, prediction of material strength is possible by interpreting the hardness
values if the work hardening exponent is known.

!"#$% 7: 3456789:;<=>?:@=>?ABCADC83EFG@=HDIJKJLMCกกC<@JOP?3?? Micro Vicker/Knoop 3RS


Rockwell scale C.

!"#$% 8: 3456789:;<=>?:@=>?ABCADC83EFG3RSABCADC83EFG3<GEPG Carbon steel 3RS Alloy steel

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For convenience, the hardness values measured using different methods such as Brinell,
Rockwell or Vickers testing can be converted using the hardness value conversion table as shown in
table 3.
Table 3 Hardness value conversion table for Brinell, Rockwell 3RS Vickers hardness values.

Rockwell Superficial Rockwell Brinell


Diamond 10 mm Ball, Tensile strength
1/16" Ball "N" Brale Penetrater
Brale 3000 kgf Load
Vickers
15 kg 30 kg 45 kg Diam. Of Ball
150 kgf 60 kgf 100 kgf 100 kgf Hardness Equivalent 1000 lb. Sq.
Load Load Load Impression in
C Scale A Scale D Scale B Scale Number In.
15 N 30N 45N mm
80 92 87 97 92 87 1865
79 92 86 92 87 1787
78 91 85 96 91 86 1710
77 91 84 91 85 1633
76 90 83 96 90 84 1556
75 90 83 89 83 1478
74 89 82 95 89 82 1400
73 89 81 88 81 1323
72 88 80 95 87 80 1245
71 87 80 87 79 1160
70 87 79 94 86 78 1076
69 86 78 94 85 77 1004
68 86 77 85 79 942
67 85 76 93 84 75 894
66 85 76 93 83 73 854
65 84 75 92 82 72 2.25 745 820
64 84 74 81 74 2.30 710 789
63 83 73 92 80 70 2.30 710 763
62 83 73 91 79 69 2.35 682 746
61 82 72 91 79 68 2.35 682 720
60 81 71 90 78 67 2.40 653 697
59 81 70 90 77 66 2.45 627 674 326
58 80 69 89 76 65 2.55 578 653 315
57 80 69 89 75 63 2.55 578 633 304
56 79 68 88 74 62 2.60 555 613 294
55 79 67 88 73 61 2.60 555 595 287
54 78 66 87 72 60 2.65 534 577 279
53 77 65 87 71 59 2.70 514 560 269
52 77 65 86 70 57 2.75 495 544 261
51 76 64 86 69 56 2.75 495 528 254
50 76 63 86 69 55 2.80 477 513 245
49 75 62 85 68 54 2.85 461 498 238
48 75 61 85 67 53 2.90 444 484 232
47 74 61 84 66 51 2.90 444 471 225

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Rockwell Superficial Rockwell Brinell


Diamond 10 mm Ball, Tensile strength
1/16" Ball "N" Brale Penetrater
Brale 3000 kgf Load
Vickers
15 kg 30 kg 45 kg Diam. Of Ball
150 kgf 60 kgf 100 kgf 100 kgf Hardness Equivalent 1000 lb. Sq.
Load Load Load Impression in
C Scale A Scale D Scale B Scale Number In.
15 N 30N 45N mm
46 73 60 84 65 50 2.95 432 458 219
45 73 59 83 64 49 3.00 415 446 211
44 73 59 83 63 48 3.00 415 434 206
43 72 58 82 62 47 3.05 401 423 202
42 72 57 82 61 46 3.10 388 412 198
41 71 56 81 60 44 3.10 388 402 191
40 70 55 80 60 43 3.15 375 392 185
39 70 55 80 59 42 3.20 363 382 181
38 69 54 79 58 41 3.25 352 372 176
37 69 53 109 79 57 40 3.30 341 363 171
36 68 52 109 78 56 39 3.35 331 354 168
35 68 52 108 78 55 37 3.35 331 345 163
34 67 51 108 77 54 36 3.40 321 336 159
33 67 50 107 77 53 38 3.45 311 327 154
32 66 49 106 76 52 34 3.50 302 318 150
31 66 48 106 76 51 33 3.55 293 310 146
30 65 48 105 75 50 32 3.60 285 302 142
29 65 47 104 75 50 30 3.65 277 294 138
28 64 46 103 74 49 29 3.70 269 286 134
27 64 45 103 73 48 28 3.75 262 279 131
26 63 45 102 73 47 27 3.80 255 272 126
25 63 44 101 72 46 26 3.80 255 266 124
24 62 43 100 72 45 24 3.85 248 260 122
23 62 42 99 71 44 23 3.90 241 254 118
22 62 42 99 71 43 22 3.95 235 248 116
21 61 41 98 70 42 21 4.00 229 243 113
20 61 40 97 69 42 20 4.05 223 238 111
18 95 4.10 217 230 107
16* 94 4.15 212 222 102
14* 92 4.25 203 213 98
12* 90 4.35 192 204 92
10* 89 4.40 187 195 90
8* 87 4.50 179 187 87
6* 85 4.60 170 180 83
4* 84 4.65 166 173 79
2* 82 4.80 156 166 77
0* 81 4.80 156 160 74
79 4.90 149 156 73
77 5.00 143 150 70
74 5.10 137 143 67
72 5.20 131 137 65
70 5.30 126 132 62

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Rockwell Superficial Rockwell Brinell


Diamond 10 mm Ball, Tensile strength
1/16" Ball "N" Brale Penetrater
Brale 3000 kgf Load
Vickers
15 kg 30 kg 45 kg Diam. Of Ball
150 kgf 60 kgf 100 kgf 100 kgf Hardness Equivalent 1000 lb. Sq.
Load Load Load Impression in
C Scale A Scale D Scale B Scale Number In.
15 N 30N 45N mm
68 5.40 121 127 60
65 5.50 116 122 58
5.60 112 117 56

In summary, hardness testing methods for example Brinell, Rockwell, Vickers and Knoops
are practical in measuring mechanical properties of metals and other engineering materials. It is
essential for engineers to select an appropriate hardness testing method for the desired applications or
materials used. This is depending on size and shape of the test pieces, metallurgical phases and their
locations to be analysed. The correct hardness values are beneficial for material selection and design
together with material development for higher performance. Moreover, the hardness values can be
used for estimating other related mechanical properties of the materials, for example, tensile strength
or yield strength.

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2. Materials and equipment


2.1 Test specimens
2.2 Brinell hardness machine
2.3 Rockwell hardness machine
2.4 Vickers hardness machine
2.5 Micro Vickers hardness machine
3. Experimental procedure
3.1 Surfaces of aluminium, brass steel and weld samples must be flattened and ground using
sand papers. Polishing of the metal surface is required for only Rockwell and Vickers
hardness tests while Brinell hardness test requires only flat and ground surfaces.
3.2 Hardness measurement is carried out using Brinell, Rockwell and Vickers hardness testing
techniques on the prepared surfaces at 10 positions on each sample.
3.3 Hardness profile testing is conducted across the weld sample at 10 positions and 1 mm
intervals using a Vickers hardness testing machine.
3.4 Micro Vickers hardness testing is carried out using the polished samples.
3.5 Summarize the experimental results on the table provided and exhibit the results
graphically. Compare and discuss the obtained results in order to relate hardness properties
of the metals to their microstructure. Give conclusions.

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4. Results
4.1 Brinell hardness values (BHN)
Position Aluminium Mild steel Brass
Position 1
Position 2
Position 3
Position 4
Position 5
Position 6
Position 7
Position 8
Position 9
Position 10
Mean
Stdev

Table 2: Brinell hardness values of aluminium, mild steel, brass and weld

Figure 4: Graph showing Brinell hardness values of aluminium, mild steel and brass.

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4.2 Rockwell hardness values (HRA, HRB, HRC)


Position Aluminium Mild steel Brass
Position 1
Position 2
Position 3
Position 4
Position 5
Position 6
Position 7
Position 8
Position 9
Position 10
Mean
Stdev

Table 3: Rockwell hardness values of aluminium, mild steel, brass and weld

Figure5: Graph showing Rockwell hardness values of aluminium, mild steel and brass.

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4.3 Vickers hardness values


Position Aluminium Mild steel Brass Weld
Position 1
Position 2
Position 3
Position 4
Position 5
Position 6
Position 7
Position 8
Position 9
Position 10
Mean
Stdev

Table 4: Vickers hardness values of aluminium, mild steel, brass and the weld.

Figure 6: Graph showing Vickers hardness values of aluminium, mild steel and brass.

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4.4 Micro Vickers hardness (VHN)


Position Aluminium Mild steel Brass
Position 1
Position 2
Position 3
Position 4
Position 5
Position 6
Position 7
Position 8
Position 9
Position 10
Mean
Stdev

Table 5: Micro Vickers hardness values of aluminium, mild steel, brass and weld

Figure 7: Graph showing micro Vickers hardness value of aluminium, mild steel and brass.

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4.5 Hardness profile of welded sample in relevant to the weld microstructure

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5. Discussion
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6. Conclusions
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7. Questions
7.1 Which metal does provide the highest hardness values? Why?
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7.2 Explain why the hardness values in the welded area are different from the hardness values
obtained in the base metal.
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7.3 Compare Macro Vickers and micro Vickers hardness values obtained from the
experimental results.
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7.4 Explain the relationship between hardness and tensile strength values.
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8. References
8.1 Dieter, G.E., Mechanical metallurgy, 1988, SI metric edition, McGraw-Hill, ISBN 0-07-
100406-8.
8.2 Hashemi, S. Foundations of materials science and engineering, 2006, 4th edition, McGraw-
Hill, ISBN 007-125690-3.

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