HARDNESS TESTING THEORY

Hardness is usually defined as • Resistance to permanent indentation under static or dynamic loads • Energy absorption under impact loads • Resistance to abrasion • Resistance to cutting or drilling There are three main types of tests used to determine hardness: • Scratch Tests are the simplest form of hardness tests. In this test, various materials are rated on their ability to scratch one another. Mohs hardness test is of this type. This test is used mainly in mineralogy. • In Dynamic Hardness Tests, an object of standard mass and dimensions is bounced back from a surface after falling by its own weight. The height of the rebound is indicated. Shore hardness is measured by this method. • Static Indentation Tests are based on the relation of indentation of the specimen by a penetrator under a given load. The relationship of total test force to the area or depth of indentation provides a measure of hardness. The Rockwell, Brinell, Knoop and Vickers hardness tests are of this type. For engineering purposes, mostly the static indentation tests are used.

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DYNAMIC OR ELASTIC HARDNESS TEST

The Shore Scleroscope:
 Scleroscope hardness is expressed by a number given by the height of rebound of a small pointed hammer after falling with in a glass tube from a height of 10 in. against the surface of the specimen.  The standard hammer is approximately 1/4 in. in diameter, 3/4 in. long and weighs 1/12 oz, with a diamond striking tip rounded to a 0.01 in. radius.  The indications obtained by the use of this instrument depend upon the resilience of the hammer as well as that material tested, but the permanent deformation of the material is also an important factor.  When the hammer falls onto a soft surface, it penetrates that surface to some extent before rebounding and produces a minute indentation. In so doing, part of the energy of fall is absorbed, and the energy available for rebound is comparatively small.  If the hammer is dropped on a hard surface, the size of the indentation is much smaller, so that less energy is absorbed in making it. The rebound of the hammer in this case is therefore much higher than before. The height of rebound, rather the diameter, or depth of indentation, any one of which might logically have been used, is taken as the measure of hardness.  Various precautions must be observed if reliable results are to be obtained. • The surface of the specimen should be flat, smooth, and free from oil or other materials. The glass tube through which the hammer falls must be carefully plumbed to avoid rubbing of the hammer on its inners surface. All specimens should be securely clamped to the anvil to avoid inertia effect. • When making a hardness determination, several reading should be taken to get a fair average, but the hammer should not be dropped more than once on any one spot because of the possible effect to strain hardening.

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• The condition of the diamond point is very important and should be checked frequently by using hardened steel reference blocks. larger variations are indicative of possible cracking or chipping of the diamond. The indicated hardness should not vary more than ±5 percent from that stamped on the blocks. 3 .

Scratch hardness . The scale consists of 10 different standard minerals arranged in order of increasing hardness. gypsum No.  An extension of Mohs scale devised for this purpose is given below.SCRATCH TESTS / RESISTANCE TO CUTTING OR ABRASION Scratch Hardness Test:  This test was developed by Friedrich Mohs.  Talc No. the hardness value is between 5 and 6. 2. up to 9 for corundum. When the hardness of the minerals is checked by another hardness test method. etc. 1.  In this test a mineral will scratch other minerals that are lower on the scale (smaller hardness number) and will in turn be scratched by minerals higher on the scale. and there is a large gap in hardness between 9 and 10. 5.  If an unknown material is scratched noticeably by No 6 and not by No. 10 for Diamond. it is found that the values are compressed between 1 and 9..mineralogical basis Mohs’ scale Hardness Reference No mineral 1 Talc 2 Gypsum 3 Calcite 4 Fluorite 5 Apatite Extension of Mohs’ scale Hardness Reference No mineral 1 Talc 2 Gypsum 3 Calcite 4 Fluorite 5 Apatite Metal Equivalent 4 .  This test has never been used to any great extent in metallurgy but is still used in mineralogy.  With the development in recent years of extremely hard abrasive has come the need for more adequately distinguishing between materials in the range of hardness between that of quartz and that of diamond.  The primary disadvantage is that the hardness scale is non uniform.

is moved laterally by means of a worm gear causing the point to cut a groove in the surface of the test specimen. The device for making such a test is often referred to as a Sclerometer.  The Bierbaum scratch hardness equals the load on the diamond point. in kilograms. shaped in the form of the corner of a cube and carrying a load of 3g.  In this methods an accurately ground diamond point.  Sclerometer tests are simple in principle but they are difficult to standardize and interpret and have not come into general use except in the Bierbaum scratch hardness test of plastics. divided by the square of the width of the scratch in millimeters.6 Feldspar (orthoclase) 6 7 Orthoclase Vitreous pure silica Quartz Topaz Garnet Fused zirconia Fused alumina Silicon Carbide Boron Carbide Diamond 7 8 Quartz Topaz 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Stellite 9 Sapphire or corundum Tantalum carbide Tungsten carbide 10 Diamond Sclerometers:  In an attempt to obtain a quantitative measure of hardness on the scratch principle. a number of tests have been proposed in which there is measured either the pressure required to make a given scratch or the size of scratch produced by a stylus drawn across the surface under a fixed load. 5 .

the speed. shape.  This test is generally used industrially as one of the acceptance or rejection. 6 . and angle of filing during the test. and hardness of the file. particularly with tool steels.  In many cases.  By running a file across the surface an inspector may rapidly check a large number of heat treated parts to determine whether the treatment has been successful.  Comparative tests with a file depend upon the size.File Test:  The test piece is subjected to the cutting action of a file of known hardness to determine whether a visible cut is produced. when the steel is properly heat-treated it will be hard enough so that if a file is run across the surface it will not cut the surface. and the composition and heat treatment of the material under test. It is not unusual to find heat-treating specifications which simply say “heat-treat until material is file-hard”. pressure.

 The Brinell hardness test consists in indenting the metal surface with a 10-mm diameter steel ball at a load range of 500-3000 kgf.STATIC INDENTATION TESTS Brinell Hardness Test:  Johan August Brinell introduced the first standardized indentation hardness test in 1900.  The material of the specimen is permanently deformed for an appreciable distance below the surface of the indentation. otherwise difficulty will be experienced in making an accurate determination of the diameter of the indentation. 7 . the surface of the specimen should be flat and reasonably well polished. If this indentation is extends to the lower or opposite surface. Procedure:  To make a test. the size of the indentation may be greater for some materials and less for others than for thicker specimen of the same materials.  If the specimen is prepared from rough stock.  If an indentation made and the thickness was less than the critical value a spot of altered surface was visible on the underside of the specimen. after which interval the load is released and the diameter of the indentation is measured with the microscope.  No marking shall appear on the side of the piece opposite the indentation and also requires the thickness of the specimen to be at least 10 times the depth of the indentation. depending on hardness of particular materials. the surface should be dressed with a file and then polished with a fine emery cloth. the full load is applied for a minimum of 10sec for ferrous metals and 30sec for softer metals.  In the standard test.

 If made too close to a previous one. If an indentation is made too near the edge of the specimen. it may be both too large and unsymmetrical. a noncircular indentation will result. owing perhaps to direction of rolling or to cooling stresses. the average Brinell hardness of the material may be obtained.5 times the diameter of the indentation. for example "75 HB 10/500/30" which means that a Brinell Hardness of 75 was obtained using a ball of 10mm diameter with a 500 kgf test force for a period of 30 seconds. Where: P = Applied Load (kgf) D = Diameter of indenter (mm) d = Diameter of indentation (mm)  A well structured Brinell hardness number reveals the test conditions. which is assumed to be spherical.  However. test have shown that the errors may be neglected if the distance of the center of the indentation from the edge of the specimen or from the center of adjacent indentations is equal to or greater than 2. in kilograms per square millimeter. 8 .  The Brinell hardness number is nominally the pressure per unit area. In this case. of the indentation that remains after the load is removed.  If the compressive properties of a flat specimen are not uniform. it may be one large owing to lack of sufficient supporting materials or too small owing to work hardening of the material by the first indentation. It is obtained by dividing the applied load by the area of the surface of the indentation.

because the ball itself deform too much. several precautions are necessary in order to obtain good results. there is tendency for the indenter itself to start deforming. also for such surface. the Brinell ball makes the deepest and widest indentation. so the test averages the hardness over a wider amount of material. In this case. The Brinell hardness number using the standard ball is limited to approximately 500HB.  It is not adapted to testing extremely hard materials.  It is not adapted to testing casehardened surface. it is possible to go to approximately 650HB. Limitation:  The Brinell test is a simple one to make. the indentation is almost invariably surrounded by a crack that may cause fatigue failure if the part is used in service. which will more accurately account for multiple grain structures and any irregularities in the uniformity of the material. because the depth of indentation may be greater than the thickness of the case and because the yielding of the soft core invalidates the results. particularly those materials with heterogeneous structures.  Compared to the other hardness test methods. As the material tested becomes harder. because the usual indentation may be greater than the thickness of the piece. The upper limit of the scale may be extended by using a tungsten carbide ball rather a hardened steel ball. 9 . This method is the best for achieving the bulk or macro-hardness of a material. nor is it satisfactory for testing thin piece such as razor blades.  The Brinell test should not be used for parts the marring of the surface of which impairs their value. and the readings will not be accurate.

 It is applicable to the testing of materials of having hardnesses beyond the scope of the Brinell test. This major load is customarily 60 to 100 kg when steel ball is used as an indenter though other loads may be used when found necessary. which differ by 30 hardness numbers. or 1/2 in. which causes an initial indentation that sets the indenter on the material and holds it in position. and it is usually 150 kg when the diamond cone is employed.  In the operation of the machine. 10 . depending on the condition of test. one red and the other black.  After the major load is applied and removed.Rockwell Hardness Test:  The Rockwell test is similar to the Brinell test in that the hardness number found is a function of the degree of indentation of the test piece by the action of an indenter under a given static load. may be employed for soft materials.  A shallow impression on a hard material will result in a high number while a deep impression on a soft material will result in a low number.  The ball indenter is normally 1/16 in. The dial was designed in this way to accommodate the B and C scale. 1/4. and it is faster because it gives arbitrary direct readings. the hardness reading is taken from the dial while the minor load is still is in position.  The dial of the machine has two set of figures. which were the first ones standardized and are the most widely used. and hence the resulting indention is smaller and shallower.  Various loads and indenters are used.  Then the major load is applied through a loaded lever system. It differs from the Brinell test in that the indenters and the loads are smaller. a minor load of 10 Kg is first applied by slowly raising the specimen against the indenter. in diameter. but other of larger diameter such as 1/8.

owing to some indentations being near the edge of a depression. Certain precautions are necessary.  Because of the many Rockwell scales. For example 82HRB means a Rockwell hardness of 82 measured on the B scale (1/16in. the hardness number must be specified by using the symbol HR followed by the letter designating the scale and preceded by the hardness numbers.  The C scale is the one most commonly used for materials harder than B 100. the 1/16 in.  If the ball indenter is used to test material harder than about B 100. The working range of this scale is from 0 to 100. ball and 100kg load). Two advantage were gained by this shifting of the zero points: • Negative number were avoided on soft material such brass. The useful range of this scale is from C 20 upward. • The test surface should be flat and free from scale. become supersensitive and the readings are erratic. oxide films.  The B scale is for testing materials of medium hardness such as low and medium carbon steels in the annealed condition. ball without deforming the ball. ball is used on material softer than B 0. there is danger that it will be flattened.  Because of the smallness indentation and because of the way it is measured. there is danger that the indenter that holds the ball in place will make contact with the specimen or that the weight arm will descend too far.  If the 1/16 in. and it should therefore not be used below this lower value. This permits a free flow of metal around the indenting tool and results in a low reading. Below B 0. ball owing to its shape. of which the following are the more important. • A pitted surface may give erratic reading. Any in accuranies that occur in grinding the diamond cone to its proper shape have a proportionately greater effect on small indentations. pits and foreign material that may affect the results. there are some differences in selecting and preparing test piece for the Rockwell test as compared with the Brinell test. The hardest steels run about C 70. 11 . when tested on the B scale. and • This established B 100 as the upper practical limit of hardness that might be tested with the 100Kg major load and the 1/16 in.

the hardness numbers will be too low. In industrial applications. 12 . • The hardness number determined by indenting a curved surface is in error because of the shape of the surface.• Oiled surface generally give slightly lower readings than dry ones because of the reduced friction under the indenter. • The bottom surface should be free from scale dirt. Also the spacing between the indentations should be 3 or 5 times the diameter of the indentation. If it is feasible. commonly in the case of shafts. it should be reconditioned and brought into proper adjustment. since the indenter will sink farther into the material than when such vibrations are absent. or other foreign materials that might crush or flow under the test pressure and so affect the results. If the error of the tester is more than ±2 hardness number. • Thickness should be 10 times higher that the depth of the indenter. • If the table on which the Rockwell hardness tester is mounted is subject to vibration. this problem is often encountered. a small flat spot may be filed on the rod before making the indentation.  The accuracy of Rockwell hardness tester is checked by the use of special test blocks that are available for all ranges of hardness.

 It is designed particularly for testing nitrided steel. diamond cone 15N 30N 45N X scale.  Instead of the 10 kg minor load and the 60. intended exclusively for hardness tests where only very shallow indentation is possible and where it is desired to known the hardness of the specimen close to the surface. The W. and brass. 100 or 150 kg major loads of the regular Rockwell. steel ball for testing “thin” sheet. 1/4in. ball 15Y 30Y 45Y 13 . 1/16in. bronze. X and Y scales are used for very soft materials. safety razor blades. ball 15X 30X 45X Y scale.  Since the diamond cone in these superficial machines is intended especially for use on “nitrided” work and the 1/16 in. Kg Scale Symbols T scale. 30 or 45 kg. W scale. ball 15T 30T 45T 15W 30W 45W 15 30 45 N scale. the letters N and T have been selected for these two scale designation.Rockwell Superficial Hardness Test:  This tester is a special purpose machine. Major Load. lightly carburized work. 1/2in. and steel sheet. ball 1/8in. the superficial tester applies a minor load of 3 kg and a major load of 15.  The superficial tester operates on the same principle as the regular Rockwell tester but employs lighter minor and major loads.

soft steels. aluminium alloys. . . . .Rockwell Hardness Scales Scale Indenter Dial numerals Black Red Black Black Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Red Minor Load F0 kgf 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 Major Load F1 kgf 50 90 140 90 90 50 140 50 140 50 90 140 50 90 140 Total Load F kgf 60 100 150 100 100 60 150 60 150 60 100 150 60 100 150 Value of E 100 130 100 100 130 130 130 130 130 130 130 130 130 130 130 A B C D E F G H K L M P R S V Diamond cone 1/16" steel ball Diamond cone Diamond cone 1/8" steel ball 1/16" steel ball 1/16" steel ball 1/8" steel ball 1/8" steel ball 1/4" steel ball 1/4" steel ball 1/4" steel ball 1/2" steel ball 1/2" steel ball 1/2" steel ball HRA . . . hard cast irons. . . . Annealed copper alloys. . . bearing metals HRF . aluminium and magnesium alloys. malleable irons. Soft bearing metals. Copper alloys. . . . . malleable irons HRH . . Aluminium. . } HRV . Cemented carbides. . Thin steel and medium case hardened steel and pearlitic malleable iron HRE . . } HRS . . . Cast iron. . . } HRL . . lead HRK . beryllium copper. . . . etc HRC . . . . } HRM . . . . . . . . plastics and other very soft materials HRP . . . Phosphor bronze. . . case hardened steel and other materials harder than 100 HRB HRD . } 14 . zinc.} . thin soft sheet metals HRG . . thin steel and shallow case hardened steel HRB . . . Steel. . . } HRR . . .

 The size of the indenter is also very small. but employs a square based pyramid made of diamond as the indenter.H =1.P.  The machine is more versatile than the Brinell hardness tester.  Owing to the fineness and the small size of the indentation obtained. only the load is changed in the Vickers hardness tester.  The indenter and an objective to measure the indentation can be swung into the correct positions are required. Thus the diamond pyramid hardness number D. divided by the surface area of the pyramidal indentation.  After indentation the size of the indentation is accurately measured by swiveling the microscope into position. and D = Diagonal length of the impression 15 .  As in the case of the Brinell hardness tester. the numerical value of Vickers hardness number is equal to the load applied. the indentation can be focused onto a graduated ground glass screen and measured. The impression obtained will have a square sectional area. Instead of changing the indenter as well the loads depending upon the nature of the material tested. The included angle between the opposite face of the pyramid is 136o.  The diagonal is measured using a crosswire focusing device in the optical equipment.845P/D2 Where P = Applied load.  Varying loads from 1 Kgf onwards up to 120 Kgf are employed.  In some types of hardness machines like the Galileo type. the specimen needs a glossy surface finish for testing.Vickers Hardness Test:  Vickers Hardness machine also function on the same principle as the Brinell hardness testing machine.

pyramid indenter would be a square. was obtained using a 10 kgf test force. which give the Vickers hardness number depending upon the diagonal length of the impression at each load.  The machine is the most accurate and versatile. the hardness number can be readily found. which means a Vickers hardness of 800. The Vickers hardness should be reported like 800 HV/10. besides periodic checking of the instrument against the standard steel blocks supplied along with. 16 . Using these charts.  Standard charts are supplied along with the Vickers machines.  Very careful handling of the indenter is recommended. Impressions made by Vickers Hardness: A perfect square indentation (a)  Made with a perfect diamond. Very high degree of polishing of the metal surface is required so that the impression can be perfectly focused and viewed and the diagonal accurately measured.

The barrel-shaped indentation (c)  Is found in cold-worked metals.The pincushion indentation (b)  Is the result of sinking in of the metal around the flat faces of the pyramid. 17 . Produce a low value of contact area giving too high value. resulting from ridging or piling up of the metal around the faces of the indenter. This gives an overestimate of the diagonal length (observed in annealed metals).

 Knoop tests are mainly done at test forces from 0. used for determining the hardness of extremely thin materials. The automatic mechanism functions and performs the following operations: • • Further movement of the specimen to touch the indenter. and • Lowering of the stage and thereby the specimen to the initial position.e. the dwelling time is normally 10-15 sec. the polished and etched specimen is placed on the stage of the instrument.  Then the instrument is put on by pressing the button.  The pyramid is cut to an included longitudinal angle of 172o 30’ and transverse angle of 130o. 18 . Knoop tests have mainly been known as Micro-hardness tests.  This facilitates in obtaining an impression which is rhombic in shape with the longer diagonal approximately seven times the shorter diagonal i.  The instrument done all the operations automatically by electronic control device. which is generally used.  Because of this. within a 1% tolerance. 7:1. so a high powered microscope is necessary to measure the indent size.01 to 1000 kgf. Nitrided or cyanided cases and decarburized surfaces of steel and the micro-constituents in an alloy can be tested by this instrument. Stopping the upward movement and applying the load. is accurately focused and the specimen is lifted up by moving the stage upwards just below the indenter. • Upward movement of the indenter after loading.  To test the hardness of a micro-constituent in an alloy. is a typically shaped diamond pyramid. whose hardness is being determined.  The depth of penetration of the indentation does not exceed on micron in this test. The phase under test.Knoop Hardness Test:  This is a special purpose machine.  The Knoop indenter.

the bottom portion of the specimen should also be carefully prepared. The longitudinal diagonal is the one measured in the impression. 19 . The numerical value of the Knoop hardness number is given by the formula: Where P = Applied load in Kgf L = Length of long diagonal. mm  Instead of using the Knoop indenter. Precautions:  The instrument is very sensitive and great care should be taken to see that the measurement of the diagonal is made accurately. the measurement should be exactly at right angles to the surface under test. To achieve this. so that it rest properly on the stage of the instrument. In such a case the hardness calculation should be performed as in the case of the Vickers hardness testing.  Since only the projected area of the indentation is taken into account. an ordinary Vickers type pyramid indenter may also be employed in the machine.

Hardness Testing Techniques 20 .

Accuracy of Any Indentation Hardness Test: Some of the factors that influence the accuracy of any indentation hardness test are: Condition of the indenter:  Flattening of a steel ball indenter will result in errors in the hardness number. steady operation of the loading mechanism. A long specimen should be properly supported so that it does not tip. scale. Any pits. Surface Condition of the Specimen:  The surface of the specimen on which the hardness reading is to be taken should be flat and representative of sound material. impact loading may damage diamond indenters. The recommended thickness of the specimen is at least ten times the depth of the impression. Thickness of Specimen:  The specimen should be thick enough so that no bulge appears on the surface opposite that of the impression. The ball should be checked frequently for permanent deformation and discarded when such deformation occurs. if possible. Accuracy of Load Applied:  The tester should apply loads in the stated range with negligible error. Impact loading:  Besides causing inaccurate hardness readings. Loads greater than the recommended amount should not be used for accurate testing. or grease should be removed by grinding or polishing. Shape of the Specimen:  The greatest accuracy is obtained when the test surface is flat and normal to the vertical axis of the indenter. The use of a controlled oil dash pot will ensure smooth. Diamond indenters should be checked for any sign of chipping. A flat surface should be prepared. on a cylindrical shaped 21 .

It can be used to determine 22 . and the square indentation is the easiest to measure accurately. it can test thinner sections than any other production test. Advantage and Disadvantages of Different Types of Tests:  The selection of a hardness test is usually determined by ease of performance and degree of accuracy desired. when the material tested is not homogeneous.  Since the Brinell test leaves a relatively large impression. using a microscope to measure the diameter of the impression is not so convenient as reading a dial gauge.  The micro-hardness test is basically a laboratory test. It is necessary to take many readings if the impression area is small to obtain a true average hardness for the material. Uniformity of Materials:  If there are structural and chemical variations in the materials the larger the impression area the more accurate the average hardness reading. The use of very light loads permits testing of very small parts and very thin sections. however. however. The range may be extended to about 650 HB with a tungsten carbide ball.specimen. Location of Impression:  Impression should be at least 2½ diameters from the edge of the specimen and should be at least 5 times diameters apart for ball tests. The surface of the test piece when running a Brinell test does not have to be so smooth as that for smaller impressions.  The Vickers tester is the most sensitive of the production hardness testers. Since the loads and indenters are smaller than those used in the Brinell test. and a V-notch anvil should be used to support the specimen unless parallel flats are ground. This is an advantage. the Rockwell test may be used on thinner specimens and the hardest as well as the softest materials can be tested. in which case a flat anvil may be used. it is limited to heavy sections. Because of deformation of the steel ball. the Brinell test is generally inaccurate above 500 HB. It has a single continuous for all materials and the hardness no is virtually independent of load because of the possibility of using light loads.  The Rockwell test is rapid and simple in operation.

results tend to be in accurate unless proper precautions are taken.the hardness of individual constituents of the microstructure.  The principal advantages of the scleroscope are the small impressions that remain the rapidity of testing. The tube must be perpendicular to the test piece. the surface to be tested must be smoother than for most other testing methods. The surface is usually prepared by the technique of metallographic polishing. the better the surface finish must be a great deal more care is required to prepare the surface for micro-hardness testing. and the diamond tip should not be chipped or cracked. However. and portability of the instrument. 23 . thin pieces must be properly supported and clamped. Since the smaller the indentation.

bearing races. such as tubing thread crests. nuts bolts. cast iron. etc Plating thickness Very brittle or fragile materials (Knoop indenter).005 in. tooth enamel Opaque. . operation such as watch gears. Thin materials down to . as in: Thin casehardened parts. MicroHardness Plated surfaces Coating. tools edges. 24 . valves. as in: Thin casehardened parts. such as lacquer. Weak structures pivot points.010 in. stops.Typical Applications of Indentation Hardness Tests Brinell Structural steel and other rolled sections Most castings. scissors Forming tools Small castings and forgings Sheet metal Large-diameter wire Electrical contacts Plastic sheet or parts Case-hardened parts Cemented carbides Rockwell Finished parts. to . chisels. etc Rockwell superficial Same as standard Rockwell except where shallower penetration is necessary. pivots.0001 in. pins.010 in. gears. rolls. cutting Thin sections. such as silicon. and aluminum Most forgings Cutting tools. or paints Foils and very thin materials down to . Cemented carbides Powdered metals Vickers Same as Rockwell and Rockwell Superficial except where higher accuracy or shallower penetration is necessary. including steel.006 in. knives. pulleys. such as bearings. clear.005 to . germanium. To establish case gradients Thin materials down to . glass. varnish. Bimetals and laminated Higher finished materials parts to avoid a Very small removal parts or areas. such as saws.

or translucent materials Powered metals To investigate individual constituents of a materials A determine grain or grain boundary hardness 25 .

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