Introduction to Metallography
Metallography has been described as both a science and an art. Traditionally, metallography has been the study of the microscopic structure of metals and alloys using optical metallographs, electron microscopes or other surface analysis equipment. More recently, as materials have evolved, metallography has expanded to incorporate materials ranging from electronics to sporting good composites. By analyzing a material’s microstructure, its performance and reliability can be better understood. Thus metallography is used in materials development, incoming inspection, production and manufacturing control, and for failure analysis; in other words, product reliability. Metallography or microstructural analysis includes, but is not limited to, the following types of analysis: • Grain size • Porosity and voids • Phase analysis • Dendritic growth • Cracks and other defects • Corrosion analysis • Intergranular attack (IGA) • Coating thickness and integrity • Inclusion size, shape and distribution • Weld and heat-affected zones (HAZ) • Solder joints • Distribution and orientation of composite fillers • Graphite nodularity • Recast • Carburizing thickness • Decarburization • Nitriding thickness • Intergranular fracturing • HAZ Sensitization • Flow-line Stress


Figure 1-1 Grain size. To correctly determine the grain size in these types of For metals and ceramics. Twin boundaries occur when two crystals mirror each other.metallographic. Although grain size is actually a 3dimensional property. Twin Boundaries Figure 1-2 Rhenium grain size. Common grain size measurements include grains per unit area/volume. the twin boundaries need to be removed from the calculation. For some materials.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Grain Size www. Modern image analysis algorithms are very useful for determining grain size. average diameter or grain size number. 2 . twinning occurs due to work hardening at low temperatures. Determination of the grain size number can be calculated or compared to standardized grain size charts. grain size is perhaps the most significant metallographic measurement because it can be directly related to the mechanical properties of the material. Figure 1-3 Twin boundaries in brass. it is measured from a 2-dimensional cross section of the material.anodized aluminum.

Figure 1-8 Welding crack in a copperstainless steel weld. Cracks Defects such as cracking can lead to catastrophic failure of a material. Porosity generally refers to holes resulting from the sintering of metal or ceramic powders or due to casting shrinkage issues. however cross sectional analysis is also a very useful technique to evaluate manufacturing issues which may cause these defects.metallographic. Figure 1-6 Casting porosity in Holes or gaps in a material can generally be classified as either porosity or voids.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Porosity and Voids www. Figure 1-5 Voids (black features) due to entrapped air in a B4C-graphite composite. Figure 1-4 Porosity in a BaCl ceramic. Figure 1-7 Stress cracks in a ceramic matrix composite. Metallography is often used in the failure analysis to determine why a material broke. Voids are generally a result of entrapped air and are common in wrapped or injection molded materials such as polymer matrix composites (PMC’s). 3 .

Figure 1-9 Ni-Fe-Al bronze phases. Figure 1-10 Copper and iron phases in a cold pressed metal. Of interest to the metallographer might be the distribution. identification and characteristics of the filler would also be of interest. Figure 1-11 Graphite-polymer composite. 4 Metal alloys can exhibit different phase (homogenous) regions depending upon composition and cooling rates. size and shape of these phases. For composite materials.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Phases www.

composition and agitation. Corrosion Figure 1-13 Dendrite treelike structure. it is possible to form a treelike dendritic structure. Dendrites initially grow as primary arms and depending upon the cooling rate. The effects of corrosion can be evaluated by metallographic analysis techniques in order to determine both the root cause as well as the potential By slowly solidifying a molten alloy. secondary arms grow outward from the primary arms. Figure 1-12 Dendrite in Al-Si alloy. tertiary arms grow outward from the secondary arms. Likewise. Metallographic analysis of this structure would consist of characterizing the dendrite spacing. Figure 1-14 Corrosion analysis of a magnetic read-rite hard-drive component.metallographic.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Dendrites www. 5 .

For Intergranular corrosion (IGC).INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Intergranular Attack www. also termed intergranular attack (IGA). Figure 1-17 Intergranular cracking in aluminum. If the chromium becomes depleted through the formation of chromium carbide at the grain boundaries (this process is called sensitization). Figure 1-15 Intergranular alloy depletion in nickel. is a form of non-uniform corrosion. intergranular corrosion can occur. Corrosion is initiated by inhomogeneities in the metal and is more pronounced at the grain boundaries when the corrosion -inhibiting compound becomes depleted. Figure 1-16 Intergranular attack in nickel. chromium is added to nickel alloys and austenitic stainless steels to provide corrosion resistance. 6 .metallographic.

7 . increase wear resistance.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Coating Thickness www. and provide better thermal expansion adherence for dielectric/metal interfaces. Figure 1-19 AlN dielectric with metallized coating. increase hardness (anodizing).metallographic. provide corrosion protection (galvanized coatings). Figure 1-18 Plasma spray Coatings are used to improve the surface properties of materials. Coatings can improve temperature resistance (plasma coating). Metallographic analysis can provide useful information regarding coating thickness. uniformity and the presence of any defects. density.

8 . Inclusions can be characterized by their shape. Common inclusion particles include oxides.metallographic. sulfides or Inclusions are foreign particles that contaminate the metal surface during rolling or other metal forming processes. Figure 1-21 Sulfide inclusions in steels. Figure 1-20 Oxide inclusions in steels.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Inclusions www. size and distribution.

Analysis can also include evaluating cracks and interdiffusion of the base metals within the welded Welding is a process for joining two separate pieces of metal. this fused area is referred to as the bead and has a cast-like structure. Figure 1-23 Copper-stainless steel weld diffusion of the stainless steel into the copper 9 . Figure 1-22 Steel weld. Typically the welded area will have a different microstructure and therefore different physical and mechanical properties as compared to the original metals. The most common welding processes produce localized melting at the areas to be joined.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Weld Analysis www. The area or zone adjacent to the bead is also of interest and is known as the HAZ (heat affected zone).metallographic.

Figure 1-24 Electronic circuit board solder joint. metal. Metallographic analysis of composites includes analyzing the orientation and distribution of these fillers. or ceramic matrix. Figure 1-25 Carbon fiber composite. These fillers are encased. voids and any other defects. 10 . Figure 1-26 SiC particles in a metal matrix. into a polymer. Common fillers include ceramic or graphite particles and carbon or ceramic fibers. Composites Composites are engineered materials which contain fillers in a For electronic components. or cast. the integrity of the solder joints is very important for characterizing the reliability of electronic components.metallographic.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Solder Joint Integrity www.

Cross-sectional analysis is used to characterize the melt prior to pouring the entire Cast irons are typically characterized by their nodularity (ductile cast iron) or by their graphite flakes (gray cast iron). as polished.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Graphite Nodularity www. etched. Figure 1-28a Nodular cast iron as polished Figure 1-28b Nodular cast iron. Figure 1-27b Gray cast iron (graphite flakes). ductile nodular cast irons are the preferred structure. Since gray cast irons can eventually fail due to brittle fracture.metallographic. Figure 1-27a Gray cast iron (graphite flakes). 11 . etched. To produce ductile cast irons. magnesium or cerium are added to the iron melt prior to solidification.

Figure 1-31 Cracks in recast layer. Figure 1-30 Localized recast layer.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Recast www.metallographic. Both the HAZ (heat affected zone) and recast layer can also contain microcracks which could cause stress failures in critical components. 12 . Figure 1-29 Continuous recast The recast layer is made up of molten metal particles that have been redeposited onto the surface of the workpiece.

The carburizing process involves diffusing carbon into ferrous alloys at elevated temperatures. By quenching the metal immediately after carburizing. Figure 1-34 Low carbon steel. can reveal details regarding the case hardness and its depth. quenched. quenched. 13 . Metallographic analysis. Figure 1-32 Knoop case depth hardness. Figure 1-33 High carbon The most common heat treating process for hardening ferrous alloys is known as carburizing. the surface layer can be hardened.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Carburizing www. along with microhardness testing.

14 . Figure 1-36 Steel decarburization. This loss of carbon can reduce both the ductility and strength of the steel. It can also result in hydrogen embrittlement of the steel.metallographic. The process includes heating the steel at 500-540°C (930-1000°F) in an ammonia atmosphere for about 50 hours. Figure 1-35 Gross decarburization in a steel fastener. No additional quenching or heat treating is required. Nitriding Nitriding is a process for producing a very hard case on strong. Figure 1-37 Nitrided steel. The Vickers hardness is about 1100 and the case depth is about Decarburization is a defect which can occur when carbon is lost at the surface of a steel when it is heated to high temperatures. Nitriding can also improve the steel’s corrosion resistance.4 mm. tough steels.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Decarburization www. especially in hydrogen atmospheres.

com Intergranular cracking or fracturing is a fracture that occurs along the grain boundaries of a material. An intergranular fracture can result from improper heat treating. 15 . inclusions or second-phase particles located at grain boundaries. 1000X. Mag. Figure 1-39 Sensitization of welded 304L Stainless Steel. 300 Series stainless steels form chromium carbide precipitates at the grain boundaries in the range of 425-475°C. Figure 1-38 Intergranular fracturing for improperly heat treated 17-7PH.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Intergranular Fracture www.metallographic. Weld Sensitization Sensitization is a condition where the chromium as an alloy becomes depleted through the formation of chromium carbide at the grain boundaries. For example. 500X. and high cyclic loading. For welding. sensitization occurs due to slow heating and cooling through a temperature range specific to the alloy being welded.

metallographic. 16 . Etchant HCl+H2O2. the direction of the flow is Flow stess is the stress required to keep a metal flowing or deforming.INTRODUCTION TO METALLOGRAPHY Flow Line Stress www. Figure 1-40 Improper flow line direction normal to maximum stress.

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