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Engr 270 AA -- Materials Science Experiment #8 -- Hardenability of Steels

Purpose:

This experiment is aimed at understanding the effect of cooling rate on the hardness of two steels. The experiment also shows why adding alloying elements other than carbon enables a part to be heat-treated more uniformly and to a greater depth.

Background:

To understand heat treatment of steels requires an understanding of the Fe-C phase diagram shown in Figure 1. A steel with 0.76 wt%C is said to be a eutectoid steel. A steel with a carbon content less than 0.76 wt% is hypoeutectoid and greater than 0.76 wt% is

The region marked austenite (γ) is face-centered-cubic and ferrite (α) is

body-centered-cubic.

hypereutectoid.

and ferrite ( α ) is body-centered-cubic. hypereutectoid. Figure 1. The iron-iron carbide phase diagram. The

Figure 1. The iron-iron carbide phase diagram.

The microstructure, and hence the properties, of the alloy depends on its composition. If one very slowly cools a hypoeutectoid steel from a point in the austenite region, the final microstructure would contain proeutectoid ferrite (α) and pearlite pearlite (α + Fe 3 C). With a hypereutectoid steel, the proeutectoid phase would be cementite (Fe 3 C).

The size, type, and distribution of phases present can be altered by cooling at a rate faster than is required for thermodynamic equilibrium. Steels are often cooled so rapidly that metastable phases appear. One such phase is martensite, which is body-centered- tetragonal phase and which only occurs during very rapid cooling.

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Much of the information on non-equilibrium distribution, size, and type of phases has been obtained from experiments. The results can be presented in a continuous cooling transformation diagram for eutectoid composition as shown in Figure 2. The final microstructure (martensite and/or pearlite) depends on the cooling rate. For pearlite formation, slower cooling causes coarse pearlite while fast cooling causes fine pearlite to form. Cooling rates faster than the critical cooling rate result in martensite.

faster than the critical cooling rate result in martensite. Figure 2. Continuous cooling transformation diagram for

Figure 2. Continuous cooling transformation diagram for eutectoid steel.

Martensite causes hardness in steels. Unfortunately, hardness in steels also produces brittleness. The brittleness is usually associated with low impact energy and low toughness. To restore some of the toughness and impact properties, it is frequently necessary to “temper” the steels. This is accomplished by heating the steel up to a temperature between 500 and 1000 degrees F. Tempering removes some of the internal stresses and introduces recovery processes in the steel without a large decrease in hardness and strength. To obtain the desired mechanical properties it is necessary to cool steel from the proper temperature at the proper rates and temper them at the proper temperature and time.

In a practical sense it is not possible to heat-treat all parts of the specimen to the same level. The difference is due to the thickness for volume effect. Basically, when a part is quenched in water or some other media, the heat must be conducted out through the surface. This leads to a temperature gradient T/y between the surface and the center of the part being heat-treated. The temperature gradient varies with time, being less steep at later times. Thus the temperature of the center lags in time behind the temperature of the surface. This means that cooling rate varies as a function of depth. The greater the depth, the slower the cooling rate. Different cooling rates can lead to a different hardness in the center than at the edge. The edge could transform to martensite and the center to pearlite.

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The resulting microstructure also depends on the composition of the alloy. Figure 3 shows the continuous cooling transformation diagram for 4340 steel (0.40 wt%C, 1.85 wt%Ni, 0.80 wt%C, and 0.25 wt% Mo). The presence of alloying elements other than Carbon shift the pearlite (as well as the proeutectoid phase) and bainite formation to longer times, thus decreasing the critical cooling rate. In fact, one of the reasons for alloying elements is to facilitate the formation of martensite so that totally martensitic structures can develop in relatively thick cross sections. The ability of a steel alloy to develop martensite is related to a property called hardenability. It is a measure of the rate at which hardness drops off with distance into the interior of a specimen as a result of diminished martensitic content.

of a specimen as a result of diminished martensitic content. Figure 3. Continuous cooling transformation diagram

Figure 3. Continuous cooling transformation diagram for 4340 steel.

The Jominy End-Quench Test

One standard procedure that is widely used to measure hardenability of steel is the Jominy end-quench test. In this test water is sprayed on one end of a bar of steel while it is hot. This leads to a one dimensional heat transfer cooling. Except near the surface of the bar the temperature is controlled by that flow along the length of the bar.

Moving axially inward from the quenched end of the bar, the temperature and the rate of change of temperature are changing. The temperature is higher and the rate is slower away from the quenched end. If hardness is measured as a function of distance from the end, a hardness profile can be obtained which applies to any part made from the same steel.

Experimental Procedure:

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You will be given two steels (1045) and an alloy steel (4130). Before heating the specimens practice mounting the specimens in the rack and at the proper water flow to spray the ends of the specimen.

Mark each specimen noting the hardness on the Rockwell C scale. Check to make sure the collar of the Jominy is secure and put the specimen in the furnace at 1600 degrees F for 45 minutes. While you are waiting to heat the specimens examine the microstructure of the allow steel and carbon steel specimens provided by the instructor. At the end of the austenizing treatment remove one specimen and carefully but rapidly place the specimen in the hold with the water turned on.

Method of Test:

The standard method for the Jominy test is ASTM-A255. The specimen consists of a cylindrical bar with a 1-in diameter and 4-in length and with a 1/16 in flange at one end. The test consists of austenitizing at 5°F above the solvus line on the Fe-C phase which separates γ from γ + α iron. Thereafter the specimen is removed from the furnace and is placed in the hardenability fixture as in Figure 4a. The time spent transferring the specimen from the furnace to the fixture should not be more than 5 sec. The fixture is constructed so that the specimen is held 1/2 inch above the water opening so that a column of water is directed only at the bottom of the bar. The water opening is 1/2 inch in diameter and the flow is previously adjusted to cause the column to rise 2-1/2 inches without the specimen in place. The test piece is held 10 minutes in the fixture under the action of cooling before quenching in cold water.

under the action of cooling before quenching in cold water. Figure 4. Schematic of Jominy end-quench

Figure 4. Schematic of Jominy end-quench test specimen (a) mounted during quenching and (b) after hardness testing.

After cooling, shallow flats 0.015 in. deep are ground along the specimen length (Figure 4b). Hardness (Rockwell C scale) measurements are taken for the first 2 ½ in. along each flat; for the first ½ in., hardness readings are taken at 1/16 in. intervals, for the remaining 2 in., hardness readings are taken every 1/8 in. Figure 5 shows the correlation between the

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hardness and the distance from the quenched end is due to the variation in the cooling rates that result to different microstructures at different distances from the quenched end.

at different distances from the quenched end. Figure 5. Correlation of hardenability and continuous

Figure 5. Correlation of hardenability and continuous cooling information for eutectoid steel.

Using the observed hardness values at different distances from the quenched end, hardenability curves can be plotted. Figure 6 shows typical hardenability curves for commonly used steel alloys.

end, hardenability curves can be plotted. Figure 6 shows typical hardenability curves for commonly used steel

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Figure 6. Hardenability curves for five different steel alloys.

Lab Report Preparation

Using the standard format, prepare a lab report that includes the following:

1. Tabulation of observed Rockwell C hardness values for each specimen.

2. Hardenability curves for all samples plotted in the same graph. Comment on the variability of the data as evidenced by deviations from a smooth curve. (Refer to Figure 11.7 of the text.).

3. Draw a smooth curve for each specimen, neglecting observed values that deviate too much from the curve. Explain the differences and similarities between the obtained hardenability curves, and the effect of the presence of alloying elements and the carbon content of the sample. How do your hardenability curves compare with those shown in Figure 6 of the lab handout. Propose possible explanations for any discrepancies.

4. Using the hardenability curves for the specimens, draw a radial hardness profile (one for each steel alloy) for long, 2-in. cylindrical bars quenched in mildly agitated water. (Please refer to Figure 11.8 of the text).

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