Measuring the hardness of Steel

Hardness Testing

Hardness testing for steel is based upon applying pressure to the steel surface and measuring the depth of the indentation. The three major measurement systems are :-

The Brinell hardness test consists in indenting the metal surface with a 10-mm-diameter steel ball at a load of 3,000 kg mass (∼29400 N). For soft metals the load is reduced to 500 kg to avoid too deep an impression, and for very hard metals a tungsten carbide ball is used to minimize distortion of the indenter. The load is applied for a standard time, usually 30 s, and the diameter of the indentation is measured with a low-power microscope after removal of the load. The average of two readings of the diameter of the impression at right angles should be made.

The Vickers hardness test uses a square-base diamond pyramid as the indenter. The included angle between opposite faces of the pyramid is 136°. This angle was chosen because it approximates the most desirable ratio of indentation diameter to ball diameter in the Brinell hardness test.

Because of the shape of the indenter, this is frequently called the diamond-pyramid hardness test. The diamond-pyramid hardness number (DPH), or Vickers hardness number (VHN, or VPH), is defined as the load divided by the surface area of the indentation. In practice, this area is calculated from microscopic measurements of the lengths of the diagonals of the impression

Rockwell Hardness Test

The most widely used hardness test is the Rockwell hardness test. Its general acceptance is due to its speed, freedom from personal error, ability to distinguish small hardness differences in hardened steel, and the small size of the indentation, so that finished heat-treated parts can be tested without damage.

This test utilizes the depth of indentation, under constant load, as a measure of hardness. A minor load of 10 kg is first applied to seat the specimen. This minimizes the amount of surface preparation needed and reduces the tendency for ridging or sinking in by the indenter. The major load is then applied, and the depth of indentation is automatically recorded on a dial gage in terms of arbitrary hardness numbers.

You can find a hardness comparison chart here.

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