Hardness, toughness, and strength are three of the most crucial mechanical values for industrial steel products, determining the physical integrity of a product in response to applied forces. Most steel alloys are inherently strong with good resistance to mechanical deformation, but products that intermittently or regularly experience scuffing or impacts must be manufactured from alloys with enhanced hardness values for superior abrasion resistance.
Increasing the hardness of a material generally reduces its susceptibility to friction. However, this can subsequently reduce the toughness of the steel and increase its vulnerability to fracture. High hardness steels are also typically less ductile and cannot be as easily formed as alternative industrial steel products.
This article will explore the effect of toughness and hardness on the abrasion resistance of various steel products.
Exploring the Abrasion Resistance of Steel
The hardness of industrial steel is quantified by the Brinell scale (26 – 600), which measures a material’s resistance to impacting forces. Steel alloys at the top-end of the scale are among the hardest engineered metals worldwide, providing superior resistance to heavy-wearing at the expense of ductility and strength. Conversely, more malleable steels with higher tensile strengths tend to exhibit reduced abrasion resistance.
To achieve a suitable interplay between mechanical hardness and ductility it is important to closely monitor the alloying content of industrial steels. Increased carbon contents are commonly associated with enhanced material strength and hardness, although this is dependent upon additional alloying materials within the steel grade. For instance, ultra-high-carbon steel grades with carbon contents of between 0.60 – 0.70% can display hardness values of just 187 Brinell.
Reducing the carbon content to medium levels of up to 0.30% and introducing additional trace elements such as silicon, nickel, and molybdenum to the alloy can double this abrasion resistance value. MAS500 AR Abrasion Resistant Steel is uniquely resistant to various thermodynamic strains and is routinely used for heavy wear applications, with a Brinell hardness (BNH) number of 500. Materials of such intrinsically high hardness are usually unsuitable for thermal processing.
Engineers have been successfully balancing the material properties of steel for application-specific purposes for centuries using several heat treatment methodologies. Tempering is a thermal processing technique used to enhance the toughness of ferrous alloys at the expensive of its hardness. This can be detrimental in the case of alloys with increased carbon contents as it can significantly impact the abrasion resistance of the final product. S960QL is a unique structural steel that has been quenched and tempered to achieve an ideal intersection between toughness and hardness for improved abrasion resistance and yield strength, despite the presence of up to 0.20% carbon within the alloy. S960QL high strength structural steel has been uniquely processed for enhanced abrasion resistance and ductility, enabling the manufacture of heavy wear earth moving apparatus.
These two steels represent alternative ways to achieve superior abrasion resistance for application-specific requirements.
Industrial Steels from Masteel
At Masteel, we offer an extensive range of industrial steels engineered to meet specific application requirements. We offer a select range of wear-resistant steel lengths and plates for a broad range of applications.