Abrasion is used to define any process where the surface of a material wears away due to friction. This can occur where surfaces are scuffed, scratched, or gradually worn down by contact with other components or materials. It is a common issue in heavy-industry but can also be problematic for more intricate machinery associated with high duty cycles or challenging operating conditions. The solution to this phenomenon is to keep mating surfaces sufficiently lubricated, or to optimise performance with suitable abrasion-resistant materials.

Abrasion-resistant steels are alloys that have been optimised to withstand surface abrasion that could cause a raft of unanticipated consequences, from simple aesthetic damage to complete structural breakdown.

In this blog post, Masteel provides an outline of abrasion-resistant steels and the underlying properties that make them so suited for heavy-duty wear applications.

How are Abrasion-Resistant Steels Made?

The main alloying elements of abrasion-resistant steels are iron (Fe) and carbon (C), though various low- and trace-level minerals are added to adjust the chemical-mechanical properties of the end-product. First, the raw iron is melted in a blast furnace and carbon is added to the melt. Depending on the intended area of application, additional elements like silicon (Si), nickel (Ni), and molybdenum (Mo) may be added at this stage too. Abrasion-resistant steels can comprise as much as 0.18 – 0.30% carbon, characterising them as low-to-medium carbon steels.

Once the appropriate composition has been achieved, the molten mixture is formed and cut to size. Abrasion-resistant steels are generally not-suited to quenching and tempering, as heat treatment runs the risk of reducing the material’s strength and wear-resistant properties.

How Do Abrasion-Resistant Steels Work?

The wear-resistant qualities of abrasion-resistant steel alloys are developed by tightly controlling the material’s underlying mechanical properties. Most important of these are:

  • Hardness (Brinell scale), which determines how well a material can withstand impacting forces.
  • Strength (Yield and tensile), which determines a material’s structural integrity in response to high loads.

Hardness is so crucial to abrasion-resistant steels that they are typically characterised by a specific Brinell hardness value. Without decent yield and tensile strengths, however, these alloys would succumb to mechanical failure associated with the brittleness of high-hardness materials. This mandates a careful balance.

Precisely matching these properties without expending ductility beyond the point of workability demands tight control of the alloy’s chemical composition. For example: elevated carbon concentrations are associated with a reduction in microstructural dislocations that contribute to plastic deformation, increasing both strength and hardness. However, ultra-high carbon steels (0.60 – 0.70% carbon content) exhibit comparatively low hardness values on the Brinell scale due to the lack of stabilising trace elements. Abrasion-resistant steels utilise low-to-medium carbon concentrations with additional trace and ultra-trace elements for the optimal intersection of mechanical performance.

Read our previous blog post Abrasion Resistance of Industrial Steel Products if you would like to learn more about the ins and outs of abrasion-resistant steels.

Abrasion-Resistant Steels from Masteel

Masteel is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of abrasion-resistant steels for a broad range of market sectors. We specialise in the development of tailored alloys for demanding operating conditions, guaranteeing materials for long-service in severe working environments. If you would like to learn more about our successes in the development of heavy-wear alloys, browse our recent articles:

Otherwise, contact a member of the Masteel team directly with any questions.