Rockwell Hardness Number – Rockwell Scale

Indentation hardness measures the ability to withstand surface indentation (localized plastic deformation) and the resistance of a sample to material deformation due to a constant compression load from a sharp object. Tests for indentation hardness are primarily used in engineering and metallurgy fields. The traditional methods are based on well-defined physical indentation hardness tests. Very hard indenters of defined geometries and sizes are continuously pressed into the material under a particular force. Deformation parameters, such as the indentation depth in the Rockwell method, are recorded to give measures of hardness. Common indentation hardness scales are Brinell, Rockwell and Vickers.

See also: Hardness

Rockwell Hardness Number – Rockwell Scale

Rockwell hardness test is one of the most common indentation hardness tests, that has been developed for hardness testing. In contrast to Brinell test, the Rockwell tester measures the depth of penetration of an indenter under a large load (major load) compared to the penetration made by a preload (minor load). The minor load establishes the zero position. The major load is applied, then removed while still maintaining the minor load. The difference between depth of penetration before and after application of the major load is used to calculate the Rockwell hardness number. That is, the penetration depth and hardness are inversely proportional. The chief advantage of Rockwell hardness is its ability to display hardness values directly. The result is a dimensionless number noted as HRA, HRB, HRC, etc., where the last letter is the respective Rockwell scale.

Several different scales may be used from possible combinations of various indenters and different loads a process that permits the testing of virtually all metal alloys. The test provides results to quantify the hardness of a material, which is expressed by the Rockwell hardness number – HR, which is directly displayed on the dial. The various indenter types combined with a range of test loads form a matrix of Rockwell hardness scales that are applicable to a wide variety of materials. Rockwell B and Rockwell C are the typical tests in this facility. The Rockwell B penetrator is a 1.59mm (1/16 inch) diameter tungsten-carbide ball and the major load is 100kg. The Rockwell C test is performed with a Brale penetrator (120°diamond cone) and a major load of 150kg.

Each Rockwell hardness scale is identified by a letter designation indicative of the indenter type and the major and minor loads used for the test. The Rockwell hardness number is expressed as a combination of the measured numerical hardness value and the scale letter preceded by the letters, HR.

There are a variety of  hardness test methods in common use (e.g. Brinell, Knoop, Vickers and Rockwell). There are tables that are available correlating the hardness numbers from the different test methods   where correlation is applicable. In all scales, a high hardness number represents a hard metal.

In industry, hardness tests on metals are used mainly as a check on the quality and uniformity of metals, especially during heat treatment operations. The tests can generally be applied to the finished product without significant damage. Commercial popularity of the Rockwell hardness test arises from its speed, reliability, robustness, resolution and small area of indentation.

See also: Brinell Hardness Test

See also: Vickers Hardness Test

See also: Knoop Hardness Test

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