Application Example: Hardenability Design of Steel

This example shows how the Steel Model Library in Thermo-Calc can be used to find the optimal compositions for an Fe-Mn-C steel to achieve high hardenability for the purpose of strength.


Steel Quenching For Hardenibility 

Relevant Topics

  • Steel hardening
  • Hardenability design of steel
  • Martensite
  • Pearlite
  • TTT Diagram
  • Steel Model Library
  • Property Model Calculator


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This example includes a PDF with in-depth explanations of all the calculations and interpretation of the results. It also includes a calculation file that can be downloaded and run in Thermo-Calc if you have a license for the relevant software and databases. 

Read the full analysis in PDF format

Download the Calculation File


About Hardenability of Steel

Hardenability of steel is an important aspect of steel design because it affects the ability of the steel to develop optimum strength and toughness. Hardenability refers to the ability of steel to form martensite on quenching. It is a measure of the capacity of a steel to be hardened in depth when quenched from its austenitizing temperature, meaning that the steel forms martensite not only at the surface of the steel, but throughout the interior. This is usually a prerequisite for the subsequent tempering treatment for an optimal combination of strength and toughness. Insufficient hardenability can make the tempering treatment ineffective and lead to low uniformity of mechanical properties in a steel component.

The two most important factors that influence hardenability of steel are grain size and composition, and in this example, we will investigate composition.


About the Hardenability Design of Steel Example

The Steel Model Library in Thermo-Calc offers several models which make it easy to set up calculations for investigating the hardenability of steel. In this example, we use the Steel Model Library to investigate the possible composition ranges of an Fe-C-Mn alloy to reach a fully martensitic microstructure for a high hardenability of the steel.

Time-Temperature-Transformation (TTT) Diagram

A good place to start an investigation into the hardenability of steel is with a TTT diagram. While a TTT diagram only acts as a rough guide, it will point us in the direction we should search toward for high hardenability. High hardenability steel design means that the steel should have: (1) a high martensite finish temperature (Mf) or, in other words, high martensite fraction at room temperature, and at the same time, (2) a long starting time of formation of other austenite decomposition products such as ferrite, pearlite and bainite, in order to avoid them, with reasonable cooling rates. In this example, we calculate a TTT diagram for pearlite transformation and the Ms, M50 and M90 temperatures for athermal martensite.

Calculated Ttt Diagram Of Fe 1Mn 1C Wt
Calculated TTT diagram of Fe-1Mn-1C (wt.%), which shows time-temperature curves for 2%, 50% and 98% pearlite transformation and the Ms, M50 and M90 temperatures for athermal martensite. Arrows in the diagram indicate directions towards high hardenability.

Martensite Fractions Model

The next step in the process is to investigate how Mn and C contents influence the amount of martensite at room temperature. The Steel Model Library includes a Martensite Fractions Model which makes it easy to calculate the total martensite percentages as a function of Mn and C, revealing how the Mn and C contents influence the amount of martensite at room temperature.

Pearlite Formation

We then calculate the pearlite start time when varying both Mn and C contents. The Steel Model Library includes a Pearlite Model, allowing us to easily set up this calculation. We use the nose of the start time of pearlite from the TTT diagram, which was about 850 K, to give us a temperature for the calculation.

Composition selection

The final step in this example is to overlay the total martensite percentage and start time of pearlite formation to give us an allowable region of compositions to achieve high hardenability.

Total Martensite Percentage And Start Time Of Pearlite Formation
Total martensite percentage and start time of pearlite formation (2% pearlite, unit: second) as a function of Mn and C contents for Fe-Mn-C. Calculated using the Steel Model Library in the Property Model Calculator in Thermo-Calc.


Read the full analysis in PDF format »