Mechanical Properties


Strength, hardness, toughness, elasticity, plasticity, brittleness, and ductility and malleability are mechanical properties used as measurements of how metals behave under a load. These properties are described in terms of the types of force or stress that the metal must withstand and how these are resisted.

Strength Strength is the property that enables a metal to resist deformation under load. The ultimate strength is the maximum strain a material can withstand. Tensile strength is a measurement of the resistance to being pulled apart when placed in a tension load.

Fatigue strength is the ability of material to resist various kinds of rapidly changing stresses and is ex­pressed by the magnitude of alternating stress for a specified number of cycles.
Impact strength is the ability of a metal to resist suddenly applied loads and is measured in foot-pounds of force.

Hardness Hardness is the property of a material to resist permanent indentation. Because there are several meth­ods of measuring hardness, the hardness of a material is always specified in terms of the particular test that was used to measure this property. Rockwell, Vickers, or Brinell are some of the methods of testing. Of these tests, Rockwell is the one most frequently used. The basic principle used in the Rockwell testis that a hard material can penetrate a softer one. We then measure the amount of penetration and compare it to a scale. For ferrous metals, which are usually harder than nonferrous metals, a diamond tip is used and the hardness is indicated by a Rockwell "C" number. On nonferrous metals, that are softer, a metal ball is used and the hardness is indicated by a Rockwell "B" number. To get an idea of the property of hardness, compare lead and steel. Lead can be scratched with a pointed wooden stick but steel cannot because it is harder than lead.
A full explanation of the various methods used to determine the hardness of a material is available in commercial books or books located in your base library.

Toughness Toughness is the property that enables a material to withstand shock and to be deformed without rupturing. Toughness may be considered as a combination of strength and plasticity.

Elasticity When a material has a load applied to it, the load causes the material to deform. Elasticity is the ability of a material to return to its original shape after the load is removed. Theoretically, the elastic limit of a material is the limit to which a material can be loaded and still recover its original shape after the load is removed.

Plasticity Plasticity is the ability of a material to deform permanently without breaking or rupturing. This prop­erty is the opposite of strength. By careful alloying of metals, the combination of plasticity and strength is used to manufacture large structural members. For example, should a member of a bridge structure become over­loaded, plasticity allows the overloaded member to flow allowing the distribution of the load to other parts of the bridge structure.

Brittleness Brittleness is the opposite of the property of plastic­ity. A brittle metal is one that breaks or shatters before it deforms. White cast iron and glass are good examples of brittle material. Generally, brittle metals are high in compressive strength but low in tensile strength. As an example, you would not choose cast iron for fabricating support beams in a bridge.

Ductility and Malleability Ductility is the property that enables a material to stretch, bend, or twist without cracking or breaking. This property makes it possible for a material to be drawn out into a thin wire. In comparison, malleability is the property that enables a material to deform by compres­sive forces without developing defects. A malleable material is one that can be stamped, hammered, forged, pressed, or rolled into thin sheets.