Metallographic Capabilities

Maverick Testing Laboratories, Inc. has the essential tools required for conducting a macro and micro analysis of materials. With the aid of a stereoscope, samples can be analyzed up to 50X magnifications to evaluate a materials appearance and surfaces. A Metallurgical Optical Microscope would be used to analyze a samples surface and microstructure at higher magnifications, 50X to 1000X, to determine areas to be studied at still higher magnification if needed. An in-house scanning electron microscope with EDAX can then be called upon to study a samples fractography for evaluations and surface analysis of metal, corrosion product of localized areas. MTL, Inc. has the equipment and accessories required for preparation of metallographic samples including mounting press, rough grinder, belt polisher, wheel or disc polisher and electrolytic etcher needed to complete any job.
The following listing gives an example of the capabilities and procedures available at MTL, Inc. A brief description follows each explaining some of the steps and processes.

Macro Examination
Macro etching is the procedure in which a specimen is etched and evaluated macro structurally at low magnifications. It is a frequently used technique for evaluating steel products such as billets, bars, blooms, and forgings. There are several procedures for rating a steel specimen by a graded series of photographs showing the incidence of certain conditions and is applicable to carbon and low alloy steels. A number of different etching reagents may be used depending upon the type of examination to be made. Steels react differently to etching reagents because of variations in chemical composition, method of manufacturing, heat treatment and many other variables. Macro-Examinations are also performed on a polished and etched cross-section of a welded material. During the examination, a number of features can be determined including weld run sequence, important for weld procedure qualifications tests. As well as this, any defects on the sample will be assessed for compliance with relevant specifications. Slag, porosity, lack of weld penetration, lack of sidewall fusion and poor weld profile are among the features observed in such examinations. It is normal to look for such defects either by standard visual examination or at magnifications of up to 50X. It is also routine to photograph the section to provide a permanent record. This is known as a photomacrograph.

Micro Examination

This is performed on samples either cut to size or mounted in a resin mold. The samples are polished to a fine finish, normally one micron diamond paste, and usually etched in an appropriate chemical solution prior to examination on a metallurgical microscope. Micro-examination is performed for a number of purposes, the most obvious of which is to assess the structure of the material. It is also common to examine for metallurgical anomalies such as third phase precipitates, excessive grain growth, etc. Many routine tests such as phase counting or grain size determinations are performed in conjunction with micro-examinations.

Weld Examination
Metallographic weld evaluations can take many forms. In its most simple form, a weld deposit can be visually examined for large scale defects such as porosity or lack of fusion defects. On a micro scale, the examination can take the form of phase balance assessments from weld cap to weld root or a check for non-metallic or third phase precipitates. Examination of weld growth patterns is also used to determine reasons for poor mechanical test results. For example, an extensive central columnar grain pattern can cause a plane of weakness giving poor charpy results.

Case Depth
Case hardening may be defined as a process for hardening ferrous materials in such a manner that the surface layer (known as the case), is substantially harder than the remaining materials (known as the core). This process is controlled through carburizing, nitriding, carbonitriding, cyaniding, induction and flame hardening. The chemical composition, mechanical properties, or both, are affected by these practices. Methods for determining case depth are chemical, mechanical or visual and should be selected on the basis of specific requirements.

Decarburization Measurement
This method is designed to detect changes in the microstructure, hardness, or carbon content at the surface of the steel sections due to carburization. The depth is determined as the depth where a uniform microstructure, hardness, or carbon content, typical of the interior of the specimen is observed. This method will detect surface losses in carbon content due to heating at elevated temperatures, as in hot working or heat treatment.

Coating / Plating Evaluation (ASTM B487, ASTM B748)
A coating or plating application is used primarily for protection of the substrate. The thickness is an important factor in the performance of the coating or plating. A portion of the specimen is cut, mounted transversely, a prepared in accordance with acceptable or suitable techniques. The thickness of the cross section is measured with an optical microscope. When the coating or plating is thinner than .00020", the measurement should be taken with the aid of the scanning electron microscope. Cross-sectioned metallographic examinations of substrates with platings, surface evaluations, thickness measurements, weight per volume, and even salt spray testing can aid in the evaluation of platings.

Surface Evaluation
Surface inspection includes the detection of surface flaws and the measurement of surface defects and roughness. One method includes the use of a laser light. When the scattered light is reflected off the surface of a sample, it can be analyzed and measure. Another method is the use of a motorized stylus (profilometer). The stylus is placed on the surface and the texture of the material is measured in micro-inches or millimeters.

Grain Size Determination
In order to establish a scale for grain size, ASTM E112 shows charts with outline grain structures at various dimensions. This has led to a universally accepted standard by which grain sized range from 1 (very coarse) to 10 (very fine). A material's grain size is important as it affects its mechanical properties. In most materials, a refined grain structure gives enhanced toughness properties and alloying elements are deliberately added during the steel-making process to assist in grain refinement. Grain size is determined from a polished and etched sample using optical microscopy at a magnification of 100X.