Publication Details

Barlow, L. D. & Du Toit, M. (2012). Effect of the austenitising heat treatment on the microstructure and hardness of martensitic stainless steel AISI 420. Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance, 21 (7), 1327-1336.


The effect of austenitizing on the microstructure and hardness of two martensitic stainless steels was examined with the aim of supplying heat-treatment guidelines to the user that will ensure a martensitic structure with minimal retained austenite, evenly dispersed carbides and a hardness of between 610 and 740 HV (Vickers hardness) after quenching and tempering. The steels examined during the course of this examination conform in composition to medium-carbon AISI 420 martensitic stainless steel, except for the addition of 0.13% vanadium and 0.62% molybdenum to one of the alloys. Steel samples were austenitized at temperatures between 1000 and 1200 C, followed by oil quenching. The as-quenched microstructures were found to range from almost fully martensitic structures to martensite with up to 35% retained austenite after quenching, with varying amounts of carbides. Optical and scanning electron microscopy was used to characterize the microstructures, and X-ray diffraction was employed to identify the carbide present in the as-quenched structures and to quantify the retained austenite contents. Hardness tests were performed to determine the effect of heat treatment on mechanical properties. As-quenched hardness values ranged from 700 to 270 HV, depending on the amount of retained austenite. Thermodynamic predictions (using the CALPHAD model) were employed to explain these microstructures based on the solubility of the carbide particles at various austenitizing temperatures.



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