How Chemistry Determines Machinability- Manganese Sulfides

March 12, 2015

Flank wear is the “normally expected” failure mode for tools to fail when machining steels.

The volume fraction of Manganese Sulfides is a determinant of the tool’s wear rate. “The wear rate of high speed steel tools decreases rapidly up to about one percent volume fraction of MnS and then levels off to a constant wear rate as the volume fraction is increased.“-Roger Joseph and V.A.Tipnis, The Influence of Non-Metallic  Inclusions on the Machinability of Free- Machining Steels.

Manganese and Sulfur have a powerful effect in reducing flank wear on HSS tools

Manganese and Sulfur have a powerful effect in reducing flank wear on HSS tools

As sulfur rises beyond 1% volume fraction, surface finish improves, chips formed are smaller with less radius of curvature, and the friction force between cutting tool and chip decreases due to lower contact area.

Manganese sulfides are a separate internal phase.

Manganese sulfides are a separate internal phase.

How does Manganese Sulfide improve the machinability?

  • The MnS inclusions act as “stress raisers” in the shear zone to initiate microcracks that subsequently lead to fracture of the chip;
  • MnS inclusions  also deposit on the  wear surfaces of the cutting tool as “Built Up Edge (BUE).”
  • BUE reduces friction between the tool and the material being machined. This contributes to lower cutting temperatures.
  • BUE mechanically separates or insulates the tool edge from contact with work material and resulting heat transfer.

This is why resulfurized steels in the 11XX and 12XX series can be cut at much higher surface footage than steels with lower Manganese and Sulfur contents.

More info about Manganese in steel HERE


Three Key Factors to Understand Machinability of Carbon and Alloy Steel

March 13, 2012

The machinability of steel bars is determined by three primary factors. Those factors are 1) Cold Work; 2) Thermal Treatment; 3) Chemical Composition.

Machinability is the result of Cold Work, Thermal Processing and Chemical composition- as well as the ability of the machine tool and the machinist.

Cold Work improves the machinability of low carbon steels by reducing the high ductility of the hot rolled product. Cold working the steel by die drawing or cold rolling results in chips that are harder, more brittle, and curled, prodcuing less built up edge on the tools cutting edge.. The improved Yield to Tensile Strength ratio means that your tools and machines have less work to do to get the chip to separate. Steels between 0.15- 0.30 wt% carbon are best machining; above 0.30 wt% the machinability decreases as carbon content (and hardness) increase.

Thermal Treatment improves the machinability of steel by reducing stresses, controlling microstructure, and lowering hardness and strength. While this is usually employed in higher carbon steels, sometimes a Spheroidize Anneal is employed in very low carbon steels to improve their formability. Stress Relief Anneal, Lamellar Pearlitic Anneal, and Spheroidize Anneals are the treatments applied to improve machinability in bar steels for machining.

Chemical composition is a major factor that contributes to the steel’s machinability or lack thereof. There are a number of chemical factors that promote machinability including

Carbon- low carbon steels are too ductile, resulting in gummy chips and the build up of workpiece material on the tool edge (BUE). Between 0.15 and 0.30 wt% carbon machinability is at its best; machinability decreases as carbon content increases beyond 0.30.

Additives that promote machining include

  • Sulfur combines with Manganese to form Manganese Sulfides which help the chip to break and improve surface finish.
  • Lead is added to steel to reduce friction during cutting by providing an internal lubricant. Lead does not alter the mechanical properties of the steel.
  • Phosphorus increases the strength of the softer ferrite phase in the steel, resulting in a harder and stronger chip (less ductile) promoting breakage and improved finishes.
  • Nitrogen can promote a brittle chip as well, making it especially beneificial to internal machining operations like drilling and tapping which constrain the chip’s movement.
  • (Nitrogen also can make the steel unsuitable for subnsequent cold working operations like thread rolling, crimping, swaging or staking.)

Additives that can have a detrimental effect on machining include deoxidizers and grain refiners.

Deoxidizing and grain refining elements include

  • Silicon,
  • Aluminum,
  • Vanadium
  • Niobium

These elements reduce machinability by promoting a finer grain structure and increasing the edge breakdown on the tool by abrasion.

Alloying elements can be said to inhibit machinability by their contribution to microstructure and properties, but this is of small impact compared to the factors listed above.