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


Seams On Rolled Steel Products

May 24, 2012

“Seams are longitudinal crevices that are tight or even closed at the surface, but are not welded shut. They are close to radial in orientation and can originate in steelmaking, primary rolling, or on the bar or rod mill.”–  AISI Technical Committee on Rod and Bar Mills, Detection, Classification, and Elimination of Rod and Bar Surface Defects

Seams are longitudinal voids opening radially from the bar section in a very straight line without the presence of deformed material adjacent.

Seams may be present in the billet due to non-metallic inclusions, cracking, tears, subsurface cracking or porosity. During continuous casting loss of mold level control can promote a host of out of control conditions which can reseal while in the mold but leave a weakened surface. Seam frequency is higher in resulfurized steels compared to non-resulfurized grades. Seams are generally less frequent in fully deoxidized steels.

Seams are the most common bar defects encountered. Using a file until the seam indication disappears and measuring with a micrometer is how to determine the seam depth.(Sketch from my 1986 lab notebook)

Seams can be detected visually by eye, and magnaglo methods; electronic means involving eddy current (mag testing or rotobar) can find seams both visible and not visible to the naked eye. Magnaflux methods are generally reserved for billet and bloom inspection.

Seams are straight and can vary in length- often the length of several bars- due to elongation of the product (and the initiating imperfection!) during rolling. Bending  a bar can reveal the presence of surface defects like seams.

An upset test (compressing a short piece of the steel to expand its diameter) will split longitudinally where a seam is present.

Seams are most frequently confused with scratches which we will describe in a future post.

“These long,  straight, tight, linear defects are the result of gasses or bubbles formed when the steel solidified. Rolling causes these to lengthen as the steel is lengthened. Seams are dark, closed, but not welded”- my 1986 Junior Metallurgist definition taken from my lab notebook. We’ve a bit more sophisticated view of the causes now. 

The frequency of seams appearing can help to define the cause. Randomly within a rolling, seams are likely due to incoming billets. A definite pattern to the seams indicates that the seams were likely mill induced- as a result of wrinkling  associated with the section geometry. However a pattern related to repetitious conditioning could also testify to  billet and conditioning causation- failure to remove the original defect, or associated with a  repetitive grinding injury or artifact during conditioning.

My rule of thumb was that if it was straight, longitudinal, and when filed showed up dark against the brighter base metal it was a seam.

Rejection criteria are subject to negotiation with your supplier, as are detection limits for various inspection methods, but remember that since seams can occur anywhere on a rolled product, stock removal allowance is applied on a per side basis.

If you absolutely must be seam free, you should order  turned and polished or cold drawn, turned and polished material. The stock removal assures that the seamy outer material has been removed.

Metallurgical note: seams can be a result of propogation of cracks  formed when the metal soidifies, changes phase or is hot worked. Billet caused seams generally exhibit more pronounced decarburization.


Slivers On Rolled Steel Products

May 17, 2012

Slivers are elongated pieces of metal attached to the base metal at one end only. They normally have been hot worked into the surface and are common to low strength grades which are easily torn, especially grades with high sulfur, lead and copper.”- AISI Technical Committee on Rod and Bar Mills, Detection, Classification, and Elimination of Rod and Bar Surface Defects

Slivers are loose or torn segments of steel that have been rolled into the surface of the bar.

Slivers may be caused by bar shearing against a guide or collar, incorrect entry into a closed pass, or a tear due to other mechanical causes. Slivers may also be the result of a billet defect that carries through the hot rolling process.

This is my lab notebook sketch for slivers ‘back in the day…’

Slivers often originate from short rolled out point defects or defects which were not removed by conditioning.

Billet conditioning that results in fins or deep ridges have also been found to cause slivers and should be avoided. Feathering of of deep conditioning edges can help to alleviate their occurrence.

Slivers often appeared on mills operating at higher rolling speeds.

When the frequency and severity of sliver occurrence varies between heats,  grades, or orders, that is a clue that the slivers probably did not originate in the mill.

This is how Slivers present under the microscope. Note decarburization (white appearance.)

Slivers are often mistaken for shearing, scabs, and laps.  We will post about these other defects in the future.


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.