Steel Tensile testing

The vast array of steel grades—over 3,500 in total—presents a complex choice for engineers planning specific projects. The chemical composition of these materials provides an initial understanding of their probable behavior, yet rigorous material testing is crucial for confirming their mechanical properties such as strength, hardness, and overall quality.

Understanding Steel Testing: Key Terms and Concepts

Before delving into the common material tests, it's essential to grasp some foundational terms used in the industry:


A "coupon" refers to a sample extracted from a master plate or created using the same forging process. This sample, carefully produced to represent the master plate accurately, is crucial for subsequent testing. Coupons are primarily of two types: longitudinal and transverse. A longitudinal coupon, often abbreviated as LCVN, is aligned with the rolling direction of the plate, whereas a transverse coupon (TCVN) is perpendicular to it. Typically, LCVN coupons display higher yield and tensile strengths than TCVN coupons due to their alignment with the grain of the steel. These distinctions are vital for structural engineers when selecting materials, as they consider both LCVN and TCVN test outcomes.


Laminations are defects in steel or other metal alloys that may undermine structural integrity. These imperfections, which include folds, layers, foreign materials, and trapped gases, occur during the steel rolling process. As steel is shaped from an ingot into the desired dimensions, any existing defects are likely to extend throughout the material. Although some laminations are tolerable within specified limits, exceeding these can raise the risk of material failure significantly.

Mill Test Reports (MTR)

An MTR is a detailed document that outlines the origin, composition, and test results of a material, serving as a critical quality assurance tool. This report is pivotal for engineers to understand the precise characteristics and performance of steel. While it is standard to receive an MTR with every purchase of steel material, additional copies can always be requested if necessary.

Material Strength Test: Yield, Tensile, and Elongation

One of the pivotal evaluations in steel testing is the mechanical properties test, which assesses yield point, tensile strength, and elongation percentage. These parameters are crucial in determining the maximum load a material can sustain before failure:

  • Yield point is the stress level at which a material undergoes permanent deformation. Imagine a bookshelf: the yield point is reached when the weight of books causes permanent bowing of the shelf, remaining even after the books are removed.
  • Tensile strength measures the force required to break the material. Using the bookshelf analogy, it represents the weight of books needed to completely snap the shelf.
  • Elongation reflects how much a material can stretch relative to its original length, indicating its ductility—the ability to deform under stress without breaking.

The table below presents a comparison of these properties between two popular steel grades, ASTM A36 and ASTM A572-50:

Strength PointASTM A36ASTM A572-50
Yield Point (psi)36,00050,000
Tensile Strength (psi)58,000 - 80,00065,000
Elongation % (200 mm)18%20%

Advanced Testing Techniques

what is ultrasonic testing

Ultrasonic Testing (UT)

Ultrasonic testing employs high-frequency sound waves to detect defects such as laminations within the steel. This nondestructive method involves a probe that sends sound waves into the material; when these waves encounter a discontinuity (like air), they reflect back to the probe, which then converts them to electrical signals. UT's precision ranges between +/-0.025 mm to +/-0.001 mm, providing engineers with crucial data for ensuring material integrity.

About Ultrasonic Testing for Steel 

Charpy V-Notch Test for Toughness

The Charpy V-Notch test assesses a material's impact resistance within a specific temperature range. Named after Georges Charpy, this test involves striking a notched sample with a pendulum hammer and measuring the energy absorbed by the material, often indicative of its performance in colder climates.

Brinell Hardness Test

The Brinell hardness test evaluates a material's resistance to indentation and, by extension, its ability to resist abrasion and wear. This method uses a steel indenter applied with a specific force to create a dent, with the dent's size used to calculate the Brinell Hardness Number (BHN). For instance, mild A36 steel typically has a BHN of 133, contrasting sharply with more abrasion-resistant steels, which may have BHNs exceeding 330.

These tests collectively enable a comprehensive understanding and application of steel materials in various engineering projects, ensuring safety, durability, and efficiency.

Tags: Steel Testing, Material Properties, Structural Steel, Ultrasonic Testing, Brinell Hardness

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