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Knowledge of Rockwell hardness testers

Jun June, 2018

The Rockwell hardness testers is a hardness scale based on indentation hardness of a material. The Rockwell test determines the hardness by measuring the depth of penetration of an indenter under a large load compared to the penetration made by a preload.

There are different scales, denoted by a single letter, that use different loads or indenters. The result is a dimensionless number noted as HRA, HRB, HRC, etc., where the last letter is the respective Rockwell scale (see below). When testing metals, indentation hardness correlates linearly with tensile strength.

This important relation permits economically important nondestructive testing of bulk metal deliveries with lightweight, even portable equipment, such as hand-held Rockwell hardness testers.

The differential depth hardness measurement was conceived in 1908 by a Viennese professor Paul Ludwik in his book Die Kegelprobe (crudely, "the cone test"). The differential-depth method subtracted out the errors associated with the mechanical imperfections of the system, such as backlash and surface imperfections. The Brinell hardness test, invented in Sweden, was developed earlier – in 1900 – but it was slow, not useful on fully hardened steel, and left too large an impression to be considered nondestructive.

Hugh M. Rockwell (1890–1957) and Stanley P. Rockwell (1886–1940) from Connecticut in the United States co-invented the "Rockwell hardness tester," a differential-depth machine. They applied for a patent on July 15, 1914. The requirement for this tester was to quickly determine the effects of heat treatment on steel bearing races. The application was subsequently approved on February 11, 1919, and holds U.S. Patent 1,294,171. At the time of invention, both Hugh and Stanley Rockwell worked for the New Departure Manufacturing Co. of Bristol, CT. New Departure was a major ball bearing manufacturer which in 1916 became part of United Motors and, shortly thereafter, General Motors Corp.

After leaving the Connecticut company, Stanley Rockwell, then in Syracuse, NY, applied for an improvement to the original invention on September 11, 1919, which was approved on November 18, 1924. The new tester holds U.S. Patent 1,516,207. Rockwell moved to West Hartford, CT, and made an additional improvement in 1921. Stanley collaborated with instrument manufacturer Charles H. Wilson of the Wilson-Mauelen Company in 1920 to commercialize his invention and develop standardized testing machines. Stanley started a heat-treating firm circa 1923, the Stanley P. Rockwell Company, which still exists in Hartford, CT. The later-named Wilson Mechanical Instrument Company has changed ownership over the years, and was acquired by Instron Corp. in 1993.

Rockwell hardness tester classifications based on Rockwell scales
Rockwell hardness tester: HRA, HRB, HRC 

Superficial Rockwell hardness tester: 15N, 30N, 45N, 15T, 30T, 45T, 15W, 30W, 45W, 15X, 30X, 45X, 15Y, 30Y, 45Y

Plastic Rockwell hardness tester: HRE, HRL, HRM

Twin Rockwell hardness tester (also named as Rockwell & superficial Rockwell hardness tester): HRA, HRB, HRC,15N, 15T, 15W, 15X, 15Y, 30N, 30T, 30W, 30X, 30Y, 45N, 45T, 45W, 45X, 45Y


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