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Knowledge of Vickers Hardness Test

Jun June, 2018

The Vickers hardness test was developed in 1921 by Robert L. Smith and George E. Sandland at Vickers Ltd as an alternative to the Brinell method to measure the hardness of materials. The Vickers test is often easier to use than other hardness tests since the required calculations are independent of the size of the indenter, and the indenter can be used for all materials irrespective of hardness. The basic principle, as with all common measures of hardness, is to observe the questioned material's ability to resist plastic deformation from a standard source. The Vickers test can be used for all metals and has one of the widest scales among hardness tests. The unit of hardness given by the test is known as the Vickers Pyramid Number (HV) or Diamond Pyramid Hardness (DPH). The hardness number can be converted into units of pascals, but should not be confused with pressure, which uses the same units. The hardness number is determined by the load over the surface area of the indentation and not the area normal to the force, and is therefore not pressure.

Estimating tensile strength

If HV is expressed in kg/mm2 then the yield strength (in MPa) of the material can be approximated as σu ≈ HV×c ≈ HV/0.3, where c is a constant determined by geometrical factors usually ranging between 2 and 4.


The fin attachment pins and sleeves in the Convair 580 airliner were specified by the aircraft manufacturer to be hardened to a Vickers Hardness specification of 390HV5, the '5' meaning five kiloponds. However, on the aircraft flying Partnair Flight 394 the pins were later found to have been replaced with sub-standard parts, leading to rapid wear and finally loss of the aircraft. On examination, accident investigators found that the sub-standard pins had a hardness value of only some 200-230HV5.

Currently some watch companies are improving the crystal watch glass by testing the strength using the Vickers hardness test. While they are progressively making their watches better, they are also using it as a marketing information for the consumer.


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