NDT.net - October 2002, Vol. 7No.10
Dr. Stefan Frank
Agfa NDT GmbH, Robert-Bosch-Str. 3, D-50354 Huerth, Germany
Corresponding Author Contact:
Email: sfrank@krautkramer.de, Internet: www.krautkramer.com
Paper presented at the 8th ECNDT, Barcelona, June 2002


    Conventional hardness testers, like Rockwell, Brinell or Vickers machines, require the testpiece be brought to the testing device; but this is not always possible. Portable testingdevices have been developed that permit in-situ hardness measurements thus offeringquick and economical supplements to conventional, stationary testing machines. There aretwo different physical methods particularly recognized in the practical field and which areaccepted tools for many applications.

    This paper explains the basic principles of both test methods and compares, usingexamples from the practical field, the application possibilities of both methods. Thesubjects critically discussed are the factors of influence on hardness testing, such as surfacepreparation or the wall thickness of parts to be tested, e.g. pipelines.

    In addition to these successfully applied methods, Krautkramer now introduces acompletely new technique: The Through Diamond Technique. This optical mobilehardness tester measures, for the first time, real Vickers hardness under load.


    What is “hardness”?
    With regard to metals, hardness has always been a subject of much discussion amongtechnical people, resulting in a wide range of definitions. Hardness properties include suchvaried attributes as resistance to abrasives, resistance to plastic deformation, high modulusof elasticity, high yield point, high strength, absence of elastic damping, brittleness or lackof ductility.

    To a metallurgist, hardness is a material’s resistance to penetration. In general, an indenteris pressed into the surface of the material to be tested under a specific load for a definitetime interval, and a measurement is made of the size or depth of the indentation.

    Hardness is not a fundamental property of a material, but a response to a particular testmethod. Basically hardness values are arbitrary, and there are no absolute standards forhardness. Hardness has no quantitative value, except in terms of a given load applied in aspecific, reproducible manner and with a specified indenter shape.

    Static indentation tests in which a ball, cone or pyramid penetrates into the surface of thematerial being tested are widespread. The relationship of load to the area or depth ofindentation is a measure of hardness, such as that found in common bench-top Brinell,Rockwell, Vickers or Knoop hardness testers.

    The different methods and differently shaped indenters used by, for example, Brinell (HB)and Rockwell (HRC) produce dissimilar responses of the material under test. Conversiontables relating to e.g. HRC and HB values have to be determined empirically byexperimental evaluation of a specific material’s hardness with the different test methods.There exists no mathematical equation to transfer measurements from one scale to another.To compare the hardness of two different samples, both must be measured using the samehardness scale, or a scale must be developed to convert from one measurement to the other.

    Why hardness testing?
    In manufacturing applications, materials are primarily tested for two reasons: either toresearch the characteristics of a new material or as a quality check to ensure that thesample meets a particular specification.

    (Video) Portable hardness tester Phase II PHT-1900 portable hardness tester rockwell brinell vickers Revised

    How to measure hardness on-site?
    Conventional hardness testing machines require the test piece be brought to the testingdevice; but this is not always possible. Portable testing devices have been developed thatpermit in-situ hardness measurements.

    One popular device measures the frequency shift of a resonating rod with a Vickers-diamond tip, which occurs when the diamond penetrates into the test material by applyinga specific test load. The frequency shift is evaluated and electronically converted to ahardness value displayed on the LCD. The MICRODUR instruments (Krautkramer) workaccording this method, the so-called UCI (Ultrasonic Contact Impedance) method.

    Another well-known principle for portable hardness testers is the rebound method. TheDynaMIC and DynaPOCKET (Krautkramer), for example, measure the velocity of apropelled impact body directly before and after the impact onto the test material’s surface.The ratio between both velocities indicates the hardness of the material, which can beconverted into different scales by using conversion tables stored in the instrument fordifferent materials.

UCI and Rebound hardness testing with just one instrument!

    The brand-new Krautkramer MIC 20 combines the two most successfully applied portablehardness testing principles in one instrument. Whether you want to use the UCI principleor the dynamic Rebound testing method – the MIC 20 offers both possibilities. All youneed is just one instrument and all current UCI probes and impact devices can be pluggedin and used.

The UCI Method

    As in standard Vickers or Brinell hardness testing, thequestion as to the size of the test indentation in thematerial generated by a certain test load also arises inVickers hardness testing according to the UCI(Ultrasonic Contact Impedance) method. However,the diagonals of the test indentation, which have to beknown in order to determine the Vickers Hardnessvalue, are not evaluated optically as usual, but theindentation area is electronically detected bymeasuring the shift of an ultrasonic frequency

    A UCI probe typically consists of a Vickers diamond attached to the end of a metal rod(Fig. 1). This rod is excited into longitudinal oscillation at about 70 kHz by piezoelectrictransducers.

    PORTABLE HARDNESS TESTING– PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS (1)Fig 1: Schematic descriptionof the UCI probe.

    When the test load is applied, a frequency shift occurs as the diamond penetrates into thematerial. This frequency shift will become greater when the test indentation becomeslarger, that means when the diamond penetrates deeper into “soft” material. Analogously,the smallest frequency shift is produced by hard test materials; the diamond penetrates onlyslightly into the material and leaves a small indentation.

    This is the secret of UCI hardness testing: the frequency shift is proportional to the size ofthe test indentation produced by the Vickers diamond. Equation (1) describes this basicrelation in comparison to the definition of the Vickers hardness value.

    (Video) Portable Hardness Tester (Hindi)

    Equation 1: The Frequency shift as a function of the indentation size of a Vickersindenter. Df= frequency shift, A = area of indentation, Eeff = effectiveelastic modulus (contains the elastic constants of both the indenter andthe test piece), HV = Vickers hardness value, and F= Force applied in theVickers hardness test.

    To carry out the UCI principle, a probe containing a rod with a Vickers diamond attachedto the contact end is resonated by piezoelectric ceramics at an ultrasonic frequency. Aspring applies the load and the frequency of the rod changes in proportion to the contactarea of the indentation produced by the Vickers diamond. Therefore, the hardness value isnot visually determined by the diagonals of the indent, but by an electronic measurementof the frequency shift within seconds.

    The instrument constantly monitors the frequency, performs the calculation andinstantaneously displays the hardness value.

    The frequency shift, nevertheless, also depends on the Young's modulus of elasticity,which is a material constant. For the practical application of the UCI-method, the Young'smodulus therefore has to be considered. The instrument has to be calibrated when thehardness of different materials with different values of the Young's modulus has to bedetermined.

    After completing the calibration, the UCI method can be used for all materials showingthis modulus of elasticity. When being manufactured, the probes are calibrated on low-alloyed or unalloyed steels; however, modern test instruments can be calibrated quickly,also at the test location, to other materials as well, such as titanium or copper.

The Rebound method

    Hardness testers using the Rebound method operate in a slightly different manner.Although the size of the test indentation generated is connected with the material hardnesseven in this case, it is indirectly measured via the loss of energy of a so-called impactbody. A mass is accelerated to the surface of the test object and impinges on it at a definedspeed, i.e. kinetic energy. The impact creates a plastic deformation of the surface, i.e. anindentation, due to which the impact body loses part of its original speed - or energy. Itwill lose more velocity when creating a bigger indentation on softer material. Technically,this principle of measurement is implemented by means of an impact body which has aspherical tungsten carbide tip and which is accelerated onto the test surface by springforce. The velocities after and before the impact are each measured in a non-contact mode.

    This is done by a small permanent magnet within the impact body (Fig. 2) which generatesan induction voltage during its passage through a coil, with this voltage being proportionalto the speed.

    PORTABLE HARDNESS TESTING– PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS (3)Fig 2: Cross-cut of a typicalimpact device.

    The inventor of this method, D. Leeb, defined “his own” hardness value, the Leeb hardnessvalue. The Leeb hardness value, HL, is calculated from the ratio of the impact and reboundspeed according to:

    Equation 2: The Hardness value according to Leeb (HL) is defined as the ratiobetween the rebound velocity (vR) after and the impact velocity (vI)before the impact of the tungsten carbide ball onto the test piecesurface.

    You might ask yourself: "Who wants to measurethe hardness value in Leeb?" The answer is: as amatter of fact, anybody who uses the reboundhardness testing method does it, because the Leebhardness value is, by definition in the equation(2), the actual physical measurement value behindthis method. However, nearly no user indicates theLeeb hardness value HL in his specifications ortest reports. We mostly convert into the requiredhardness scales (HV, HB, HS, HRC, HRB,N/mm2). For this reason, only conversion bringsthe rebound hardness method to life. Empiricallydetermined conversion tables for differentmaterial groups are stored in the Krautkramerhardness testing instruments.

    (Video) Steel Hardness Test (Leeb Rebound)

    To apply the principle, an impact device uses aspring to propel an impact body through a guide tube towards the test piece. As it travelstowards the test piece, a magnet contained within the impact body generates a signal in acoil encircling the guide tube. After the impact, it rebounds from the surface inducing asecond signal into the coil. The Krautkramer instrument calculates the hardness valueusing the ratio of the voltages and analyzes their phases to automatically compensate forchanges in orientation. Due to the patented signal processing, there is no need for anymanual correction for the impact direction. Only Krautkramer hardness testers offer thisautobalancing feature.

    Application solutions are determined by the force and ball size of the impact body. Theoperator can select between different impact devices for the DynaMIC hardness testers(Dyna D, Dyna E and Dyna G) as well as the DynaPOCKET instrument.

The Through-Diamond-Technique

    While both methods – UCI- and Rebound – are successfully used in the field and solvemany on-site hardness testing applications, there are limitations concerning the kind ofmaterial under test and its size and weight, respectively. Furthermore, because of theinfluence of Youngs-Modulus, most conventional testing methods do not allow to measuredifferent materials without firstly calibrating or adjusting the instrument.

What are the advantages of the TDT method?

    With Transpyramidal Indenter Viewing, oralso known as Through DiamondTechnique, we overcome this “handicap”:practically all kinds of material from steelto rubber and from aluminum to plasticscan be tested without the necessity ofinstrument calibration. With thisinstrument we developed an optical mobilehardness tester, allowing real Vickershardness measurement under load withouthaving to face the disturbing influence ofthe elastic properties of the test material,i.e. Youngs-Modulus.

    The system consists of the portable baseinstrument including a graphical LCDdisplay and the TDT probe (see Figure 3).

    PORTABLE HARDNESS TESTING– PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS (5)Fig 3: Schematic descriptionof the TDT probe.

    By applying a certain test load (e.g. 50 N)the diamond penetrates into the material. The indentation size of the Vickers diamond, i. e.the lengths of the diagonals, is automatically measured under load by viewing through thediamond with an optical system having a CCD camera. Data evaluation is then made in theinstrument. As Vickers hardness is simply defined as the ratio between test load andindentation size (the diagonals of the indentation), the TDT-measurement of the diagonallength immediately produces a Vickers hardness value for the applied test load. The livepicture of the indentation displayed on the instrument’s LCD also allows immediatecharacterization of measurement reliability, i.e. the quality of the Vickers diamondindentation.

    The physical method of TDT hardness testing – traced back to Vickers hardness – allowsmobile testing of different materials without the necessity of calibrating the instrument. Byviewing through the diamond under load, TDT opens up mobile hardness testing not onlyto new applications like coils, thin layers and coatings but also to different materials likeplastics, glass and high-tech materials such as ceramics or intermetallics.

    While testing under load by viewing through the diamond, the TDT instruments even allowto measure the hardness of elastic or soft materials. Other types of tests, such as Brinell,Vickers or Knoop tests, have their difficulties. The problem with trying to apply some ofthe “older types” of tests, is that the indentations themselves can at times almostcompletely recover, and there is no permanent impression left, thus making measurementsimpossible. The TDT method eliminates that problem. It involves pressing a diamondpunch of known geometry into the surface of a material. The indentation size will bemonitored under load during the test.

    (Video) All-in-one solution for portable hardness testing I Equotip 550

    In some industries, aluminum or soft metal alloys such as solder would be considered“soft” materials. But as the testing of rubbers, plastics, and polymers becomes morecommonplace, even the softest metals will seem comparatively hard. It is a relative term.Applications for testing soft materials are nonetheless widespread. The automotiveindustry tests the hardness of paints and tires. The microelectronics and photonicsindustries test low-dielectric constant films, chemical and mechanical polishing pads, bondpads, solders, and electronic packaging materials. The biomaterials industry tests polymerjoint-implant materials, nail polish and drug particles. The medical field even testsbiological samples such as liver, cartilage, and arterial tissues. Determining meaningfulhardness values for soft materials has always been challenging, and despite recentadvances in methods and instruments, continues to be so.

The Through Diamond Technique (TDT)

    The innovation with this technique is the evaluation of the Vickers diamond indentation,which takes place by viewing through the Vickers diamond using a CCD camera. For thatpurpose it is necessary to light up the inner surfaces of the diamond using light-emittingdiodes (LED) geometrically arranged.

    In order to obtain the highest resolution of the indentation picture it is necessary to matchthe wavelength of the LED light and the spectral sensitivity characteristics of the CCDchip. A special lens system was developed and adjusted to the LED to ensure maximumresolution. Computer assisted evaluation of the indentation and determination of thediagonal’s length occurs in three steps. A first step locates the approximate position of theindentation. After that the exact course of the indentation’s border is determined in localvicinities (so-called Areas of Interest) by applying suitable “transition filters” fordetermination of any grey scale transition. Finally the indentation surface and the diagonalsare determined using the intersections of the calculated borders and the edges of theVickers diamond. According to the definition of Vickers, the HV value is calculated for theapplied test load.

Practical application

    The PC-based TDT system consists of a hand-held PC and the TDT probe. The interfacebetween instrument and probe serves as power supply for the probe as well as connectorfor all control functions. The interface also feeds the BAS signal from the CCD camera tothe frame grabber. With special software the data can be evaluated, the diagonals measuredand the hardness value calculated. The live picture through the diamond can be displayed,enabling the diamond’s indentation process to be viewed, i.e. the growth of the indentationby applying the test load. It also allows an in situ quality characterization of the diamondand the diamond’s indentation, respectively.

    Depending on the resolution and the test load, different hardness ranges can be analyzed.The standard TDT probe with a test load of 50 N allows a measurement range from about100 HV5 to 900 HV5. For softer materials a lower test load has to be applied.

    In principle, all kind of materials can be tested as long as the hardness value is in the rangeof the TDT probe used for the measurement.

    PORTABLE HARDNESS TESTING– PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS (6)Fig 4: Typical Vickers diamond indentations obtained by TDT measurementson a) steel b) coiled steel c) Teflon and d) ceramics (Al2O3).

    Figure 4 shows some typical Vickers diamond indentationsobtained by the TDT instrument on different materials undertest. TDT – for example – allows to determine the hardness of bulk material

  1. enables tomeasure the hardness on coils
  2. and also opens up hardness testing to new applicationslike high-tech materials
  3. ceramics
  4. or rubber and plastics.


    By viewing through the diamond under load the Through Diamond Technique opens upnew applications for hardness testing. The portable instrument not only allows for on-sitemeasurements but also enables hardness measurements on all kind of materials. Theobtained hardness value corresponds to Vickers testing, with the exception that TDTmeasures under load, thus also enabling measurement of elastic materials where usualindentation hardness fails.

    (Video) Starrett 3811A - Portable Hardness Tester (product video presentation)


    Mobile hardness testing instruments will not replace the conventional bench-top machines,but nevertheless, they became an indispensable addition for hardness testing units. Duringthe last decades several portable instruments based on different physical methods weredeveloped. Today portable units are widespread and accepted tools for portable, on-sitehardness testing applications.

    Those instruments solve plenty of mobile hardness testing tasks, but however, each methodis limited – more or less – to a specific application area and, therefore, the decision as towhich method and instrument to use strongly depends on the testing application.

© NDT.net - info@ndt.net|Top|


What is the principle of portable hardness tester? ›

Another well-known principle for portable hardness testers is the rebound method. The DynaMIC and DynaPOCKET (Krautkramer), for example, measure the velocity of a propelled impact body directly before and after the impact onto the test material's surface.

What is the use of portable hardness tester? ›

Portable hardness testers can be used on much smaller surface areas than traditional hardness testers. Furthermore, they cab test individual parts of one material, e.g., a piece of metal attached to or on the surface of larger pieces of equipment.

What is the principle of hardness testing? ›

A hardness test is typically performed by pressing a specifically dimensioned and loaded object (indenter) into the surface of the material you are testing. The hardness is determined by measuring the depth of indenter penetration or by measuring the size of the impression left by an indenter.

What are the 4 commonly used hardness testing techniques? ›

Common hardness testing types include Rockwell (indentation depth or un-recovered indentation), Knoop/Vickers, and Brinell (area of indentation). Rockwell testing is the most commonly used method by virtue of the quick results generated and is typically used on metals and alloys.

What are the two most common hardness testing techniques? ›

Two of the most common hardness tests are Knoop and Vickers, which are used in micro and macro testing to determine material hardness based on measuring the size of a diamond-shaped impression left from an application of a specified force.

How accurate are portable hardness testers? ›

Using portable hardness testers, the lowest inaccuracy N was achieved for Vickers hardness test (+2.93 % by the hardness tester TH170, respectively –1.75 % by the hard- ness tester TH1100), followed by Brinell hardness test (– 3.90 % by the hardness tester TH170 and –5.95 % by the hardness tester TH1100) and by ...

What materials can hardness tests be used for? ›

This can be used on a variety of materials, including metals, polymers, ceramics and some bio-materials. It uses a diamond shaped indenter and the calculations are determined by the diagonal lengths of the indents made. This form of testing also includes a sub-group that can be utilised to test the hardness of welds.

What are the three methods of testing hardness? ›

The three most commonly used are the Brinell test, the Vicker's Diamond test, and the Rockwell test. All three methods involve indentation of the material. The hardness is calculated by measuring the force applied and comparing this to some geometrical aspect of the indentation such as the surface area or depth.

Which hardness test is most widely used? ›

Indentation hardness value is obtained by measuring the depth or the area of the indentation using one of over 12 different test methods. Learn more about hardness testing basics here. The Rockwell hardness test method, as defined in ASTM E-18, is the most commonly used hardness test method.

What is the principle of determination of hardness of water? ›

Hardness of water is determined by titrating with a standard solution of ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid (EDTA) which is a complexing agent. Since EDTA is insoluble in water, the disodium salt of EDTA is taken for this experiment. EDTA can form four or six coordination bonds with a metal ion.

What machine is used for hardness testing? ›

The Shore scleroscope measures hardness in terms of the elasticity of the material.

What are the limitations of hardness testing? ›

Some disadvantages of hardness testing are as follows:
  • The major disadvantage is that it is difficult to choose the suitable hardness test method because its result may be different in multiple methods.
  • Calibration standard is required.
  • The surface finish of the test surface affects the result of the hardness test.

What are the different types of portable hardness testers? ›

Portable hardness testers can be divided into three types: a) Leeb (dynamic, rebound, impact); b) UCI (ultrasonic,contact-resonance, contact-impedance); c) combined (UCI+Leeb).

What is the most accurate hardness test? ›

1. Rockwell Hardness Testers. Rockwell hardness testers are the most commonly used of all the types of hardness testers. The Rockwell method offers a quick and accurate measure of hardness on almost all metals and some plastics (see Rockwell scales below).

What is the disadvantage of portable hardness tester? ›

The limitation of the method is that the thickness and mass of the sample can affect the measurement result.

What are the main three types of hardness testers for materials? ›

This include the three following methods;
  • Rockwell Hardness Test. The Rockwell hardness test procedure involves pressing an object with known geometry into the surface of your sample at different loads until you get to a certain depth or threshold load. ( ...
  • Brinell Hardness Test. ...
  • Vickers Hardness Test.
Oct 6, 2021

What is the best way to test water hardness? ›

Fill the bottle one-third full, add a few drops of pure liquid soap and shake vigorously for a few seconds. If there is a distinct lack of fluffy bubbles and the water appears cloudy and/or milky, your water is hard.

Which is the best method for hardness determination and why? ›

So, it is important to estimate the hardness of water so as to minimize the effect caused by hard water. The hardness of water can be determined by the complexometric titration using Ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid ( EDTA ) . EDTA in the form of its di− sodium salt creates a complex with Ca2+ and Mg2+ ions of water.

Which hardness test is most acceptable by the industry and why? ›

One of the most common indentation hardness tests used today is the Rockwell hardness test. Although less widespread, the Brinell and Vickers hardness tests are also utilized. Most indentation hardness tests measure the deformation that occurs when the material being tested is penetrated with an indenter.

What are the three types of hardness of water? ›

General guidelines for classification of waters are: 0 to 60 mg/L (milligrams per liter) as calcium carbonate is classified as soft; 61 to 120 mg/L as moderately hard; 121 to 180 mg/L as hard; and more than 180 mg/L as very hard.

What is the basic principle of EDTA method? ›

EDTA is Ethylene diamine tetra acetic acid. It dissolves in water with great difficulty, but its disodium salt dissolve in water quickly & completely It is hexa dentate ligend. It binds the metal ions in water to give stable chelate complex. Hence it is called as complexometric titration method.

What is the principle of total hardness? ›

Total hardness is due to the presence of bicarbonates, chlorides and sulphates of calcium and magnesium ions. The total hardness of water is estimated by titrating the water sample against EDTA using Eriochrome Black-T (EBT) indicator.

What are the common causes of error in hardness testing? ›

Problems related to accuracy, repeatability, and/or correlation usually can be traced to one or more of five causes: machine, operator, environment, sample prep, and calibration.

What precautions should be taken when performing a hardness test? ›

Accurate hardness values may not be obtained if foreign matter such as dust, rust, or oil is included on contact surfaces. Wipe all contact surfaces thoroughly with a clean cloth before performing tests.

What are the factors affecting hardness value? ›

The major factors affecting hardenability and the rate of austenite transformation are carbon content, grain size, and alloying elements.

Which hardness test is most widely used in the US? ›

Explanation: Most widely used hardness test is a Rockwell test in the US.

How do you determine the strength of hardness? ›

y = Ax ± B, where A is the slope, and B is the intercept. In this case, x is the Brinell hardness number, and y is the ultimate tensile strength. These formulas have been developed by statistical treatment of Brinell hardness data and the respective ultimate tensile strength data, using linear regression analysis.

What is the principle of measurement of the hardness of a metal? ›

The usual method to achieve a hardness value is to measure the depth or area of an indentation left by an indenter of a specific shape, with a specific force applied for a specific time. According to the test force: macro hardness (F force > 30 N), small hardness load (3-30 N) and micro hardness (< 0,5N).

What is the basic principle of measurement? ›

Measurement is the process of comparing an unknown quantity with a standard of the same quantity, as in measuring length, or with standards of two or more related quantities, as in measuring velocity which has to be compared with both distance and time.

Which hardness tester is most widely used? ›

Hardness testing machines perform three common kinds of scientific hardness tests: the Brinell hardness test, the Rockwell hardness test, and the Vickers hardness test. The Rockwell hardness test is the most widely used technique, easy to carry out and more precise than other kinds of evaluations.


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