Effect of Austenitizing Heat Treatment on the Microstructure and Hardness of Martensitic Stainless Steel AISI 420

Research paper by L. D. Barlow, M. Du Toit

Indexed on: 28 Sep '11Published on: 28 Sep '11Published in: Journal of Materials Engineering and Performance


The effect of austenitizing on the microstructure and hardness of two martensitic stainless steels was examined with the aim of supplying heat-treatment guidelines to the user that will ensure a martensitic structure with minimal retained austenite, evenly dispersed carbides and a hardness of between 610 and 740 HV (Vickers hardness) after quenching and tempering. The steels examined during the course of this examination conform in composition to medium-carbon AISI 420 martensitic stainless steel, except for the addition of 0.13% vanadium and 0.62% molybdenum to one of the alloys. Steel samples were austenitized at temperatures between 1000 and 1200 °C, followed by oil quenching. The as-quenched microstructures were found to range from almost fully martensitic structures to martensite with up to 35% retained austenite after quenching, with varying amounts of carbides. Optical and scanning electron microscopy was used to characterize the microstructures, and X-ray diffraction was employed to identify the carbide present in the as-quenched structures and to quantify the retained austenite contents. Hardness tests were performed to determine the effect of heat treatment on mechanical properties. As-quenched hardness values ranged from 700 to 270 HV, depending on the amount of retained austenite. Thermodynamic predictions (using the CALPHAD™ model) were employed to explain these microstructures based on the solubility of the carbide particles at various austenitizing temperatures.