Rapid Wear of an Impact Breaker Bar Due to Excessive Retained Austenite
An impact breaker bar showed signs of rapid wear. The nominal composition of this chromium alloy cast iron was Fe-2.75C-0.75Mn-0.5Si-0.5Ni-19.5Cr-1.1Mo. The measured hardness of this bar was 450 to 500 HRB. The desired hardness for this material after air hardening is 600 to 650 HRB. The microstructure consisted of eutectic chromium carbides (Cr7C3) in a matrix of retained austenite and martensite intermingled with secondary carbides. Analysis (visual inspection and 500x view of sections etched with Marble's reagent) supported the conclusion that the low hardness resulted from an excessive amount of retained austenite. This caused reduced wear resistance and thus rapid wear in service. Recommendations included avoiding an excessive austenitizing temperature and excessive cooling rates from the austenitizing temperature and controlling the chemical composition to avoid excessive hardenability for the section size involved.