Talk Like a Metallurgist

Talk Like a Metallurgist

Every industry has its own jargon. In certain settings, these words might be necessary – you wouldn’t want a cardiologist talking to a gastroenterologist about boo-boos and upset tummies. But when these professionals talk with their patients, it’s sometimes necessary for them to use much simpler words. That is, assuming the goal is to actually communicate the issues and concerns.

The steel industry is no different. We use words that have precise meanings in our daily discussions, and we forget that many people we work with don’t have exposure to the terminology that we are accustomed to using. What follows is a brief tour of the words and phrases you are likely to hear when speaking with your metallurgical representative.

Let’s start with the most common word: steel. Simply, steel is just an alloy of iron with up to about 2% carbon. Of course, other elements are in the composition. These fall into two categories: those intentionally added to improve one or more properties (called alloying elements), and those remaining from the steelmaking process that are too costly to remove relative to the benefit the removal would provide (called residual elements). High residuals are usually bad, typically because they lower ductility. But remember high is a relative term. The value may be higher than the standard to which you ordered (which is a cause for rejection), or just higher than what you’ve received in the past. If they are within the tolerance allowed within the standard, the product should still meet your strength and ductility requirements.

I’ve worked with metal formers who believe “steel is steel” and that all grades should behave the same way. According to the World Steel Association, there are more than 3,500 different grades of steel, each with unique properties and characteristics, 75% of which were developed in the past 20 years. Certainly, not all of these are sheet steels, but even within this category, there are sizable numbers. When it comes to just advanced high-strength sheet steels, more than 60 unique grades are available today.

The most common sheet steel grade is routinely called mild steel. Mild steels are low-carbon steels with no alloying elements added for substantial strengthening, and for that reason, they are characterized by relatively lower yield strength. However, there is no single grade or chemistry that meets this definition. Grade definitions require the steelmaker to meet certain chemistry or property limits. These grades are ordered to a standard usually written by the steel producer, a pertinent industry society (like ASTM, Euronorm, or JFS), or the end-user OEM. What is generally thought of as mild steel has chemistry, strength, and ductility overlapping many defined grades. Steel users should order to standards that define and constrain important properties like strength and ductility.

If you hang out with enough metallurgists, you are bound to hear passionate discussions about the iron-carbon phase diagram. (Why you are hanging around metallurgists is another topic entirely.) Before explaining the purpose of a phase diagram, it’s important to understand that a phase is a region of a material that is physically distinct, chemically uniform, and can be seen as different from the rest of the material. Ice and water are two phases that exist in my beverage. You’ll find a chocolate chip phase in my vanilla ice cream. And you’ll find ferrite in my steel – tasty! The properties of each of these change if you increase temperature (converting H2O from a solid to a liquid and eventually a gas) or if you add more alloying elements (chocolate chips or carbon). If you add a lot of that alloying element, you can get something entirely different like ripple or pearlite.

A phase diagram is a graphical representation of composition on the horizontal axis and temperature on the vertical axis. Two important phase diagrams are shown below. The far-left side of each represents 100% vanilla or 100% iron. Different phases exist as the temperature increases, or as the product is alloyed with increasing amounts of either chocolate or carbon.


Vanilla Chocolate Phase Diagram

Figure 1: Vanilla-Chocolate Phase Diagram A-77


Iron Carbon Phase Diagram

     Figure 2: Iron Carbon Phase DiagramA-78


Atoms arrange themselves in three-dimensional patterns called lattices. Think about billiard balls in multiple layers. The balls can be one layer directly above the prior one, or they can be shifted and rest in the crevice formed by adjacent balls in the layer below. The balls are all the same material, but the gap size changes with different arrangements. This is what happens with steel. At lower temperatures, only up to 0.02% carbon fits in the gap. This orientation is called ferrite. At higher temperatures, a different atomic orientation is stable, which we call austenite. Up to 2% carbon can fit into this arrangement of atoms. For low-carbon steels under normal conditions, austenite cannot exist at room temperature – when the steel is slowly cooled, it changes from austenite to a combination of ferrite and a mixture of phases called pearlite. However, heating a certain chemistry to the austenitic zone followed by rapidly cooling just right bypasses the natural conversion to ferrite and pearlite, and creates a structure that contains austenite at room temperature. This leads to the term retained austenite, which is the phase that gives TRIP and 3rd Generation Steels excellent ductility. More on these later.

100% iron is very soft. As a matter of fact, 100% of any element is very soft. As an example, think about gold. 24-carat gold is pure gold. You might think that a wedding ring, as a symbol of long-lasting love and devotion, should be made from 100% gold. In reality, many gold bands are made from 12-carat gold, which is half gold and half impurities. (Showing your love by giving something 50% impure perhaps is not the best marketing approach.) Adding alloying elements to gold is done to improve certain characteristics, like strength, making the alloy appropriate for the applications it serves.

When we talk about ferrite at room temperature, that’s iron with no more than 80 parts per million carbon. That’s really close to pure iron, so when we hear the term ferrite, we should think of something that is really soft, low-strength, and very ductile.

If additional strength is needed, then more alloying elements must be used in addition to carbon. The next most cost-effective alloying element is manganese which produces higher-strength steels called carbon-manganese steels. These are substitutional solid solutions strengthened, where the atoms of manganese swap into where atoms of iron would otherwise go. These grades have limited ductility, especially at higher carbon and manganese contents, so they are used in structural applications that do not need a lot of formability and are therefore also called structural steels (SS). In the ASTM standard specification covering many sheet steels, ASTM A1008/A1008M, these grades are grouped in the SS category.

Around 1980, steelmakers rolled out a new approach to getting higher strength levels while minimizing the loss of elongation usually seen with higher strengths. They do this by strengthening the ferrite through the addition of very small quantities of titanium, niobium, and vanadium to form carbide and nitride precipitates. These microalloying additions are used in precipitation hardening of the ferrite to create High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) steels.

Switching gears a bit to discuss something unrelated to sheet steel but a process with which we might be familiar: forged gears. We want forged gears to be hard and high strength. Typical production of gears involves heating up a steel alloy of certain chemistry, followed by rapid cooling (quenching) them faster than a critical cooling rate. The structure that’s produced is called martensite. If the quench rate is only a little too slow, a different phase called bainite can be produced. While martensite is the highest strength phase, it has limited elongation. Bainite is a little lower in strength but has higher elongation and toughness compared with martensite. Bainite shines in applications needing cut-edge ductility during stretch flanging.

Martensite wasn’t commonly found as a microstructural component during most of the history of automotive sheet steels due to the limited number of companies having an annealing line with appropriate quenching capabilities. This started to change around the turn of the millennium when newer annealing lines were installed with the ability to hold at a specific temperature which may be lower than the annealing temperature followed by quenching to another much lower temperature. This led to greater production of the first generation of Advanced High-Strength Steels (AHSS), including grades that have a microstructure of only martensite

Dual Phase steels are the most common AHSS. As you might guess, there are two phases in Dual-Phase steels. Ferrite and martensite are the two phases: ferrite is super-soft and comprises the majority of the microstructure, while martensite is super-hard and takes up 10% (590DP) to 40% (980DP) of the microstructure. The more martensite, the stronger the steel. Elongation is the ductility measured in a tensile test, and since most of the structure is ferrite, these steels have exceptional elongation for the strength level. However, there is a large hardness difference between ferrite and martensite, leading to crack initiation sites and resulting in poor cut-edge ductility during stretch flanging.

[A brief digression on testing. Tensile testing takes a standard sample shape, typically looking like a bone you might give a dog to chew on, and pulls it in tension from the edges. The test results include yield strength, tensile strength, and total elongation, commonly called the YTEs or TYEs based on the initials. More information comes out of the tensile test, covered elsewhere. However, the tensile test is usually not used to measure cut-edge ductility. Cut edge ductility is typically characterized by the hole expansion test, where a punched hole is expanded with a conical punch until a through-thickness crack forms.]

Ferrite-bainite steels have a combination of decent elongation (from the ferrite) and excellent cut-edge ductility (from the bainite). Yes, your assumption is correct that there are only two phases in these steels, with ferrite being about 85% of the microstructure. Due to the way these are produced, ferrite-bainite steels are available as hot-rolled products only. That’s in contrast with Complex Phase (CP) steels, which can be found either at hot-rolled or cold-rolled thicknesses.

Soft ferrite is the primary microstructural component in DP steels and the soon-to-be-discussed TRIP steels, which results in low yield strength and relatively high elongation. On the other hand, the primary microstructural components of complex phase steels are bainite and precipitation-strengthened ferrite, with martensite and retained austenite also present in lower amounts. Lacking soft ferrite, these steels have relatively high yield strength and low elongation as measured in a tensile test, but the bainite leads to exceptional cut-edge ductility as measured in a hole expansion test. Multi-phase steels are a related product. Some OEMs group CP and MP steels in the same category, while others say that CP steels are engineered to favor improved bendability and cut edge extension over tensile elongation at the same tensile strength and that MP steels target balancing the fracture resistance needed for better bendability and hole expansion with the necking resistance found with higher uniform elongation and n-value.

TRIP steels contain mostly ferrite surrounding islands of martensite, as well as some bainite and retained austenite. The amount of bainite is pretty low, so it doesn’t add much to the cut-edge ductility. But the magic is in the retained austenite. Austenite is a very ductile phase. What makes this a special phase is that as austenite-containing steels deform, the atoms rearrange and the austenite transforms into martensite, giving the steel enhanced ductility. (Jargon alert: Another word for ductility used by professionals is plasticity.) A quick review: this enhanced ductility comes from austenite transforming to martensite. In other words, these steels have Transformation Induced Plasticity (TRIP).

Wouldn’t it be great to have an alloy that was just austenite? We’d have a high-strength, high-ductility product. There are two types of steels that are in this category. First are austenitic stainless steels in the 3XX family, like SS304 and SS316. In these alloys, austenite is stable at room temperature, but these require approximately 18% chromium and 8% nickel. Next are TWIP steels. These may look like TRIP steels from how they are written, but these steels get their plasticity differently. TWIP steels deform by a mechanism known as twinning, so they are described as Twinning Induced Plasticity Steels (TWIP). Of course, there are no free lunches. To get fantastic formability properties, a lot of alloying is necessary. This drives up the steelmaking complexity and cost. The alloying elements also make welding much more challenging. TWIP steels are called second-generation advanced high-strength steels.

The 3rd Generation Advanced High-Strength Steels (3rd Gen AHSS or 3rd Gen) are made possible by another advance in annealing technology, allowing steelmakers to produce a refined microstructure. Nearly all 3rd Gen steels have retained austenite in the microstructure and therefore benefit from a high strength, high ductility combination. The latest annealing lines used to make these steels come equipped to not just hold and quench to defined temperatures but have reheating capability followed by another hold and quench to different temperature targets. This allows for the creation of an engineered balance and distribution of ferrite, bainite, martensite, and austenite in the microstructure.

The resultant tensile property ranges from 3rd Gen steels produced at different companies may be similar, but their methods of getting those properties are a function of chemistry and the capabilities and characteristics of the equipment used to produce them. A different chemistry approach may result in different weldability, for example, so users are encouraged to perform thorough due diligence before switching suppliers. The days of steel being simply a commodity are in the past as it relates to these highly engineered higher strength steels.


Final thought 1: What’s an MPa?

This note may have a global readership, but this answer is focused on the countries that haven’t embraced the metric system. Megapascals, abbreviated MPa, is a measure of strength, just like pounds per square inch (psi) or force per area. Like Celsius and Fahrenheit or inches and millimeters, we can convert between them easily enough. There are 1000 psi in a ksi, with k being the abbreviation for kilopounds. And there are 6.895 ksi in an MPa. Make your life easier and focus on a 7:1 difference. 100 ksi is about 700 MPa.


Final thought 2: What about Press Hardening Steels?

Press hardening steel for hot stamping is a separate topic with a lot of nuances. One of the biggest differences is how the properties develop. For cold stamping operations, the stamping company is responsible for creating the formed part from sheet metal supplied to the necessary strength. With press hardening steels, the stamping company creates both the shape and the strength. Different grades come from a combination of different chemistries from the steelmaker and different heating and cooling profiles at the stamping location. The chosen corrosion protection approach impacts the various options. Learn more at the Press Hardening Primer on this site.


Final thought 3: Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

If your metallurgical representative says something that you don’t understand, ask for clarification. Your suppliers want to be your valued partner for more than just a simple transaction. Quite likely, your met rep is passionate about their offerings and would love to talk about them. If you get a deeper understanding of what makes one product different from another, then you’ll be in a better position to weigh the benefits against the inevitable constraints, leading to an optimized material selection. Remember, communication is the key to success for all parties.


Thanks go to author Daniel J. Schaeffler, Ph.D., President, Engineering Quality Solutions, Inc.

Danny Schaeffler is the Metallurgy and Forming Technical Editor of the AHSS Applications Guidelines available from WorldAutoSteel.  He is founder and President of Engineering Quality Solutions (EQS).  Danny writes the monthly “Metal Matters” column for Metalforming Magazine, and provides seminars on sheet metal formability for the Precision Metalforming Association.  He has written for Stamping Journal and The Fabricator, and has lectured at FabTech.  Danny is passionate about training new and experienced employees at manufacturing companies about how sheet metal properties impact their forming success.



Carbon-Manganese (CMn)

Carbon-Manganese High Strength Steel

Carbon and manganese are the two most cost-effective alloying additions to increase strength.  While effective at strengthening, these additions reduce ductility and toughness, and make welding more challenging.

The practical usage of these grades typically limits the highest strength to no more than 280 MPa.  Adding enough carbon and manganese to achieve higher strength results in a product without sufficient ductility for challenging applications, low toughness, and welding difficulty. These products sometimes are referred to as structural steels, and achieve their strength from the mechanism of solid solution strengthening.

Until the commercialization of High Strength Low Alloy steels, the CMn approach was the only option for users to obtain a high strength sheet metal.

Some of the specifications describing uncoated cold rolled Carbon-Manganese (CMn) or structural steels are included below, with the grades typically listed in order of increasing minimum yield strength and ductility. Different specifications may exist which describe hot or cold rolled, uncoated or coated, or steels of different strengths. Many automakers have proprietary specifications which encompass their requirements.  Note that ASTM terminology is based on minimum yield strength, while JIS and JFS standards are based on minimum tensile strength.  Also note that JIS G3135 does not explicitly state that these grades must be supplied with a C-Mn chemistry.  An HSLA approach is satisfactory as long as the mechanical property criteria are satisfied.

  • ASTM A1008M, with the terms Grade 25 [170], Grade 30 [205], Grade 33 [230] Type 1, Grade 33 [230] Type 2, Grade 40 [275] Type 1, Grade 40 [275] Type 2, Grade 45 [310], Grade 50 [340], Grade 60 [410], Grade 70 [480], and Grade 80 [550] A-25
  • JIS G3135 with the terms SPFC340, SPFC370, SPFC390, SPFC440, SPFC490, SPFC540, and SPFC590 J-3
  • JFS A2001, with the terms JSC340W, JSC370W, JSC390W, and JSC440W J-23



High Strength Low Alloy Steel

Carbon-Manganese Steels (CMn) are a lower cost approach to reach up to approximately 280MPa yield strength, but are limited in ductility, toughness and welding.

Increasing carbon and manganese, along with alloying with other elements like chromium and silicon, will increase strength, but have the same challenges as CMn steels with higher cost. An example is AISI/SAE 4130, a chromium-molybdenum (chromoly) medium carbon alloy steel. A wide range of properties are available, depending on the heat treatment of formed components. Welding conditions must be carefully controlled.

The 1980s saw the commercialization of high-strength low-alloy (HSLA) steels. In contrast with alloy steels, HSLA steels achieved higher strength with a much lower alloy content. Lower carbon content and lower alloying content leads to increased ductility, toughness, and weldability compared with grades achieving their strength from only solid solution strengthening like CMn steels or from alloying like AISI/SAE 4130. Lower alloying and elimination of post-forming heat treatment makes HSLA steels an economical approach for many applications.

This steelmaking approach allows for the production of sheet steels with yield strength levels now approaching 800 MPa. HSLA steels increase strength primarily by micro-alloying elements contributing to fine carbide precipitation, substitutional and interstitial strengthening, and grain-size refinement. HSLA steels are found in many body-in-white and underbody structural applications where strength is needed for increased in-service loads.

These steels may be referred to as microalloyed steels, since the carbide precipitation and grain-size refinement is achieved with only 0.05% to 0.10% of titanium, vanadium, and niobium, added alone or in combination with each other.

HSLA steels have a microstructure that is mostly precipitation-strengthened ferrite, with the amount of other constituents like pearlite and bainite being a function of the targeted strength level. More information about microstructural components is available here.

Some of the specifications describing uncoated cold rolled high strength low alloy (HSLA) steel are included below, with the grades typically listed in order of increasing minimum yield strength and ductility. Different specifications may exist which describe hot or cold rolled, uncoated or coated, or steels of different strengths. Many automakers have proprietary specifications which encompass their requirements.  Note that ASTM, EN and VDA terminology is based on minimum yield strength, while JIS and JFS standards are based on minimum tensile strength.  Also note that JIS G3135 does not explicitly state that these grades must be supplied with an HSLA chemistry.  A C-Mn approach is satisfactory as long as the mechanical property criteria are satisfied.

  • ASTM A1008M, with the terms HSLAS 45[310], 50[340], 55[380], 60[410], 65[450], and 70[480] along with HSLAS-F 50 [340], 60 [410], Grade 70 [480] and 80 [550]A-25
  • EN10268, with the terms HC260LA, HC300LA, HC340LA, HC380LA, HC420LA, HC460LA, and HC500LAD-5
  • JIS G3135, with the terms SPFC340, SPFC370, SPFC390, SPFC440, SPFC490, SPFC540, and SPFC590J-3
  • JFS A2001, with the terms JSC440R and JSC590RJ-23
  • VDA239-100, with the terms CR210LA, CR240LA, CR270LA, CR300LA, CR340LA, CR380LA, CR420LA, and CR460LAV-3

Interstitial-Free High Strength

ULC, IF, VD-IF, and EDDS are interchangeable terms that describe the most formable (high n-value) and lowest strength grade of steel.  Adding phosphorus, manganese, and/or silicon to these grades increases the strength due to solid solution strengthening, precipitation of carbides and/or nitrides, and grain refinement. 

For most alloys, steelmaking practices attempt to reduce phosphorus to very low levels, since increased phosphorus content is sometimes associated with an increased risk of embrittlement. However, in the ladle metallurgy station after steelmaking, small controlled amounts of phosphorus are added back to the melt when certain grades are produced, leading to the term “rephosphorized.”  Phosphorus is a potent solid solution strengthening element, where only small additions result in large increases in yield and tensile strength. 

When phosphorus or other solid solution strengthening elements are used to increase the strength of interstitial-free steels, IF-HS (Interstitial-Free High Strength) steel is produced. Using phosphorus leads to the term IF-Rephosphorized steel, or IF-Rephos.

These alloys have composition controlled to improve r-value.  In some products, small amounts of boron are added to counteract the embrittlement effects brought on by the phosphorus.

These higher strength IF-HS grades are widely used for both structural and closure applications.  Work hardening from forming increases panel strength, which is why they may be described as dent resistant steels.  However, this alloying approach is not capable of producing a bake hardenable grade.

Compared bake hardenable steels, carbon-manganese steels, and HSLA steels at similar strength levels, IF-HS grades are more formable, resulting from the ultra-low carbon chemistry and interstitial-free microstructure. 

Some of the specifications describing uncoated cold rolled interstitial-free high strength (IF-HS) steel are included below, with the grades typically listed in order of increasing minimum yield strength and ductility.  Different specifications may exist. Many automakers have proprietary specifications which encompass their requirements.  Note that EN and VDA terminology is based on minimum yield strength, while JFS standard is based on minimum tensile strength.

  • EN10268, with the terms HC180Y, HC220Y, and HC260Y D-17
  • VDA239-100, with the terms CR160IF, CR180IF, CR210IF, and CR240IF V-3
  • JFS A2001, with the terms JSC340P, JSC370P, JSC390P, and JSC440P J-23


Talk Like a Metallurgist

Bake Hardenable

BH Grades

Bake Hardenable (BH) steels grades are conventional High Strength Steels that exhibit a Bake Hardening Effect. BH steels exhibit an increase in yield strength after room-temperature stamping followed by processing through a thermal cycle comparable to the time-temperature profile used in paint curing (or baking) – approximately 170 °C for 20 minutes. Bake hardenability is characterized by determining the Bake Hardening Index.

Bake Hardenable steel grades have yield strength at shipment from the steel mills of 180 MPa to 300 MPa (approximately 25 ksi to 45 ksi). The grades at the lower strength levels are capable of being produced with a Class A surface finish and are used in applications where dent resistance is desired in thin sheet steel. Applications for the higher strength BH steels include structural parts where Class A surface is not required. The higher strength after forming and baking is the reason automakers might use these in body structure applications, potentially contributing to vehicle lightweighting efforts.

These grades work harden approximately 30 MPa when 2% strain is introduced, either from stamping or during a tensile test, which is similar to dent resistant IF-HS. In contrast to IF-HS, the paint-bake cycle after forming results in an additional yield strength increase. The minimum strength increase from baking is specified by some automakers as 20 MPa to 35 MPa, measured after applying a defined level of strain.

Higher yield strength directly improves the dent performance. Even though BH grades and their non bake hardening counterpart IF-HS grades may have similar yield strength and thickness after forming, bake hardenable steels will show superior dent resistance due to the increase in yield strength from the paint baking operation.

Ferrite is the main microstructural phase of BH steels. The strengthening from the paint bake cycle is due to the controlled amount of carbon remaining in solid solution (on the order of 25 ppm) when the steel leaves the production mill. At the baking temperatures after the part is formed, the dissolved carbon migrates to pin any free dislocations created from stamping. This increases the yield strength of the formed part for increased dent resistance. Formability does not suffer, since the strength increase occurs after stamping.

Most Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) grades also exhibit a Bake Hardening Effect, achieving yield strength increases of 40 MPa to 120 MPa from an appropriate thermal cycle. AHSS grades are not categorized with traditional bake hardenable steels, since their primary characteristics and applications are typically, but not exclusively, different. One exception are some Dual Phase (DP) steels available with a Class A surface, which are used as skin panels to combine excellent dent resistance with lightweighting benefits.

Some of the specifications describing uncoated Bake Hardenable (BH) steel are included below, with the grades typically listed in order of increasing minimum yield strength and ductility. Different specifications may exist which describe uncoated or coated, or steels of different strengths.

  • ASTM A1008M, with the terms BHS 26 [180], BHS 31 [210], BHS 35 [240], BHS 41 [280], BHS 44 [300]A-25
  • EN10268, with the terms HC180B, HC220B, HC260B, and HC300LAD-3
  • JIS G3135, with the term SPFC340HJ-3
  • JFS A2001, with the terms JSC270H, JSC340HJ-23
  • VDA239-100, with the terms CR180BH, CR210BH, CR240BH, and CR270BHV-3


Bake Hardening Effect

Bake Hardenable Steel Grades and most AHSS grades exhibit a Bake Hardening Effect, meaning that there is an increase in yield strength after room-temperature stamping followed by processing through a thermal cycle comparable to the time-temperature profile used in paint curing (or baking) – approximately 170 °C for 20 minutes.

The degree to which a sample is bake hardenable is characterized by the Bake Hardening Index.

In Bake Hardenable Steel Grades, solid solution hardening elements like phosphorus, manganese, and silicon are used to achieve the desired initial strength. For AHSS, the initial strength is determined by the balance and volume fraction of microstructural components like ferrite, bainite, retained austenite, and martensite. In both cases, a specifically engineered amount of dissolved carbon in the ferritic matrix causes an additional increase in the yield strength through controlled carbon aging during the paint-bake thermal cycle. The bake hardening process in AHSS grades is more complex, and results in substantially higher values of the Bake Hardening Index.

Figure 1 shows the work hardening and bake hardening increases for samples of three High-Strength steel grades having the same as-received yield strength prior to 2% pre-straining and baking. The HSLA steel shows little or no bake hardening, while AHSS such as DP and Transformation Induced Plasticity (TRIP) steels show a large positive bake hardening index. The DP steel also has significantly higher work hardening than HSLA or TRIP steel because of higher strain hardening at low strains. No aging behavior of AHSS has been observed due to storage of as-received coils or blanks over a significant length of time at normal room temperatures. Hence, significant mechanical property changes of shipped AHSS products during normal storage conditions are unlikely.

The higher bake hardening index (BHI) of AHSS grades DP 600 and TRIP 700 is also shown in Figure 2. While BHI is determined at a prestrain of 2%, this graph indicates that even higher levels of bake hardenability can be achieved with increasing strain. In a stamping where most areas have more than 2% strain, combining this higher bake hardenability with the increased work hardening that occurs with increasing strain results in a formed panel having a strength markedly higher than the incoming flat steel. This is beneficial for crash energy management.

Figure 1: Comparison of work hardening (WH) and bake hardening (BH) for TRIP, DP, and HSLA steels given a 2% prestrain. S1, K3

Figure 1: Comparison of work hardening (WH) and bake hardening (BH) for TRIP, DP, and HSLA steels given a 2% prestrain. S-1, K-3


Figure 2: Bake hardening responses of several HSS and AHSS products with varying pre-strain, reproduced from Figure 3 in Citation B-6. The bracketed numbers after each grade are references within the cited paper.

Figure 2: Bake hardening responses of several HSS and AHSS products with varying pre-strain, reproduced from Figure 3 in Citation B-6. The bracketed numbers after each grade are references within the cited paper.


Bake Hardenability of Exposed Quality Dual Phase Steels

Dent resistance is a function of the yield strength in the formed panel after it completes the paint baking cycle. Based on this premise, grades with higher bake hardenability, such as AHSS, should have substantially higher dent resistance. Application of AHSS grades to capitalize on improved dent resistance also requires their production at the desired thickness and width along with surface characteristics appropriate for Class A exposed quality panels. Some DP steels meet these tight requirements specified by the automotive industry.

A recent studyK-49 highlights this improved dent resistance. This work presents the experimental results and associated numerical investigation of the dent testing of DP270Y490T, a DP steel grade with 490 MPa minimum tensile strength. Tests performed to the SAE J2575 procedureS-7 measure the resultant dent depth after testing, so therefore smaller depths indicate improved performance. Compared with samples not processed through a bake hardening cycle, dent depth reductions occur with hotter and longer cycles, as shown in Figure 3. Increasing temperature plays a more significant role in dent depth reduction than increasing time. This work also reinforces that bake hardenability must be incorporated into simulation models in order to improve the accuracy of dent resistance predictions.

Figure 3: Dent resistance of DP270Y490T according to SAE J2575S-7* as a function of baking test conditions.K-49  Lower dent depth indicates better dent resistance.

Figure 3: Dent resistance of DP270Y490T according to SAE J2575S-7 as a function of baking test conditions.K-49 Lower dent depth indicates better dent resistance.


Measuring The Bake Hardenability Index

Bake hardenability is characterized by determining the Bake Hardening Index, or BHI.

The Bake Hardening Index (BH2) is determined by taking a conventional tensile test sample and pulling it to 2% strain. This is known as a 2% pre-strain. The sample is then put into an oven for a thermal cycle designed to be typical of an automotive paint curing (paint baking) cycle: 170 °C for 20 minutes. The temperature and time may be different depending on the end-user specifications.

Some companies may specify BH0, which uses the same thermal cycle without the 2% pre-strain. BH5 or BH10 (5% or 10% pre-strain, respectively) may also be reported.

The experimental procedure and calculation of BH2 is standardized in EN 10325D-4 and JIS G 3135J-3, and is similarly described in several other specifications.

Figure 4 defines the measurement for work hardening (B minus A), unloading to C for baking, and reloading to yielding at D for measurement of bake hardening (D minus B).  Note that the bake hardening index shown here is measured up to the lower yield point, which is consistent with the EN 10325 definition.  JIS G 3135 prescribes the use of the upper yield point.

Figure 4: Measurement of work hardening index and bake hardening index.

Figure 4: Measurement of work hardening index and bake hardening index.  BHI is measured using the lower yield point in EN 10325D-4 and with the upper yield point in JIS G 3135J-3.


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