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What is the difference between CCT and TTT

curve by an easy example? How they are plotted?

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3 Answers
Abhinav Gupta
Worked at MAHLE
Studied at Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur
Lives in Jhargram, West Bengal, India
35.9k answer views1.2k this month

Abhinav Gupta, Pursuing Metallurgical Engineering

Answered Apr 7 2015 Upvoted by
Alessandro Fais, BD and MoS in Materials Engineering, PHD in Metallurgical Engineering
TTT diagrams are time temperature transformation or isothermal transformation
CCT are continuous cooling transformation diagrams.

Difference between TTT and CCT diagrams:

The essential difference between both the diagrams is the method of cooling. In
TTT diagrams, after cooling to a transformation temperature, you keep the temperature
constant until the transformation of austenite to the required transformation product
(usually pearlite or bainite) is complete and then cool to the room temperature.
One such process is austempering in which austenite is transformed to bainite
isothermally. Below is a TTT diagram showing the austempering process.
The red lines form the transformation diagram and blue line denote the process. In this
case the component which had an austenitic structure was cooled to just above Ts
temperature; held at that temperature until the transformation was complete and then
cooled further to the room temperature.

In CCT diagrams, there is continuous cooling i.e. there is no holding of temperature.

The components are cooled at a constant or varying rates. The end products are usually
martensite or pearlite depending on the cooling media as well as the material of
components. Fully bainitic structure cannot be obtained using continuous cooling. Below
is a CCT diagram:
F - Ferrite
P - Pearlite
B - Bainite
M - Martensite
s subscript denotes start temperature and f subscript denotes finish temperature.

So a CCT diagrams simply gives the various transformation products which will be
obtained at different cooling rates. It can be seen from the diagram that at cooling rates
of more than 100 degrees celsius, ferrite and martensite will be obtained; for cooling
rates between 20 and 100 degrees celsius, ferrite, bainite and martensite will be
obtained and so on. These cooling rates are dependent on the cooling media.
CCT diagrams are more practical than TTT diagrams as most of the processes employ
continuous cooling rather than isothermal transformation. Also it is more difficult to hold
the temperature constant.

It is important to note that there is not a single TTT or CCT diagram like the Iron-Carbon
diagram. Different steels have different TTT and CCT diagrams. So the diagrams given
here do not give data for all the steels.

Plotting of TTT and CCT diagrams

TTT diagrams are plotted after a series of laboratory tests. Many similar components are
fully austenised and then cooled to different temperatures and held at these
temperatures for different times. Reread the previous line. Let it settle.
From these series of tests, we get the upper portion of the below diagram. In the
diagram the time is noted where the transformation of austenite to a particular product
(in this case, it is pearlite) begins and the time at which the transformations ends.

Then these transformation start times and transformation end times are plotted for
different temperatures as shown. These points, when joined, give us the TTT diagrams.
For continuous cooling, the time required for the transformation to begin and end is
delayed. Thus the TTT diagram's curves are shifted to longer times and lower
The dashed lines form TTT diagrams and the solid lines form the CCT diagrams. It can
be seen that CCT diagram can be obtained by moving the TTT curves a little to the
downward right. But still, more laboratory tests will be required to get the exact CCT
Hope it helps.
I-T Diagram and Cooling Curves
Phase Diagrams are limited in their usefulness because they can only predict the
microstructure that will result for equilibrium conditions, i.e. very very slow cooling.
Non-equilibrium cooling will result in different microstructures resulting in altered
properties. Time and temperature of austenite transformation has profound influence
on the transformation products and subsequent properties of steel. For study of non-
equilibrium cooling, information about isothermal transformation diagram and
cooling curves is given in this article.

Construction and Study of I-T Diagram

Since austenite is unstable below the lower critical temperature Ae1, it is necessary to
know at a particular subcritical temperature how long it will take for the austenite to
start to transform, how long it will take to be completely transformed, and what will
be the nature of the transformation product.

T (Time) T (Temperature) T (Transformation) diagram is a plot of temperature versus

the logarithm of time for a steel alloy of definite composition. It is used to determine
when transformations begin and end for an isothermal (constant temperature) heat
treatment of a previously austenitized alloy. One can understand the isothermal-
transformation diagram by study of their derivations. As there is no proeutectoid
constituent present in the microstructure of eutectoid composition steel (0.8 percent
carbon), its study is the simplest. Construction of its I-T diagram is explained below.

The steps usually followed to determine an isothermal-diagram are as under.

Step 1: Prepare a large number of samples cut from the same bar. Their cross section
has to be small in order to react quickly to change in temperature.

Step 2: Place the samples in a furnace or molten salt bath at the proper austenitizing
temperature. For 1080 (eutectoid) steel, this temperature is approximately 1425F.
They should be left at the given temperature long enough to become completely

Step 3: Place the samples in a molten salt bath which is held at a constant subcritical
temperature (a temperature below the Ae1 line), for example, 675C.

Step 4: After varying time intervals in the salt bath, each sample is quenched in cold
water or iced brine.

Step 5: After cooling, each sample is checked for hardness and studied

Step 6: The above steps are repeated at different subcritical temperatures until
sufficient points are determined to plot the curves on the diagram.

We are really interested in knowing what is happening to austenite at 675C, but the
samples cannot be studied at that temperature. Therefore, we must somehow be able
to relate the room-temperature microscopic examination to what is occurring at the
elevated temperature. Following two facts will help in correlating microstructure at
room temperature to the microstructure at the elevated temperature.

Fact 1: Martensite is formed only from austenite almost instantaneously at low


Fact 2: If austenite transforms at a higher temperature to a structure which is stable at

room temperature, rapid cooling will not change the transformation product. In other
words, if pearlite is formed at 675C, the pearlite will be exactly the same at room
temperature no matter how drastically it is quenched, since there is no reason for the
pearlite to change.

Based on above facts and study of microstructures of various samples at room

temperature, two points may be plotted at 675C, namely, the time for the beginning
(point A corresponding to time T1) and the time for the end of transformation (point B
corresponding to time T2) as shown in the figure given below. It is also common
practice to plot the time for 50 percent transformation (point C).
The entire experiment is repeated at different subcritical temperatures until sufficient
points are determined to draw one curve showing the beginning of transformation,
another curve showing the end of transformation and a dotted curve in between
showing 50 percent transformed.

The principal curves on the I-T diagram are drawn as broad lines to emphasize that
their exact location on the time scale is not highly precise. Portions of these lines are
often shown as dashed lines to indicate a much higher degree of uncertainty. Time is
plotted on a logarithmic scale so that times of few seconds as well as times of 1 day or
week can be fitted into a reasonable space and yet permits an open scale in the region
of short times. The diagram is known as an I-T (isothermal-transformation) diagram.
Other names for the same curves are TTT (transformation, temperature, time) curves
or S curves.

The I-T diagram for 1080 eutectoid steel is shown in the figure given below.
Above the Ae1 austenite is stable. The area to the left of the beginning of
transformation consists of unstable austenite. The area to the right of the end-of-
transformation line is the product to which austenite will transform at constant
temperature. The area between the beginning and the end of transformation labeled A
+ P and A + B consists of three phase, austenite, ferrite and carbide or austenite plus
the product to which it is transforming (P pearlite or B bainite). The point on the
beginning of the transformation line farthest to the left is known as the nose of the
diagram. In all diagrams, except the one for eutectoid steel, there is an additional line
above the nose region. This line (first line on the left) indicates the beginning of
austenite transformation to proeutectoid ferrite in hypoeutectoid steels or proeutectoid
cementite in hypereutectoid steels. The second line indicates the beginning of
austenite transformation to pearlite. The area between the two lines is labeled as A + F
(austenite plus proeutectoid ferrite), or A + C (austenite plus proeutectoid cementite).
These two lines generally merge at the nose region.

Figure given below, TimeTemperatureTransformation (TTT) curve for carbon steel

AISI 1050 (a hypoeutectoid steel) will help understanding what is meant by additional
line above the nose region.

The horizontal Ms line shows the temperature at which martensite transformation will
start. Two more horizontal lines (some times shown as arrows pointing to the
temperature scale) M50 and M90 indicate the temperature at which 50 and 90 percent
of total austenite will, on quenching, have transformed to martensite.
The transformation product above the nose region is pearlite. The pearlite
microstructure is the characteristic lamellar structure of alternate layers of ferrite and
cementite. Just below the Ae1 line, coarse lamellar pearlite is formed with a hardness
of about Rockwell C 15. As the transformation temperature decreases, the
characteristic lamellar structure is maintained, but the spacing between the ferrite and
carbide layers becomes increasingly smaller, until the separate layers cannot be
resolved with the light microscope. With decrease in temperature of transformation,
fineness of pearlite will increase resulting in increased harness.

Between the nose region of approximately 950F and the Ms temperature, a new,
dark-etching aggregate of ferrite and cementite appears. This structure, named after E.
C. Bain, is called Bainite.

At upper temperature of the transformation range, it resembles pearlite and is known

as upper or feathery bainite. At low temperatures it appears as a black needlelike
structure resembling martensite and is known as lower or acicular bainite.

Above figure shows typical microstructures of upper bainite and lower bainite. Upper
bainite consists of tiny cementite platelets generally oriented parallel with the long
direction of the ferrite needles. As the transformation temperature decreases, in lower
bainite, the ferrite needles become thinner and the carbide platelets become smaller
and more closely spaced. The carbide platelets are usually oriented at an angle of
about 55 to the long axis of the ferrite needles, rather than parallel.

The hardness of bainite varies from about Rockwell C 40 for upper bainite to about
Rockwell C 60 for lower bainite. This increase in hardness, as with pearlite, is a
reflection of the decrease in size and spacing of the carbide platelets as the
transformation temperature decreases.
Whereas pearlite is nucleated by a carbide crystal, bainite is nucleated by a ferrite
crystal, and this result in a different growth pattern as shown in the figure given

As shown in above figure, in case of pearlite, on cooling it first forms nuclei of

carbide followed by ferrite and it grows by side nucleation and edge growth.

In case of upper bainite, between about 500 and 350C initial nuclei are ferrite
which is coherent with the austenite matrix. Cementite then precipitates from the
carbon-enriched layer of austenite, allowing further growth of the ferrite. The carbides
tend to lie parallel to the long axis of the bainite needle to form the typical open
feathery structure of upper bainite.

In case of lower bainite, below 350 C, coherent ferrite, supersaturated with carbon,
forms first and is then followed by the precipitation of carbide within the ferrite
needle, transversely at an angle of 55. A proportion of the carbide is Fe2.4C and the
ferrite contains a little dissolved carbon. This lower bainite structure is somewhat
similar to lightly tempered martensite.

Cooling Curves and the I-T Diagram

A cooling curve is determined experimentally by placing a thermocouple at a definite

location in a steel sample and then measuring the variation of temperature with time.

Since the coordinates of the I-T diagram are the same as those for a cooling curve, it
is possible to superimpose various cooling curves on the I-T diagram. This is shown
in the figure given below.
Cooling curve 1 shows a very slow cooling rate typical of conventional annealing.
The diagram indicates that the material will remain austenitic for a relatively long
period of time. Transformation will start when the cooling curve crosses the
beginning of transformation at point x1. The transformation product at that
temperature will be very coarse pearlite. Transformation will continue until point
x1. Since there is a slight difference in temperature at the beginning and end of
transformation, there will be a slight difference in the fineness of pearlite formed at
the beginning and at the end. The overall product will be coarse pearlite with low
hardness. Below the temperature of x1 the rate of cooling will have no effect on
the microstructure or properties. The material may now be cooled rapidly without any
change occurring. This is very important for companies doing commercial annealing,
since the diagram indicates that it is not necessary to cool in the furnace to room
temperature but that the material may be removed at a relatively high temperature
after transformation and cooled in air.

Cooling curve 2 illustrates isothermal or cycle annealing and was

developed directly from the I-T diagram. The process is carried out by cooling the
material rapidly from above the critical range to a predetermined temperature in the
upper portion of the I-T diagram and holding for the time indicated to produce
complete transformation. In contrast to conventional annealing, this treatment
produces a more uniform microstructure and hardness, in many cases with a shorter
time cycle.

Cooling curve 3 is a faster cooling rate than annealing and may be considered typical
of normalizing. The diagram indicates that the transformation will start at x3, with the
formation of coarse pearlite, in a much shorter time than annealing. Transformation
will be complete at x3 with the formation of medium pearlite. Since there is a
greater temperature difference between x3 and x3 than there is between x1 and
x1, the normalized microstructure will show a greater variation in the fineness of
pearlite and a smaller proportion of coarse pearlite than the annealed microstructure.

Cooling curve 4, typical of a slow oil quench, is similar to the one just described, and
the microstructure will be a mixture of medium and fine pearlite.

Cooling curve 5, typical of an intermediate cooling rate, will start to transform (at x 5)
to fine pearlite in a relatively short time. The transformation to fine pearlite will
continue until the curve becomes tangent to some percentage transformed, say 25
percent, at x5. Below this temperature, the cooling curve is going in a direction of
decreasing percent transformed. Since pearlite cannot form from austenite on cooling,
the transformation must stop at x5. The microstructure at this point will consist
25 percent of fine, nodular pearlite largely surrounding the existing austenitic grains.
It will remain in this condition until the Ms line is crossed at x5. The
remaining austenite now transforms to martensite. The final microstructure at room
temperature will consist of 75 percent martensite and 25 percent fine nodular pearlite
largely concentrated along the original austenite grain boundaries.

Cooling curve 6, typical of a drastic quench, is rapid enough to avoid transformation

in the nose region. It remains austenitic until the Ms line is reached at x6.
Transformation to martensite will take place between Ms and Mf lines. The final
microstructure will be entirely martensite of high hardness.

It is apparent that to obtain fully martensite structure it is necessary to avoid

transformation in the nose region. Therefore, cooling rate 7, which is tangent to the
nose, would be approximate critical cooling rate (CCR) for this steel. Any cooling
rate slower than the one indicated will cut the curve above the nose and form some
softer transformation product. Any cooling rate faster than the one illustrated will
form only martensite. Thus different steels may be compared on the basis of their
critical cooling rates.

It may be noted that it is possible to form 100 percent pearlite or 100 percent
martensite by continuous cooling, but it is not possible to form 100 percent bainite. A
complete bainite structure may be formed only by cooling rapidly enough to miss the
nose of the curve and then holding it in the temperature range at which bainite is
formed until transformation is complete. This is illustrated by cooling at rate 6 and
then 8 in the figure given above.

Transformation on Continuous Cooling

Theoretically, cooling-rate curves should not be superimposed on the I-T diagram as

it was done in the previous section. The I-T diagram shows the time-temperature
relationship for austenite transformation only as it occurs at constant temperature, but
most heat treatment involve transformation on continuous cooling. It is possible to
derive from I-T diagram another diagram which will show the transformation under
continuous cooling. This is referred to as the C-T diagram (cooling-transformation
diagram). The figure given below shows the C-T diagram for eutectoid steel
superimposed on the I-T diagram from which it was derived.

Consideration of the I-T diagram in relation to the location of lines of the C-T
diagram shows that the nose has been moved downward and to the right by
continuous cooling. The critical cooling rate tangent to the nose of the C-T diagram is
shown 250 F/s. This is some what slower than the rate indicated by the I-T
diagram. Therefore, the use of isothermal nose times to determine the
required cooling rates will lead to some error, however, the error will be on the safe
side in indicating a slightly faster cooling rate than is actually necessary to form only
martensite. Austenite-to-Bainite region is not there in the C-T diagram. In this steel
the bainite range is sheltered by the overhanging pearlite nose.

The derivation of a C-T diagram is a tedious task and, for many purposes, not
essential. The I-T diagram is useful in planning heat treatments and in understanding
why steel responds as it does to a particular heat treatment, but it cannot be used
directly to predict accurately the course of transformation under continuous cooling.

Position of the I-T Curves

There are only two factors that will change the position of the curves of the I-T
diagram, namely, chemical composition and austenitic grain size. With few
exceptions, an increase in carbon or alloy content or in grain size of austenite always
retards transformation (moves the curves to the right), at least at temperatures at or
above the nose region. This in turn slows up the critical cooling rate, making it easier
to form martensite. This retardation is also reflected in the greater hardenability, or
depth of penetration of hardness, of steel with higher alloy content or larger austenitic
grain size. This is one of the principal reasons for alloying steel.

While the addition of alloying elements does not affect the maximum hardness
attainable from the steel, that property being controlled by carbon content only, they
make it much easier to completely harden the steel. A plain carbon steel may have to
be water-quenched to obtain full hardness, while the same steel when alloyed may
attain the same hardness and may be hardened to a greater depth even when cooled
more slowly by oil quenching. The use of a slower cooling rate reduces the danger of
distortion and cracking during heat treatment. While coarsening the austenitic grain
size has an effect similar to that of adding alloying elements, the coarser grain will
tend to reduce the toughness of the steel. Therefore, if it is desired to reduce the
critical cooling rate, this may be done best by changing the chemical composition
rather than by coarsening the austenitic grain.

Homogeneity of Austenite

When hypoeutectoid steel is heated for hardening, when the line A1 is crossed, the
austenite grains formed from pearlite will contain 0.8 percent carbon. With continued
heating, the austenite grains will form from proeutectoid ferrite with little carbon
content. So when A3 line is crossed, austenite grains will not be uniform in carbon
content. On quenching, the austenite grains leaner in carbon, having a fast critical
cooling rate, tend to transform to nonmartensitica structures while those richer in
carbon, having a slower critical cooling rate, tend to form martensite. This results in a
nonuniform microstructure with variable hardness. This condition may be avoided by
very slow heating so that uniformity is established by carbon diffusion during heating.
However, the excessive time required by this method does not make it commercially
practical. A more suitable method is to soak the material at austenitizing temperature.
At this temperature diffusion of carbon is rapid, and uniformity will be established in
a short time. To be on the safe side, it is recommended that the material be held at the
austenitizing temperature 1 hour for each inch of thickness or diameter.
Classification of Steels
There are thousands of different steel compositions currently available around the
world. To the beginner, the variety and terminology may at first be overwhelming. In
fact, the way the steels are classified may be quite confusing even to the seasoned
metallurgist. However, in many cases the steels fall into a limited number of well-
defined classes. Many nations have their own classification systems. Because of the
complexity of these different classification systems, only those used in the United
States and also widely used in many other countries are described in this article.

Classification of Steels

Steels are generally classified by method of manufacture, use and chemical


If steel is classified by method of manufacture, it gives rise to crucible steel. bessemer

steel, open-hearth steel, basic oxygen steel and electric-furnace steel.

When steel is classified by use, it is generally classified by the final use for the steel
such as machine steel, spring steel, boiler steel, structural steel or tool steel.

The easiest and the most popular way to classify steels are by their chemical
composition. Various alloying elements are added to iron for the purpose of attaining
certain specific properties and characteristics. These elements include, but are not
limited to, carbon, manganese, silicon, nickel, chromium, molybdenum, vanadium,
columbium (niobium), copper, aluminum, titanium, tungsten, and cobalt. A
numbering system is used in classification by chemical composition method, giving
information on the approximate content of the important alloying elements in the

Classification Systems in USA

Three classification systems are used in USA as under.

The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) and Society of Automotive
Engineers (SAE) System

For many decades, plain carbon and low-alloy steels have been classified by chemical
composition using a system devised by SAE and eventually AISI.

The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) System

ASTM system is not based on composition but is based on the steel product and
application, for example, railroad rails, boiler tubes, plate, and bolts.

ASTM has very elaborate specifications for steels and cast irons. The specification for
steels include the type of product (sheet, plate, bar, wire, rail, etc.), the composition
limits, and the mechanical properties. The specification code consists of the letter
A followed by a number. The ASTM system reaches far beyond ferrous
materials and includes other materials also.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) devised a similar system,

but it is generally limited to boiler and heat exchanger steels and other materials that
are covered by the boiler code specifications. The ASME adopts the ASTM code and
places S before it. For example, ASME SA213 shows that it is adopted from
ASTM A213.

The Unified Numbering System (UNS)

Because of the confusion of different systems, a number of technical societies and

U.S. governmental agencies devised what is known as the Unified Numbering
System. There is a UNS designation for each steel composition, and it consists of a
letter followed by five digits. The system fully incorporates the AISI/SAE system. For
example, the UNS designation for AISI/SAE 1040 is G10400. The letter G
represents the AISI/SAE plain carbon and alloy steels. Other ferrous alloys have
different letters, such as F for cast irons and cast steels (cast steels can also
have the letter J), D for steels with specific mechanical properties,
S for heat and corrosion resistant steels, T for tool steels, and
H for steels with enhanced hardenability.

Generally information on the steels as classified simply by composition using the

AISI/SAE system is given below. This system has been established for many years
and is widely used in industry.

Classification of Steels by AISI/SAE Method

The alloy steels are generally divided into two classes, the low alloy steels and the
high alloy steels. If alloying elements is less than 8 %, they are called low alloy steels
and if alloying elements is more than 8 %, they are called high alloy steels.
Classification of plain carbon steels, low alloy steels, high strength low alloy (HSLA)
steels and a variety of other low alloy steels mainly as per AISI/SAE method (and
ASTM system where appropriate) is described in the following sections.

American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) together with Society of Automotive
Engineers (SAE) have established four or five-numeral (with additional letter
prefixes) designation system as under for carbon and low alloy steels.

The first digit indicates the type to which the steel belongs. Thus 1 indicates a carbon
steel. 2 to 9 are used for alloy steels. For example, 2 for a nickel steel, 3 for a nickel-
chromium steel and so on.

In case of carbon steels, the second digit indicates modification of the steel as under.

0 Plain carbon, non-modified

1 Resulfurized
2 Resulfurized and rephosphorized
5 Non-resulfurized, Mn over 1.0%
In the case of simple alloy steels, the second digit indicates the approximate
percentage of the predominant alloying element (1 means 1%).

The last two or three digits usually indicate the mean carbon content divided by 100.

Thus the symbol AISI/SAE 1030 means non modified carbon steel, containing 0.30%
of carbon and AISI/SAE 5130 means alloy chromium steel, containing 1% of
chromium and 0.30% of carbon.

In addition to the numerals, AISI specification may include a letter prefix before the
four-digit number to indicate the steel making process as under.

A Alloy, basic open hearth

B Carbon, acid Bessemer
C Carbon, basic open hearth
D Carbon, acid open hearth
E Electric furnace

Thus AISI B1020 means non modified carbon steel, produced by acid bessemer
process and containing 0.20% of carbon.

Within the AISI/SAE plain carbon steel designations there are five subclasses, namely
10xx, 11xx, 12xx, 13xx, and 15xx. These are broadly based on the following
categories of steel composition:

AISI/SAE Type of steel

10xx Plain carbon: Mn 1.00% max
15xx Plain carbon: Mn 1.001.60%
13xx* Plain carbon: Mn 1.601.90%
11xx Plain carbon: resulfurized
12xx Plain carbon: resulfurized and rephosphorized

* Actually, the 13xx series of steels is classified as low alloy steels because of the
high manganese level. (Generally a steel with an alloying element content above 1.5%
is considered a low alloy steel.) However, in the case of the 13xx series, one is
basically dealing with a simple extension of the 10xx and 15xx plain carbon steels.

The AISI/SAE 15xx and 13xx series represent high manganese, plain carbon steels.
The higher manganese levels impart higher hardness and strength to the steels.

The 11xx series of plain carbon, resulfurized steels contains intentionally added
sulfur. The sulfur does not actually alloy with the iron but combines with manganese
to form manganese sulfide (MnS) inclusions. The sulfur level is much higher in the
11xx series than the 10xx series of plain carbon steels where sulfur is generally
considered as an impurity. The higher sulfur level in the resulfurized steels imparts
improved machinability to the steel because of the chip-breaking effect of the
manganese sulfides. An example of a resulfurized steel is AISI/SAE 1140 steel. For a
given carbon content, the manganese levels are slightly higher in the 11xx series than
in the 10xx series. The higher manganese levels compensate for the higher sulfur
levels, because manganese is added to tie up all the sulfur to form manganese sulfides.

The AISI/SAE 12xx series represents resulfurized and rephosphorized, plain carbon
steels that are also free-machining steels, with both sulfur and phosphorus additions.
The phosphorus addition increases the strength of the steel and promotes chip
breaking during machining operations. In order to limit the strength of the steel, the
carbon content is restricted to a level under 0.15%.

The figure given below shows the microstructure of a typical resulfurized,

rephosphorized steel containing manganese sulfides (the gray, oblong particles
marked by arrows). The remaining microstructure is ferrite (white etching constituent)
and pearlite (dark etching constituent).

The following table gives basic representation of the various grades of carbon and low
alloy steels. Be sure to refer the most recent AISI and SAE publications for the latest

AISI/SAE Classifications
Specifications No.
10xx Carbon steels
11xx Carbon steels, resulfurized
12xx Carbon steels, resulfurized and rephosphorized
13xx Manganese steels, 1.75% Mn
2xxx Nickel steels
23xx Nickel steels 3.50% Ni
25xx Nickel steels 5.0% Ni
3xxx Nickel chromium steels
30xx Ni-Cr steels 0.7% Ni, 0.7% Cr
31xx Ni-Cr steels 1.25% Ni, 0.6% Cr
32xx Ni-Cr steels 1.75% Ni, 1.0% Cr
33xx Ni-Cr steels 3.50% Ni, 1.50% Cr
40xx Carbon-molybdenum steels, 0.20 or 0.25% Mo
41xx Chromium-molybdenum steels
43xx Cr-Ni-Mo steels 0.50 or 0.80 Cr%, 1.83% Ni,
0.25% Mo
46xx Nickel-moly steels 1.65% Ni, 0.25% Mo
48xx Nickel-moly steels 3.25% Ni, 0.25% Mo
50xx Low chromium steels 0.40% Cr
51xx Medium chromium steels 0.80 to 1.00% Cr
52xx Carbon-chromium steels
61xx Chromium 0.60 or 0.95% Vandium 0.13 or
0.15% min. steels
86xx Low Ni-Cr-Moly steels 0.55% Ni, 0.50% Cr,
0.20% Mo
87xx Low Ni-Cr-Moly steels 0.55% Ni, 0.50% Cr,
0.25% Mo
92xx Silicon-Manganese steels 2.00% Silicon
93xx Ni-Cr-Moly steels, 3.25% Ni, 1.20% Cr, 0.12%
xxBxx Boron steels (B denotes boron)
xxLxx Leaded steels (L denotes lead)
94Bxx 0.45% Ni, 0.40% Cr, 0.12% Mo, 0.0005%
Boron (min.)

There are many low-alloy steels that are not classified under the above mentioned
AISI/SAE system. Thus, the situation with low-alloy steels becomes much more
complicated. For example, HY-80, a steel widely used for high-strength plate and
forging applications, is a Ni-Cr-Mo steel but does not have an AISI/SAE designation.
This particular steel is covered by a specification designation, ASTM A543. ASTM
has dozens of specifications for low-alloy steels.

ASTM specifications also cover many of the low-alloy steels. However, as mentioned
previously, the ASTM system is driven by the application for the particular steel. The
system for low-alloy steels is quite large. For example, a fairly common low-alloy
steel is 2 Cr-1Mo steel. In the ASTM system there are separate specifications
covering this steel, depending on the product form that is manufactured, as shown

Product Form ASTM Designations

Forgings A 182, A 336, and A 541
Tubes A 213
Pipe A 335 and A 369
Castings A 217 and A 356
Plate A 387 and A 542

As an example, ASTM A 213 has the title Seamless Ferritic and Austenitic Alloy
Steel for Boiler, Superheater, and Heat Exchanger Tubes. The standard actually
covers 14 different grades of ferritic steels and 14 different grades of austenitic steels.
The 2 Cr-1Mo steel is grade T22. Because the grade is used in tubing for boilers
and heat exchangers, it is also part of the specification system of ASME. The ASME
code is SA213 type T22. The ASTM and ASME grade (type) T22 has the following

Carbon: 0.15% max

Manganese: 0.300.60%
Silicon: 0.50% max
Chromium: 1.902.60%
Molybdenum: 0.871.13%
The microstructure of a typical ASTM A213 grade T22 steel (ASME SA213 type
T22) is shown in the figure given above. The microstructure consists of ferrite (light
etching constituent) and a small amount of pearlite (dark etching constituent). Light
tan areas are martensite.

It is interesting to note that if the same steel was used for a forging or plate, it may
have a different microstructure because of the different specified heat treatment. Even
for tubes (ASTM A213), it can be furnished in the full-annealed, isothermal annealed,
or normalized and tempered condition. Each condition would have a different

Some representative standard-steel specifications for plain-carbon steel, free-

machining steels and low alloy steels as per AISI/SAE grades are given in the
following tables.

Plain-Carbon Steels
AISI/SAE Grade %C % Mn % P max % S max
1010 0.08-0.13 0.30-0.60 0.04 0.05
1020 0.18-0.23 0.30-0.60 0.04 0.05
1030 0.28-0.34 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05
1040 0.37-0.44 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05
1045 0.43-0.50 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05
1060 0.55-0.65 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05
1070 0.65-0.75 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05
1090 0.85-0.98 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.05

Free-Machining Carbon Steels

AISI/SAE %C % Mn % P max % S max

1112 0.13 max 0.70-1.00 0.07-0.12 0.16-0.23

1115 0.13-0.18 0.60-0.90 0.04 0.08-0.13
1140 0.37-0.44 0.70-1.00 0.04 0.08-0.13
1212 0.13 max 0.70-1.00 0.07-0.12 0.16-0.23
1213 0.13 max 0.70-1.00 0.07-0.12 0.24-0.33

Alloy Steels
AISI/SAE %C % Mn % Ni % Cr % Mo % V
1330 0.28-0.33 1.60-1.90 - - - -
2330 0.28-0.33 0.60-0.80 3.25-3.75 - - -
3115 0.13-0.18 0.40-0.60 1.10-1.40 0.55-0.75 - -
4023 0.20-0.25 0.70-0.90 - - 0.20- -
4130 0.28-0.33 0.40-0.60 - 0.80-1.15 0.15- -
4340 0.38-0.43 0.60-0.80 1.65-2.00 0.70-0.90 0.20- -
5140 0.38-0.43 0.70-0.90 - 0.70-0.90 - -
6150 0.48-0.53 0.70-0.90 - 0.80-1.10 -
8620 0.18-0.23 0.70-0.90 0.40-0.70 0.40-0.60 0.15- -
9260 0.56-0.64 0.75-1.00 1.80-2.20 - - -
Note: For all grades, % P max = 0.035 and % S max = 0.04

Generally, carbon is the most important commercial steel alloy. Increasing carbon
content increases hardness and strength and improves hardenability. But carbon also
increases brittleness and reduces weldability because of its tendency to form
As per The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) a steel is considered to be a
carbon steel when no minimum content is specified or required for chromium, cobalt,
columbium [niobium], molybdenum, nickel, titanium, tungsten, vanadium or
zirconium, or any other element to be added to obtain a desired alloying effect; when
the specified minimum for copper does not exceed 0.40 per cent; or when the
maximum content specified for any of the following elements does not exceed the
percentages noted: manganese 1.65, silicon 0.60, copper 0.60.

Carbon steels are iron-carbon alloys containing up to 2.00% of carbon, up to 1.65% of

manganese, up to 0.5% of silicon and sulfur and phosphorus as impurities.

Steels are sometimes classified by the broad range of carbon content as under.

Low-carbon steels: up to 0.30 percent carbon

Medium-carbon steels: 0.30 to 0.60 percent carbon
High-carbon steels: above 0.60 percent carbon

Low-carbon Steels

Often they are called mild steels. Low-carbon steels contain up to 0.30% C. The
largest category of this class of steel is flat-rolled products (sheet or strip), usually in
the cold-rolled and annealed condition. The carbon content for these high-formability
steels is very low, less than 0.10% C, with up to 0.4% Mn. Typical uses are in
automobile body panels (deep drawing parts), tin plate, and wire products. For rolled
steel structural plates and sections, the carbon content may be increased to
approximately 0.30%, with higher manganese content up to 1.5%. These materials
may be used for stampings, forgings, seamless tubes, and boiler plate.

The figure given below shows the microstructure of a typical low-carbon steel
(AISI/SAE 1010) showing a matrix of ferrite grains (white etching constituent) and
pearlite (dark etching constituent).
These steels are not hardenable by quenching and tempering as carbon content is less
than 0.30 percent. In this type of steels, cold working is the principle hardening
mechanism. They are relatively soft and weak due to pearlite and ferrite
microstructures, but they are tough and ductile. They are easily formable, machinable,
weldable and cheap.

AISI/SAE 1020, ASTM A36 (carbon steel shapes, plates and bars of structural quality
for bridges, buildings and general structural purposes) and IS 2062 (Indian Standard
on steel for general structural purposes) are examples of low carbon steels.

Chemical composition (maximum unless minimum is indicated) of mild steels made

as per IS 2062 and ASTM A36 are as under.

Steel Grades IS 2062 Gr A IS 2062 Gr IS 2062 Gr C ASTM A36

(Fe 410W A) B (Fe 410W C) (plates and
(Fe 410W bars)
%C 0.23 0.22 0.20 0.29
% Mn 1.50 1.50 1.50 1.20
% Si 0.40 0.40 0.40 0.04
%S 0.05 0.045 0.04 0.05
%P 0.05 0.045 0.04 0.04
Carbon Equivalent 0.42 0.41 0.39 *
* Minimum 0.2 % Cu when copper steel is specified

Medium-carbon Steels

Medium-carbon steels are similar to low-carbon steels except that the carbon ranges
from 0.30 to 0.60% and the manganese from 0.60 to 1.65%. Increasing the carbon
content to approximately 0.5% with an accompanying increase in manganese allows
medium carbon steels to be used in the quenched and tempered condition. The uses of
medium carbon-manganese steels include machine components, shafts, axles, gears,
crankshafts, couplings and forgings. Steels in the 0.40 to 0.60% C range are also used
for rails, railway wheels and rail axles.

The figure given below shows the microstructure of a typical medium-carbon steel
(AISI/SAE 1040) showing ferrite grains (white etching constituent) and pearlite (dark
etching constituent).

Mechanical properties of medium-carbon steels can be increased by heat treatment

(by austenitizing or quenching & tempering). The rule of thumb is that 0.30 percent is
the lower limit for hardening steel by heat treatment. However, plain carbon steels can
be hardened only in thin sections with rapid quenching. Often there is distortion and
cracking on quenching. They have poor impact resistance at low temperatures. To
improve heat treating capabilities alloying elements like Cr, Ni, Mo, etc. are added to
carbon steels and they are called alloy steels.
With 0.45 to 0.75 percent carbon, steels can be challenging to weld. Preheating, post
heating (to control cooling rate), and sometimes even heating during welding become
necessary to produce acceptable welds and to control the mechanical properties of the
steel after welding.

High-carbon steels

High-carbon steels contain from 0.60 to 1.00% C with manganese contents ranging
from 0.30 to 0.90%. They are hardest and strongest but least ductile. They are used in
hardened and tempered state for wear resistance and cutting edges. They are used for
spring materials, rope wires, screw drivers, hammers, wrenches, band saws, etc.

The figure given below shows the microstructure of a typical high-carbon steel
(AISI/SAE 1095) showing a matrix of pearlite and some grain-boundary cementite.

A partial list of the plain carbon steels according to the ASTM specification system is
given below to give an idea about classification of carbon steel as per ASTM

ASTM designation Type of steel

A1 Carbon steel, tee rails
A36 Structural steel
A131 Structural steel for ships
A228 Steel wire, music spring quality
A307 Carbon steel, bolts and studs, 420 MPa (60 ksi)
tensile strength
A510 Carbon steel wire rods
A529 High-Strength Carbon-Manganese Steel of
Structural Quality
A709 Structural steel for bridges
A1011 Steel, Sheet and Strip, Hot-Rolled, Carbon,
Structural, High-Strength Low-Alloy, High-
Strength Low-Alloy with Improved
Formability, and Ultra-High Strength

As examples, two of these ASTM specifications are described below in more detail.

ASTM A1 requires that railroad rails have certain composition limits and a minimum
hardness. For example, for a common rail size of 60 kg/m (132 lb/yd) the
requirements are as under.

Carbon: 0.720.82%
Manganese: 0.801.10%
Phosphorus: 0.035% max
Sulfur: 0.040% max
Silicon: 0.100.20%
Hardness: 269 HB min

The microstructure of a typical ASTM A1 rail steel is 100% pearlite.

ASTM A36 for structural steels is very different from ASTM A1 for rail steel in that
it specifies only a maximum carbon content and certain tensile properties. ASTM A36
has the following requirements.

Carbon: 0.26% max

Yield point: 248 MPa (36 ksi) min
Tensile strength: 400552 MPa (5880 ksi)
Total elongation (in 50 mm, or 2 in.): 21% min

The microstructure of a typical ASTM A36 structural steel is a mixture of pearlite and
ferrite, with some manganese sulfide stringers.

The ASTM specifications illustrated above are rather simple. As the product becomes
more critical and the composition more complex, the requirements expand

High Strength Low Alloy (HSLA) Steels

Although many of the previously mentioned AISI/SAE low alloy steels also have high
strength and, in some cases, ultrahigh strength (a yield strength above 1380 MPa, or
200 ksi), there is a rather loose class of steels called HSLA steels that do not fit the
previously mentioned AISI/SAE classification.

These HSLA steels are a group of low and medium carbon steels that generally use
small amounts of alloying elements to attain yield strengths usually above about 345
MPa (50 ksi) in the hot-rolled, cold-rolled, annealed, stress-relieved, accelerated-
cooled, direct-quenched, or normalized condition. In some cases they are called
microalloyed steels because of the small amounts of vanadium, columbium (niobium),
and/or titanium that are added for grain refinement and precipitation strengthening.

High strength low alloy (HSLA) steels, or microalloyed steels, are designed to
provide better mechanical properties and/or improved formability and greater
resistance to atmospheric corrosion than conventional carbon steels.

They have low carbon contents (0.05-0.25% C) in order to produce adequate

formability and weldability. In these steels small quantities of chromium, nickel,
molybdenum, copper, nitrogen, vanadium, niobium, titanium and zirconium are used
in various combinations.

Thus they have higher strengths, but still ductile, formable, machinable and generally
more corrosion resistant. They are used for towers, bridges, columns, pressure vessels,

ASTM specifies most of the HSLA steels according to composition, mechanical

property requirements, and application. A partial list of ASTM specifications for
various HSLA steels is given below.

ASTM Designation Type of Steel

A242 HSLA Structural Steel
A572 HSLA Columbium(niobium)-Vanadium Structural
A588 HSLA Structural Steel, up to 50 ksi [345 MPa]
Minimum Yield Point, with Atmospheric Corrosion
A656 Hot-Rolled Structural Steel, High-Strength Low-
Alloy Plate with Improved Formability
A714 HSLA Welded and Seamless Steel Pipe
A871 HSLA Structural Steel Plate With Atmospheric
Corrosion Resistance
A1008 Standard Specification for Steel, Sheet, Cold-
Rolled, Carbon, Structural, High-Strength Low-
Alloy, High-Strength Low-Alloy with Improved
Formability, Solution Hardened, and Bake
A1011 Steel, Sheet and Strip, Hot-Rolled, Carbon,
Structural, High-Strength Low-Alloy, High-
Strength Low-Alloy with Improved Formability,
and Ultra-High Strength

Within each ASTM specification, one can find the mechanical property requirements
as well as the range of chemical composition allowed. There are numerous other
ASTM specifications involving low-alloy steels, depending on the particular

Some HSLA steels have commercial trade names. Recent designations HSLA 80 and
HSLA 100 are being used for steels of a very specific steel composition with a
minimum yield strength level of 552 MPa (80 ksi) and 690 MPa (100 ksi). In reality,
there can be many HSLA 80 and HSLA 100 steels, depending upon composition,
thermomechanical treatment, and heat treatment.

Thus, there is not a standard classification system that encompasses all high-strength,
low-alloy steels.

Chemical composition (maximum unless minimum is indicated) of HSLA steel made

by SAIL Limited, Salem Steel Plant, India is as under.

Steel Grades SAILMA 350/350 HI, SAILMA 410/410

HI, SAILMA 450/450 HI
%C 0.25
% Mn 1.5
% Si 0.4
%S 0.055
%P 0.055
% Al 0.01 min.
Micro alloying elements Nb, V and Ti may be used individually or
in combination, Nb + V + Ti 0.2 %

For comparison of steels (low-carbon and HSLA), mechanical properties of low-

carbon steel (as per ASTM A36 and IS 2026) and high strength low alloy (HSLA)
steel made by SAIL Limited, India are given below.

Steel Grades Yield UTS % El Bend Charpy

(Designation) Strength N/mm2 (min)+ Test (t)* V-
N/mm2 Notch
J (min)
ASTM A36 250 400-550 23 - -
IS 2062 Gr A (Fe 410W A) 250 min 410 min 23 3t -
IS 2062 Gr B (Fe 410W B) 250 min 410 min 23 2t 27 at
0 C
IS 2062 Gr C (Fe 410W C) 250 min 410 min 23 2t 27 at
0 C
SAILMA 350 350 min 490-610 20 3t 40 at
0 C
SAILMA 350 HI** 350 min 490-610 21 3t 30 at -
20 C
SAILMA 410 410 min 540-660 19 3t 35 at
0 C
SAILMA 410 HI** 410 min 540-660 20 3t 25 at -
20 C
SAILMA 450 450 min 570-720 18 3t 30 at
0 C
SAILMA 450 HI** 450 min 570-720 19 3t 20 at -
20 C

* t = Nominal thickness of test piece

** HI Denotes improved notch ductility
+ Gauge length = 2 in. for ASTM A36 and = 5.65 x (square root of S0) where S0 is the
cross sectional area of test piece for IS 2062 and SAIL Limited products.

Other Low Alloy Steels

There are many low alloy steels that are not designed for just their room-temperature
strength properties. These steels have additional properties that are important, such as
corrosion or heat resistance and formability as under.

Low Alloy Steels for High-Temperature Properties

An example of a low alloy steel that is used for its high-temperature properties is
ASTM A470 turbine rotor steel. These steels are used in steam turbines for electric
power generation and usually contain combinations of nickel, chromium,
molybdenum, and/or vanadium. The microstructure of ASTM A470 rotor steel
consisting of tempered upper bainite is shown in the figure given below.
Low Alloy Steels for Improved Corrosion Resistance

There are a number of low alloy steels that have improved corrosion resistance. These
steels usually have additions of copper, nickel, or chromium and are called weathering
steels. The ASTM specifications cover several of these steels.

Low Alloy Steels with Formability

There are some steels that are designed for optimal formability in sheet-forming
applications. One common steel is specified as drawing quality, special killed. This
cold-rolled, low-carbon sheet steel has a specified aluminum content. The aluminum
combines with nitrogen in the steel to form aluminum nitride precipitates during the
annealing process. These aluminum nitride precipitates are instrumental in the
development of a specific crystallographic texture in the sheet that favors deep
drawing. Another type of steel used for applications requiring optimal formability is
interstitial-free steel. In this very-low-carbon sheet steel, the interstitial elements,
carbon and nitrogen, are combined with carbide- and nitride-forming elements, such
as titanium and columbium (niobium). The steel is rendered free from these
interstitial elements that degrade formability.

Bake Hardenable Low Alloy Steels

Specific sheet steels have been designed to increase strength during the paint-baking
cycle of automobile production. These bake hardenable steels contain elements that
develop compounds that precipitate at the paint-baking temperatures. These
precipitates harden the steel.
Metals Classification

Metals can be classified in two main divisions as Ferrous metals (iron-based) and
Non-ferrous metals (all the others) as shown below. It can be seen that classification
of steels is a part of this classification.

Information on effect of alloying elements on alloy steels, high alloy steels (stainless
steels and tool steels) and cast irons is given in separate articles.