The mechanical properties of the metals are those which are associated with the ability of the material to resist mechanical forces and load. These mechanical properties of the metal include strength, stiffness, elasticity, plasticity, ductility, brittleness, malleability, toughness, resilience, creep and hardness. We shall now discuss these properties as follows:
- Strength. It is the ability of a material to resist the externally applied forces without breaking or yielding. The internal resistance offered by a part to an externally applied force is called *stress.
- Stiffness. It is the ability of a material to resist deformation under stress. The modulus of elasticity is the measure of stiffness.
- Elasticity. It is the property of a material to regain its original shape after deformation when the external forces are removed. This property is desirable for materials used in tools and machines. It may be noted that steel is more elastic than rubber.
- Plasticity. It is property of a material which retains the deformation produced under load permanently. This property of the material is necessary for forgings, in stamping images on coins and in ornamental work.
- Ductility. It is the property of a material enabling it to be drawn into wire with the application of a tensile force. A ductile material must be both strong and plastic. The ductility is usually measured by the terms, percentage elongation and percentage reduction in area. The ductile material commonly used in engineering practice (in order of diminishing ductility) are mild steel, copper, aluminium, nickel, zinc, tin and lead.
- Brittleness. It is the property of a material opposite to ductility. It is the property of breaking of a material with little permanent distortion. Brittle materials when subjected to tensile loads, snaoff without giving any sensible elongation. Cast iron is a brittle material.
- Malleability. It is a special case of ductility which permits materials to be rolled or hammered into thin sheets. A malleable material should be plastic but it is not essential to be so strong. The malleable materials commonly used in engineering practice (in order of diminishing malleability) are lead, soft steel, wrought iron, copper and aluminium.
- Toughness. It is the property of a material to resist fracture due to high impact loads like hammer blows. The toughness of the material decreases when it is heated. It is measured by the amount of energy that a unit volume of the material has absorbed after being stressed up to the point of fracture. This property is desirable in parts subjected to shock and impact loads.
- Machinability. It is the property of a material which refers to a relative case with which a material can be cut. The machinability of a material can be measured in a number of ways such as comparing the tool life for cutting different materials or thrust required to remove the material at some given rate or the energy required to remove a unit volume of the material. It may be noted that brass can be easily machined than steel.
- Resilience. It is the property of a material to absorb energy and to resist shock and impact loads. It is measured by the amount of energy absorbed per unit volume within elastic limit. This property is essential for spring materials. Creep. When a part is subjected to a constant stress at high temperature for a long period of time, it will undergo a slow and permanent deformation called creep. This property is considered in designing internal combustion engines, boilers and turbines.
- Fatigue. When a material is subjected to repeated stresses, it fails at stresses below the yield point stresses. Such type of failure of a material is known as fatigue. The failure is caused by means of a progressive crack formation which are usually fine and of microscopic size. This property is considered in designing shafts, connecting rods, springs, gears, etc.
- Hardness. It is a very important property of the metals and has a wide variety of meanings. It embraces many different properties such as resistance to wear, scratching, deformation and machinability etc. It also means the ability of a metal to cut another metal. The hardness is usually expressed in numbers which are dependent on the method of making the test. The hardness of a metal may be determined by the following tests :
(a) Brinell hardness test,
(b) Rockwell hardness test,
(c) Vickers hardness (also called Diamond Pyramid) test, and
(d) Shore scleroscope.