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What Is Metallography, and Why is it Important?

You may not have heard of metallography, but if you’ve used a phone, been on a plane, or rode in a car, you have benefitted from its existence. Metallography is defined as “the study of the atomic and chemical structure of all types of metallic alloys using microscopy.” It traces its roots back to 19th-century British scientist Henry Clifton Sorby, but advances in technology have helped it maintain relevance and led to new discoveries about the properties of metals.  

Why Do We Need Metallography?

Modern industries use information learned through metallography to inform the decision making that shapes their products. Metallography helps companies decide which materials are stable enough to build bridges or construct cars and motorcycles with. Since it mainly looks at how the microstructure of metals contribute to their performance, modern companies and manufacturers use it as a form of quality assurance. Metallography can ensure that the right metal is being used for crucial things like cars, planes, and electronics.    It is also crucial in aiding the development of new materials. There are thousands of standardized alloys available today and even more in development as demand for lighter and stronger metals continues. Examining alloys on a microscopic scale can reveal a lot about their macroscopic properties, this knowledge is utilized heavily in an alloy’s design, development, and production. 

How Does Microstructure Correlate With Physical Properties? 

Over the years, scientists have discovered that several rules of thumb can be applied to most metals when examining their microstructure.  
  • Decreased grain size is associated with higher yield strength and hardness.  
  • Ductility is lower in metals with a higher inclusion rating  
  • Inclusion content and distribution directly influence a metal’s cracking rates and fracture resistance 
  • Inconsistencies or “discontinuities” in a metal’s microstructure are associated with failure sites, or the spot where the metal breaks.  
Understanding what microstructure can tell us about a metal’s physical properties can help us predict how it will perform in different situations. Being able to identify certain traits and inconsistencies can help manufacturers avoid choosing the wrong material and putting potentially dangerous or defective products into circulation.    Metallography serves a unique and important purpose in helping scientists develop and test new alloys, and it would not be possible without microscope technology. To learn more about metallography, microscopes, and all their applications, contact the experts at UNITRON today.
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