Determination of microstructure
Like the structure of a snow flake, every material has a characteristic structure. So much information can be gained from an engineering material by examining and understanding its microstructure. The relationship between mechanical properties and microstructure is the core of metallurgical engineering.
Microstructures can be designed. A material can be heat treated or processed so as to create a specific microstructure that the metallurgist knows will provide the right strength, or ductility properties. In the olden days of black smiths, the properties of steels were manipulated by heating the metal. Now days a more scientific understanding allows a metallurgist to literally design a microstructure. Whether this is a quench and tempered mild steel which resulted in a structure called martensite, or a normalised steel which results in a ferrite/pearlite structure.
For manufacturing to advance to the demanding needs of clients, the expertise of a metallurgist are critical. Materials can be manipulated to provide the required material properties through processing. Likewise, if an understanding of processing (rolling, forging, welding, forming) are not properly understood, it is easy to create an undesirable microstructure, which could result in failure of the material.
All engineering materials have some kind of microstructure not just metallic materials. Ceramics also have grains, and inclusions, pores or impurities. Likewise composite materials also have a structure related to the distribution of fibres or fillers and their pattern in the matrix material.
One Eighty has two microscopes for structural evaluation, whether this is a “macro” for a weld procedure qualification record or for examination of the structure to 1000X. We have trained metallurgists that can properly and accurately interpret what they see in the microscope, and more importantly properly prepare the sample so that the correct structure can be observed.