2015 Volume 55 Issue 4 Pages 884-893
We model the hardness evolution of martensite during tempering as a linear addition of multiple hardening mechanisms that is combined with a microstructural Kampmann-Wagner-Numerical (KWN) model to simulate the nucleation and growth of TiC-precipitates during tempering. The combined model is fitted to the measured hardness evolution during tempering at 300°C and 550°C of martensitic steels with and without the addition of titanium. The model predicts TiC-precipitate sizes in agreement with experimental observations and generates fitting parameters in good agreement with literature. The microstructural components that give the highest contribution to the overall hardness are Fe3C precipitates (88 HV) and dislocations (54 HV). Both Fe3C- and dislocation-strengthening decreases rapidly during the initial stage and stabilise after 10 minutes of tempering. The model shows that the decrease in dislocation density due to recovery is slowed down due to the presence of TiC-precipitates. Titanium atoms in solid solution give a stable hardness contribution (25 HV) throughout the tempering process. TiC-precipitate strengthening generates a minor contribution (3.5 HV). The model shows that less than 1% of the equilibrium volume fraction of TiC-precipitates forms during isothermal tempering at 550°C due to the large misfit strain (1.34 GJ/m3) and a limited density of potential nucleation sites in the martensite. The model shows that the hardness of tempered martensitic steels could potentially be increased by increasing the TiC-precipitate density by reducing the misfit strain.