Mechanical Properties

The mechanical properties of a material are those properties that involve a reaction to an applied load.  The mechanical properties of metals determine the range of usefulness of a material and establish the service life that can be expected.  Mechanical properties are also used to help classify and identify material.  The most common properties considered are strength, ductility, hardness, impact resistance, and fracture toughness.

Most structural materials are anisotropic, which means that their material properties vary with orientation. The variation in properties can be due to directionality in the microstructure (texture) from forming or cold working operation, the controlled alignment of fiber reinforcement and a variety of other causes. Mechanical properties are generally specific to product form such as sheet, plate, extrusion, casting, forging, and etc. Additionally, it is common to see mechanical property listed by the directional grain structure of the material. In products such as sheet and plate, the rolling direction is called the longitudinal direction, the width of the product is called the transverse direction, and the thickness is called the short transverse direction. The grain orientations in standard wrought forms of metallic products are shown the image.

For all simple parts, like rods, tubes, and bars for example, the longest dimension is called the longitudinal direction. The next longest direction is the long transverse direction. The shortest dimension is the short transverse direction.

The mechanical properties of a material are not constants and often change as a function of temperature, rate of loading, and other conditions. For example, temperatures below room temperature generally cause an increase in strength properties of metallic alloys; while ductility, fracture toughness, and elongation usually decrease. Temperatures above room temperature usually cause a decrease in the strength properties of metallic alloys. Ductility may increase or decrease with increasing temperature depending on the same variables

It should also be noted that there is often significant variability in the values obtained when measuring mechanical properties. Seemingly identical test specimen from the same lot of material will often produce considerable different results. Therefore, multiple tests are commonly conducted to determine mechanical properties and values reported can be an average value or calculated statistical minimum value. Also, a range of values are sometimes reported in order to show variability.