Plastic Deformation

When a material is stressed below its elastic limit, the resulting deformation or strain is temporary. Removal of stress results in a gradual return of the object to its original dimensions. When a material is stressed beyond its elastic limit, plastic or permanent deformation takes place, and it will not return to its original shape by the application of force alone. The ability of a metal to undergo plastic deformation is probably its most outstanding characteristic in comparison with other materials. All shaping operations such as stamping, pressing, spinning, rolling, forging, drawing, and extruding involve plastic deformation of metals. Various machining operations such as milling, turning, sawing, and punching also involve plastic deformation. Plastic deformation may take place by :

 Slip

 Twinning

 Combination of slip and twinning

Deformation by Slip:

If a single crystal of a metal is stressed in tension beyond its elastic limit, it elongates slightly, a step appears on the surface indicating relative displacement of one part of the crystal with respect to the rest, and the elongation stops. Increasing the load will cause another step. It is as if neighboring thin sections of the crystal had slipped past one another like a sliding cards on a deck. Each successive elongation requires a higher stress and results in the appearance of another step, which is actually the intersection of a slip plane with the surface of the crystal. Progressive increase of the load eventually causes the material to fracture.

Slip occurs in directions in which the atoms are most closely packed, since this requires the least amount of energy.

Figure 1. The effect of slip on the lattice structure.

Figure 1 shows that when the plastic deformation is due to slip, the atoms move a whole interatomic space (moving from one corner to another corner of the unit cell). This means that overall lattice structure remains the same. Slip is observed as thin lines under the microscopes and these lines can be removed by polishing.

Figure 2. Slip appears as thin lines under the microscope.

Figure 3. Slip lines in copper.

Deformation by Twinning:

When mechanical deformation is created by twinning, the lattice structure changes. The atoms move only a fraction of an interatomic space and this leads to a rearrangement of the lattice structure. Twinning is observed as wide bands under the microscope. These wide bands can not be removed by polishing.

Two kinds of twins are of interest to the metallurgists:

1. Deformation or mechanical twins, most prevalent in close packed hexagonal metals (magnesium, zinc, iron with large amount of ferrite)

2. Annealing twins, most prevalent in F.C.C. (Face centered cubic) metals (aluminum, copper, brass, iron with austenite).These metals have been previously worked and heat treated. The twins are formed because of a change in the normal growth mechanism.

Figure 4. The effect of twinning on the lattice structure.

Figure 5. Twin bands

Figure 6. Twin bands in zinc.

Slip vs. Twinning:

 

Slip

Twinning

Atomic movement

Atoms move a whole number of atomic spacing.

Atoms move fractional atomic spacing.

Microscopic appearance

Thin lines

Wide bands or broad lines

Lattice orientation

No change in lattice orientation. The steps are only visible on the surface of the crystal and can be removed by polishing. After polishing there is no evidence of slip.

Lattice orientation changes. Surface polishing will not destroy the evidence of twinning.

 

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Last Update: September 18, 1999

By: Serdar Z. Elgun