While wear is a rather general concept, it can be subdivided to be better understood. Abrasive wear is the result of contact between hard particles or protuberances against a moving surface. This definition already contains a great amount of information. On the one hand, it can be stated that there will not be an "abrasive wear resistance" as a material property, for there are at least two characters -particles and surface- to be observed. Nevertheless, on the other hand, analysing both of these features extensively is important to properly relate them to one another.
This work focuses on the materials usually employed in heavily abrasive environments and dwells in particular in their 2D microstructure and the possibility to build 3D models only from micrographs. A novel and computerized stereology method was implemented in MATLAB® to (i) process SEM micrographs, (ii) measure relevant quantities, and (iii) characterize each of the hard phases in the alloy taking into account shape, size distribution and contiguity of the carbides. All three stages presented contain novel solutions, ranging from segmentation issues to boundary measurement questions. The most important result is the mathematical method used to relate the 3D free path in the matrix with the carbide shape and area distribution in bi-dimensional sections. Above all other stereological parameters, the free path in the matrix is relevant because several authors have successfully related its decrease with an increase in the general abrasive wear resistance.
Usually employed methods to obtain the carbide size or the free path in the matrix -such as the linear intercept (LI) method- yield correct results, but they do not explicitly quantify the influence of the carbide size distribution or shape in the general result, rendering them less useful in the inverse pathway. In other words, these methods do not provide enough information for the user to create new microstructures with the same measured parameters: there are too many assumptions to be made about the morphology and dispersion of the carbides.
The here presented approach was derived from basic laws of stereology and was crafted specifically to be used in an inverse way. With the information obtained from the stereological analysis complete 3D models were created to be applied to the field of Materials Design. Particularly interesting applications could be, for example, FEM simulations of wear, or complex eXtended FEM fracture models.