ASTM E381 - 01(2012)

    Standard Method of Macroetch Testing Steel Bars, Billets, Blooms, and Forgings

    Active Standard ASTM E381 | Developed by Subcommittee: E04.01

    Book of Standards Volume: 03.01


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    Significance and Use

    4.1 Macroetching is used in the steel industry because it is a simple test that will provide information about the relative homogeneity of the sample. The method employs the action of an acid or other corrosive agent to develop the macrostructural characteristics of a suitably prepared specimen. The name implies that the etched surface is examined visually, or at low magnifications (usually <10×).

    4.2 Macroetching will show: (1) variations in structure such as grain size, dendrites, and columnar structure; (2) variations in chemical composition such as segregation, coring, and banding; and, (3) the presence of discontinuities such as laps, seams, cracks, porosity, bursts, pipe. and flakes.

    4.3 When, in accordance with the requirements of the inquiry, contract, order or specifications, forgings, billets, blooms, etc., are to be produced subject to macroetch testing and inspection, the manufacturer and the purchaser should be in agreement concerning the following: (1) the stage of manufacture at which the test shall be conducted; (2) the number and locations of the sections to be examined; (3) the necessary surface preparation prior to etching of the specimen; (4) the etching reagent, temperature, and time of etching; and, (5) the type, size, number, location, and orientation of conditions that are to be considered injurious.

    4.4 When not specified, the procedures of the test may be selected by the manufacturer to satisfy the requirements of the governing specification.

    4.5 When agreed upon by purchaser and producer, sulfur printing of as cast-sections, if continuously cast, is an acceptable alternative to macroetching. Sulfur printing shall be performed in accordance with Practice E1180. Examination and rating of specimens shall be in accordance with Sections 10 and 11 of this (E381) standard.

    4.6 Steel from ingots shall be examined according to procedures described in Section 9. Continuously cast steel blooms and billets, in the as cast condition, shall be examined according to the procedures described in Sections 10 and 11. With reductions over a 3:1 area ratio, wrought product from continuously cast steel may be examined according to Section 9.

    1. Scope

    1.1 Macroetching, which is the etching of specimens for macrostructural examination at low magnifications, is a frequently used technique for evaluating steel products such as bars, billets, blooms, and forgings.

    1.2 Included in this method is a procedure for rating steel specimens by a graded series of photographs showing the incidence of certain conditions. The method is limited in application to bars, billets, blooms, and forgings of carbon and low alloy steels.

    1.3 A number of different etching reagents may be used depending upon the type of examination to be made. Steels react differently to etching reagents because of variations in chemical composition, method of manufacture, heat treatment and many other variables. Establishment of general standards for acceptance or rejection for all conditions is impractical as some conditions must be considered relative to the part in which it occurs.

    1.4 This standard does not purport to address all of the safety concerns, if any, associated with its use. It is the responsibility of the user of this standard to establish appropriate safety and health practices and determine the applicability of regulatory limitations prior to use. See the specific precautionary statement in 5.3.


    2. Referenced Documents (purchase separately) The documents listed below are referenced within the subject standard but are not provided as part of the standard.

    ASTM Standards

    E7 Terminology Relating to Metallography

    E340 Test Method for Macroetching Metals and Alloys

    E1180 Practice for Preparing Sulfur Prints for Macrostructural Evaluation


    ICS Code

    ICS Number Code 77.140.85 (Iron and steel forgings)

    UNSPSC Code

    UNSPSC Code


    Referencing This Standard

    DOI: 10.1520/E0381-01R12

    ASTM International is a member of CrossRef.

    Citation Format

    ASTM E381-01(2012), Standard Method of Macroetch Testing Steel Bars, Billets, Blooms, and Forgings, ASTM International, West Conshohocken, PA, 2012, www.astm.org

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