Shenyang TX Testing Instruments Inc.
Shenyang TX Testing Instruments Inc.

Difference Between Rockwell and Brinell Hardness Testers

Apr 17 , 2023

Rockwell Hardness Tester

The Rockwell hardness test is distinguished by its efficiency and the minimal damage it imparts on the test specimen. This test measures the depth of penetration of an indenter under a large load compared to the penetration made by a preload. Rockwell hardness is expressed as a combination of a hardness number and a scale symbol representing the indenter type and the applied load. For instance, a reading of 60 HRC means a hardness of 60 on the Rockwell C scale.


  • Quick Execution: The Rockwell test is faster than the Brinell test because it directly measures the depth of penetration without needing to measure the impression diameter.

  • Minimal Material Damage: Since the indent is small, the test sample experiences minimal damage, making it preferred for finished goods.

  • Versatility: It can be used on various materials, including metals and plastics, with different Rockwell scales designed for specific applications.

Brinell Hardness Tester

The Brinell hardness test, on the other hand, evaluates the hardness of materials by measuring the diameter of the indentation left by a ball indenter. The test involves pressing a hard metal (tungsten carbide) ball into the surface of the material under a specific load for a predetermined time and then measuring the diameter of the impression left in the material. The Brinell Hardness Number (BHN) is then calculated using the load applied and the size of the impression.


  • Accuracy on Coarse or Irregular Materials: The Brinell test is especially suited for materials with an uneven grain structure or rough surfaces because the larger indent averages out the hardness over a broader area.

  • Good for Softer Metals: It is particularly effective for testing softer metals like aluminum, as the larger indenter does not penetrate too deeply into the material.

  • Reproducibility: The Brinell test tends to have high reproducibility on uniform materials due to the larger size of the indenter compared to the Rockwell test.

Key Differences

  • Indentation Measurement: The Rockwell test measures the depth of penetration, while the Brinell test measures the diameter of the impression left by the indenter.

  • Indenters and Loads: Rockwell hardness testers use different scales and loads suitable for thin materials or small parts. Brinell testers typically use a single, large ball indenter and a heavy load, ideal for measuring the hardness of thicker, larger samples.

  • Damage to Test Material: Rockwell tests generally impart less damage to the test specimen compared to the Brinell method, making Rockwell preferable for finished products or smaller samples.


Choosing between Rockwell and Brinell hardness tests largely depends on the specific requirements of the material being tested and the end application of the product. The Rockwell test, with its quick execution and minimal material damage, is excellent for a wide range of materials and finished goods. In contrast, the Brinell test's ability to average hardness over a larger area makes it ideal for inhomogeneous materials or softer metals. Understanding the nuances of each method will enable you to select the most appropriate hardness testing technique for your materials, ensuring reliable and accurate results.