Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This book is concerned with the mechanical behavior of materials. The term mechanical behavior refers to the response of materials to forces. Under load, materials may either deform or break. The factors that govern a material's resistance to deforming are very different than those governing its resistance to fracture. The word strength may refer either to the stress required to deform a material or to the stress required to cause fracture; therefore, care must be used with the term strength.
When a material deforms under a small stress, the deformation may be elastic. In this case when the stress is removed, the material will revert to its original shape. Most of the elastic deformation will recover immediately. However, there may be some time-dependent shape recovery. This time-dependent elastic behavior is called anelasticity or viscoelasticity.
A larger stress may cause plastic deformation. After a material undergoes plastic deformation, it will not revert to its original shape when the stress is removed. Usually, a high resistance to deformation is desirable so that a part will maintain its shape in service when stressed. On the other hand, it is desirable to have materials deform easily when forming them into useful parts by rolling, extrusion, and so on. Plastic deformation usually occurs as soon as the stress is applied. At high temperatures, however, time-dependent plastic deformation called creep may occur.