For hundreds of years, people have been heat-treating metals for the purpose of improving their physical and chemical properties to fit a given application. However, we’ve come a long way since the blacksmiths of the middle ages forged and tempered metals to produce tools for everyday life. Today, material engineers and metallurgists use more specialized techniques and tools such as Heat-Treating Baskets to customize materials for definite applications.
The 3 Major Heat Treatment Processes
This process involves the heating of steel at a specific temperature until its pearlite is transformed into austenite before it is rapidly quenched in water or oil. The appropriate temperature at which the transformation quickly takes place is highly dependent upon the steel’s carbon content. For the core to be fully transformed into austenite, the heating time must be increased. In case you’re wondering, the hardened steel part’s microstructure us martensite, ferrite, or cementite.
When steel that has both been quenched and hardened for a period of time prior to being heated, the process involved would be tempering. The temperature at which this process is carried out is a critical factor that dictates the hardness and strength that is obtained. For example, high temperatures will produce high ductility, but low in hardness and strength. Conversely, low temperatures will result in low ductility, but high in hardness and strength. It’s extremely important to select the appropriate tempering temperature to achieve the desired level of hardness and strength. Tempering is performed on carbon steels that have been hardened to reduce their brittleness.
When steel is treated up to high temperature then cooled very slowly to room temperature to produce its high ductility and strength, but low in hardness, the process of annealing is being applied. In other words, annealing is performed by heating a component to the appropriate temperature before it soaks it at room temperature. The furnace is then shut off while the piece of steel is inside it.
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