A Brief Look into the Heat Treatment of Metallic Alloys

A Brief Look into the Heat Treatment of Metallic Alloys

Laura Davis, Manufacturing Technology Insights | Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Heat treatments can be used to homogenize cast metal alloys in order to increase their hot workability, soften metals before and during hot and cold processing processes, or change their microstructure in order to attain the appropriate mechanical properties.

FREMONT, CA: Heat treatment is a mixture of heating and cooling procedures performed on a metal or alloy in its solid-state to achieve the required conditions or qualities.

Heat treatments can be used to homogenize cast metal alloys in order to increase their hot workability, soften metals before and during hot and cold processing processes, or change their microstructure in order to attain the appropriate mechanical properties.

Thermal treatments of metallic alloys are also utilized to modify a material's surface chemistry. This is accomplished by diffusing carbon, nitrogen, and other gaseous or solid materials into the component's surface. These procedures are used to produce a predetermined surface hardness as well as to improve wear, corrosion, and fatigue resistance.

Treatments that change the phase structure of an alloy

Hardenin

All metallic alloys can be work-hardened, but steel alloys, in particular, can be heat-hardened. The hardenability of a steel alloy is determined by the amount of carbon or other alloys present. Carbon alloys with a larger percentage of carbon can reach a higher degree of hardness.

Hardening is accomplished by heating an alloy to a predetermined temperature and then quenching it in oil, water, air, or a specific polymer quenchant. The temperature and quenching conditions are determined by the type of steel used.

Tempering

Tempering is typically performed after hardening and is used to remove much of the alloy's brittleness while keeping the component's hardness.

It is vital to analyze the phase diagram of the specific alloy to determine how successful these operations may be and the temperatures at which the treatments should be performed.

Induction hardening

Medium and high carbon steels can also be hardened by rapidly heating with an induction coil followed by quenching in a quench jet. This procedure can also be carried out utilizing various healing techniques such as hot flame impingement or laser technology.

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