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Heat Treatment Learning Objectives: At the end of the lecture, students should be able to : know what the term

m treatment is know the purposes of treatments know the types of heat treatments Heat treatment involves various heating and cooling processes performed to effect structural changes in a material, which in turn affect its mechanical properties. The principal heat treatments are annealing, martensite formation in steel, precipitation hardening , and surface hardening. Annealing Annealing is a process whereby the metal is heated to a suitable temperature, holding at that temperature for a certain time (called soaking), and slow cooling. Three types of annealing are : (i) (ii) (iii) Full annealing Normalizing Process annealing

Carbon steels Low carbon steels contain less than 0.2% C and by far the most widely used steels. Typical applications are automobile sheet metal parts, railroad rails and plate steels for fabrication. Medium carbon steels contain between 0.2% to 0.5% C. Applications include machinery components and engine parts such as crankshafts and connecting rods. High carbon steels contain C in amount grater than 0.5% to about 1 %. They are specified for higher strength applications where stiffness and hardness are needed. Springs, cutting tools and blades and wear resistant parts are examples. Full annealing is associated with ferrous metals, usually low and medium carbon steels The carbon steels are heated into the austenite region, followed by slow cooling in the furnace to produce coarse pearlite. Pearlite is a mixture of ferrite and carbide phases in the form of thin parallel plates.

In full annealing, hypoeutectoid and eutectoid steels are heated in the austenite region about 40C above the austenite-ferite boundary, held for some time, and then cooled to room temperature in the furnace which they were heated. For the hypereuctectoid steels, they are about 40C above the eutectoid temperature. Normalizing involves similar heating and soaking cycles, but the cooling rates are faster. The steel is allowed to cool in air to room temperature. This results in fine pearlite, higher strength and hardness, but lower ductility than the full anneal treatment.

Process Annealing Process annealing is also referred to as stress relief, whereby cold-worked low carbon steels are relieved of their internal stresses by softening them. In this way , the part can be worked further into desired shape. This process is also called intermediate annealing or sub-critical annealing.

Martensite Formation in Steel The iron carbon phase diagram indicates the phases of iron and iron carbide (cementite) present under equilibrium conditions. The cooling of austenite from higher temperature to lower temperature has been slow enough to permit austenite to decompose into a mixture of ferrite and cementite (Fe3C). However, if the process is done with rapid cooling, so that the equilibrium reaction is prevented, austenite transforms into a nonequilibrium phase called martenisite. Martensite is a hard, brittle phase that gives steel its unique ability to be strengthened to very high values. Precipitation Hardening Precipitation hardening involves the formation of fine particles that act to block the movement of dislocations and thus strengthen and harden the metal. It is the principal heat treatment use for alloys of copper, nickel, magnesium, aluminum and other nonferrous metals. However , precipitation hardening can also be used to strengthen steel alloys that cannot form martensite by the usual method. The necessary condition that determines whether an alloy can be strengthened by precipitation hardening is the presence of a sloping solvus line. At room temperature may contain two phases, but can be heated to a temperature that dissolves the second phase. In the figure shown, composition C satisfies this requirement.

The heat treatment process consists of three steps: (1) solution treatment, in which the alloy is heated to a temperature Ts above the solvus line into the alpha phase region and held for a period long enough to dissolve the beta phase; (2) quenching to room temperature to create a supersaturated solid solution. (3) Then the alloy is heated to a temperature Tp below Ts , to cause precipitation of fine particles of the beta phase. (4) Aging is performed at room or elevated temperature. When aging is performed at room temperature, it is called natural aging; and when it is accomplished at elevated temperature, the term artificial aging is often referred to.

Surface Hardening (Case Hardening) Surface hardening refers to any of several thermo-chemical treatments applied to steels so that the composition of the part surface is altered by addition of carbon, nitrogen, other elements. The common types of surface hardening are carburizing, nitriding, and carbonitriding. These processes are applied to low-carbon steel parts to achieve a hard and wear resistance on the outside of the steel while at the same time retaining the inner core tough.


Carburizing is the most common surface hardening treatment. It involves heating the low carbon steel in a carbon-rich environment. As a result, carbon ( C) is diffused into the surface of the steel so that the surface becomes high carbon steel. There are a few methods of carburizing. Pack carburizing This method of carburizing involves a relatively thick surface of 0.5 to 4 mm. The steel is heated in a container containing carbonaceous materials such as charcoal or coke.

Gas carburizing Gas carburizing uses hydrocarbon-fuels such as propane (C3H8) inside a sealed furnace to diffuse carbons into the parts. The case hardening thickness is in the range of 0.13 to 0.75 mm. Liquid carburizing Liquid carburizing employs a salt bath containing sodium cyanide (NaCN), barium chloride (BaCl2) and other compounds to diffuse carbon into steels. The carburizing Thickness generally between the previous two types.