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By recent research projects of IWT Bremen it was demonstrated experimentally that either specified combined bainitic
martensitic, or two-step bainitic treatment cycles (Tab. 1, Fig. 1: B1M* and BB), lead to a significant shortening of the
heat treatment time, whilst maintaining hardening for steels and avoiding distortions.
As the results show, the duration can be reduced to about 20% of the full bainitic treatment of cold- working and rollerbearing steels.


Isothermal TTT Diagram of the steel 100Cr6 (SAE 52100) showing the thermal cycles and pre-quenching (qpre)


Practical process data



Heat treatment
quenched in oil to RT / 170C 2h
230 C 4 h

845C 20 min/
(salt bath)

230 C 25 min / H2O RT + 250 C 5 min


230 C 50 min / H2O RT


230 C 50 min + 250 C 5 min / H2O RT

Tab. 1 Heat treatment notation according to DIN EN 10052

The amount of transformed bainite can be varied by control of the duration of the isothermal treatment in the lower bainitic stage according to
dilatometric curves. Up to 70 vol.% of transformed bainite, a microstructure composed of bainite, martensite and retained austenite was obtained
after post-quenching and tempering. As found by experiments, the tempering-temperature should be chosen in the same range as the
bainitisation temperature, or slightly raised and the tempering duration reduced. By means of this procedure the heat treatment can be shortened
to about 15 25 % of the time for complete bainitic transformation.
Two-step bainitic treatment also leads to the same reduction of the heat treatment duration in comparison with complete bainitisation. With regard
to the transformation-time-temperature (TTT-) diagram (Fig. 1) the second step of the consecutive heating should be raised to temperature
ranges above the previous temperature stage and below the average temperature where bainitisation starts first. Required hardness levels can
be adjusted by the temperature range chosen for the second treatment, either using the bainitic-martensitic-cycle (B1M*) or the two-step
bainitisation process (BB).
The austenitisation temperature should be selected at the lowest possible point above Ac1e (Fig. 1) to obtain a fine-grained primary structure,
and the temperature for bainitisation should be set narrowly above the martensite start temperature Ms. As shown by two-step bainitisation, the
volume fraction of less saturated austenite will be decomposed to carbide and ferrite by subsequent short tempering at an enhanced temperature
range (Fig. 1 BB). Nearly similar results can be achieved after the combined bainitic martensitic treatment and subsequent short tempering at
elevated stages above Ms , as shown with the cycle B1M* (Fig. 1).
It should be noted, that the retained austenite is then trapped between the bainite platelets at a sub-microscopic scale (Fig. 2), as mentioned
above. Because of the fine distribution of the retained austenite, no deterioration of the mechanical properties or hardness occurs. The choice of
low austenitisation temperature demands a homogeneous primary structure for the steel, which can be achieved either by a previous heat
treatment process or by premium casting procedures, spray-forming, or powder production.

Fig. 2 Steel 100Cr6: Lower Bainite with retained austenite (RA) after incomplete transformation
[Field Emission SEM (15 keV)] of an electrolytically thinned TEM foil]
The hardness measured at room temperature (Fig. 3) decreases with decreasing martensite- and increasing bainite-content in the

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microstructure. The two-step bainitisation with austenitisation at 845 C (Table 1: 845BB) has not reduced the hardness. The shortened heat
treatment cycle B1M* (Table 1), achieving a microstructure composed of bainite, martensite and about 8 vol.% of retained austenite shows
equivalent hardness values in comparison to complete bainitisation (B).

Fig. 3
Rotating bar fatigue tests show of the curves the fracture probability versus stress amplitude, and the values extrapolated at PB = 50 % within the
diagram (Fig. 4), revealed that the fatigue strength was increased by the shortened treatments of bainitic transformation followed by martensitic
post-quenching and tempering (B1M*), incomplete bainitisation (Bincomplete) and two-step bainitisation (BB1). With these test conditions the
fatigue strength values after complete bainitisation (B) and martensitic quenching and tempering (Mqt) show inferior results compared to the
combined heat treatment cycles.

Fig. 4
Vetters, H., J. Dong, H. Bomas, F. Hoffmann and H.-W. Zoch: Microstructure and fatigue strength of the roller-bearing steel 100Cr6 (SAE
52100) after two-step bainitisation and combined bainitic- martensitic heat treatment. Int. Journal of Mat. Res.: Vol. 97 (2006), p. 1432-1440

Author: Prof. Dr. Vetters

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