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Physics Procedia 50 (2013) 76 – 81

International Federation for Heat Treatment and Surface Engineering 20th Congress
Beijing, China, 23-25 October 2012

A study on an energy-saving and high-efficient pack boriding
technology for tool and die steels
Fei Xiea, b, *, Xuemei Yea, Jian Chenga, Li Suna
Materials Science and Engineering School, Changzhou University, Changzhou 213164, China
Key Laboratory of Advanced Metallic Materials of Changzhou City, Changzhou University, Changzhou 213164, China


Alternating current field (ACF) enhanced pack boriding was carried out on three kinds of tool and die steels of T7, T12 and
W18Cr4V at low and moderate temperatures. A column-shaped electrode was positioned in the center of a pack container, the
wall of the container was taken as another electrode. Samples and the boriding agent were set between the electrodes. The test
results revealed that the ACF with a current of 4 A and a voltage of 30~50V enhanced the boriding of those tool steels. Compared
with the conventional pack boriding, the case thickness of the sample was increased by more than 70% by ACF enhanced pack
boriding. The case microstructure was improved to some extent. With the new boriding technology, the treating temperature can
be lowered, the soaking time can be shortened, and the utilization ratio of agents can be increased. Preliminary analysis has been
made on mechanisms of ACF’s effects to the pack boriding.

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© 2013 The
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Keywords: pack boriding; tool and mould steels; alternating current field

1. Introduction

Properties of tools and dies in modern industry have direct influences to production efficiency, products quality
and cost. It has been shown that the diffusion of boron into tool steels by proper boriding results the formation of
boride case whose adhesion is generally much better than the cases prepared by various physical vapor deposition
methods. The boride case endues surfaces of tools and dies with high hardness and high wear resistance, by which

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +86 13401316979 (mobile).
E-mail address:

1875-3892 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. Open access under CC BY-NC-ND license.
Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Chinese Heat Treatment Society

17~0. 5 wt.40 17.1.0 1. were set between the electrodes. 2007. component 3. Jurci et al. 2011.. Samples. As a 50Hz ACF is used instead of a DCF and the treated part is not taken as an electrode.80 0.40 Fig. 4: heat-resistant insulating tube.10~0. Xie et al. 5. Fei Xie et al.. 1990). 2012. T12 and W18Cr4V were taken for the research. cathode as in DCFPB.35~0..17~0. 2006. 10: samples.. Characteristics of the ACFPB were investigated by taking some tool and die steels as target treated at low and moderate temperatures. components 9. It is a process with much consuming in energy and time. 12: heat-resistant insulating plate. 8: conducting line. A column-shaped electrode..80~4. However. components 6. Experimental details Three kinds of quenched and low temperature tempered tool and die steels T7.35 ”0. 2007).1 Schematic of the apparatus for the ACFPB ( 1: lid. Studies were made on a direct current field enhanced pack boriding (DCFPB) which could greatly accelerate pack boriding with energy-saving (Xie et al. pack boriding has drawbacks of high processing temperature (850~1050ć). Main compositions of the steels are presented in table 1.70~0.24 0. was positioned in the center of the pack container. the device for ACFPB is simpler than that for DCFPB. Xie et al.% charcoal with the balance of SiC.20~0. Uslu et al. The boriding media were constituted of 10 wt.. Sinha.5~19. 2012). 2011. components 2 and 10.65 T12 1. Wang. 2010. 5 wt. Table 1 Main chemical composition of the steels for samples. 2007.40 0.% KBF4.. component 7. Campos et al. Taktak.00~1. 2. Taktak. CPB was carried out for comparison in a separate container heated in the same furnace for ACFPB. Pack boriding is the most adopted boriding process for its fewer requirements on equipment.24 ”0. An alternating current field enhanced pack boriding (ACFPB) process is introduced in the present paper.40 3. 2.. the wall of which was taken as another electrode.% masteralloy of Fe-B. 1980. 9: boriding agent. relative ease of handling and safety. 2008. 7: column-shaped electrode. 11: clay sealing ) Main components of the experimental ACFPB apparatus are schematically shown in Fig. Soaking time was 4 h for all boriding .37 0. wt-% Steel code C Si Mn Cr W V T7 0. 3: container wall (electrode).40 W18Cr4V 0. when the soaking temperature was reached. ACF was applied on the electrodes with a constant current of 4A and a voltage of ~50V by an adjustable AC supplier. Samples had been ground and cleaned to remove surface contaminations before boriding. / Physics Procedia 50 (2013) 76 – 81 77 the service life of the tools and moulds can be prolonged (Oliveira et al. 6: current-controllable AC supplier.15~1. and the boriding agent. long process duration (3~16h) for getting a boride case with an effective thickness (Jurci et al.

These results indicate that the ACF enhanced boriding process on tool and die steels greatly. ȝm code T7 T12 W18Cr4V ACFPB1 ~110 ~92 ACFPB2 ~82 ~20 ACFPB3 ~30 ~25 ~8 CPB1 ~61 ~51 ~9 CPB2 ~30 ~28 ~6 CPB3 ~0 ~0 ~0 Table 4 gives Vickers’ hardness of the borides case at positions 10Pm from the surface of the differently treated T7 and T12 steels. Table 3 Thickness of the boriding cases treated with different process Process Thickness. 40KV) analysis. It can be seen that the ACFPB case hardness was similar to that of CPB.1. 3. Table 2 Experimental process parameters Process Furnace Soaking ACF code temperature. The case hardness was obtained by Vickers’ hardness testing with a load of 0. which indicates that the ACF had no negative influence to the case hardness of the ACFPB treated T7 and T12 steels. Table 4 Micro-hardness of the borided cases treated with different process Process code ACFPB1 ACFPB2 CPB1 CPB2 Steel T7 T12 T12 T7 T12 T7 T12 HV0. A Voltage. V ACFPB1 800 4 4 ~30 ACFPB2 750 4 4 ~35 ACFPB3 550 4 4 ~45 CPB1 800 4 CPB2 750 4 CPB3 550 4 An optical microscope (OM) was used to investigate microstructures of the borided samples. Cu KĮ radiation. almost no borides case formed in samples treated by CPB. When borided at 550ć. h Current. / Physics Procedia 50 (2013) 76 – 81 processes. Detailed process parameters are given in table 2. Boride cases’ thickness and hardness Table 3 presents the borides case thickness of the samples treated differently. The boriding case thickness was obtained by averaging the distance from the surface to the tip of the sawtooth shaped boride at a middle position of the sample. 100mA. the containers were cooled in the furnace to room temperature.1kg. Results and discussions 3. ć time. Information on the phases of the case was obtained by both OM investigation and X- ray diffraction (XRD. However. boride cases with a thickness varied from 8 to 30ȝm were produced by ACFPB. the ACFPB samples’ case is thicker than that of corresponding CPB samples by at least 70%.1 1642 1654 1693 1652 1672 1586 1679 . When borided at 800ć or 700ć. When the soaking was finished.78 Fei Xie et al.

The amount of FeB phase increased with the lowering of the boriding temperature for the two steels. 750ć and 550ć. Typical microstructures in cross-sections of boriding cases aεT7θprocess CPB1. bεW18Cr4Vθprocess CPB2. cεT12θprocess ACFPB2.2. The boriding cases were comprised of two phases of outer darker FeB and inner brighter Fe2B for all CPB samples treated either at 800ć or 750ć. dεW18Cr4Vθprocess ACFPB2 . were all comprised of two phases of FeB and Fe2B. Microstructures and phases Investigations through OM revealed basic features of the differently borided cases. Fei Xie et al. The boriding cases of W18Cr4V by ACFPB at 800ć. For both CPB and ACFPB. The microstructures and phases in ACFPB cases had close relations with the soaking temperature and compositions of the samples. Fig. T12 and W18Cr4V steels are provided in Fig.2. The boriding cases of T7 and T12 steels by ACFPB at 800ć were comprised almost completely of Fe2B phase. 2. / Physics Procedia 50 (2013) 76 – 81 79 3. the frontier of the boriding layer became smoother with the increase of contents of carbon and alloying elements in the treated steel. Typical microstructures of the boriding layers on T7.respectively.

80 Fei Xie et al. / Physics Procedia 50 (2013) 76 – 81 (002) 20000 70000 .

x ƻ FeB ƻ T12 steel ƻ FeB 60000 x Fe2B T12 steel x Fe2B 16000 50000 40000 x x 12000 x x x CPS 800ć ƻ CPS 30000 8000 750ć 20000 750ć x ƻ ƻƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ x ƻ ƻx ƻ x ƻ x 4000 10000 x ƻ (002) 550ć ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ ƻ 800ć 0 0 ƻ ƻ ƻ 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 2Tq 2T  q.

Fig. The properties of the ACFPB case were therefore modified.The case was mainly comprised of Fe2B. The FeB layer was so thick that the inner Fe2B almost could not be detected by the X ray and the diffraction intensity of the Fe2B became very weak. compared with the CPB applying ACF in pack boriding had an effect in saving energy for the treatment. which will not only increase the boriding case thickness. Therefore. the CPB cases were all comprised of two phases of FeB and Fe2B. ACF supplied extra energy to the media molecules by enhancing the vibration of the molecules’ atoms. The amount of FeB phase increased with the decrease of the boriding temperature. . ACF’s electro-magnetic function also influenced the thermal vibration of atoms of the treated sample and the movement of electrons surrounding the atoms by induction. The species’ moving speed depends on the treating temperature and the porosity between the powder media. And the FeB had a strong (002) preferred orientation. even leading to a single Fe 2B phase case. expedited chemical reactions in the media. No peak for Fe2B was detected. The energy consumed by applying ACF was much less than the energy saved by lowering furnace temperature in ACFPB. XRD spectra of samples treated by CPB Figure 3 gives XRD patterns for T12 steel samples treated by ACFPB at different temperatures. but also reduce the content of boron in the sample’s surface. The XRD results for CPB cases of T12 steels are shown in Fig.4. The defect would promote the diffusion of boron in the treated sample. The diffraction peaks in the XRD patterns were all for FeB. 3. According to the relative intensity of diffraction peaks for FeB and Fe2B. When the boriding was carried out at 550qC. which are more brittle than the case with single Fe2B phase. This should be helpful in producing vacancy in the treated steels. XRD spectra of samples treated by ACFPB Fig. 4. it could be confirmed that very few FeB phases were present in the boriding case of the sample treated by ACFPB at 800ć. Therefore. the FeB had a strong (002) preferred orientation. Discussions The test results indicated that the ACF not only significantly enhanced the boriding process to produce a much thicker boriding case in the tool and die steels. which was an indication that the outer FeB was very thick. 4. On the contrary. more fresh and active boron-containing species moved to the sample’s surface. but also had effects on the case’s microstructure in reducing the amount of brittle FeB phase. Active boron / boron-containing species moves randomly to the treated samples by thermal diffusion in CPB. Active boron / boron-containing species in CPB are produced by media’s decomposition and chemical reactions with the heat from the furnace. Furnace temperature is the main controlling factor for the production of the active boron / boron-containing species. ACF’s electro-magnetic stirring effect increased diffusion in the media. And the Fe2B had a strong (002) preferred orientation.

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