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Unit 2: Heat Treatment Processes

1. Stress Relieving 3. Spheroidizing

2. Annealing 4. Normalizing
- full annealing
- isothermal annealing 5. Hardening
- diffusion annealing
- partial annealing 6. Tempering
- recrystallization annealing - Austempering
- process annealing - Martempering

Stress Relieving

• Solidification or casting
• Welding, machining, grinding
• Shot peening, surface hammering, Residual
cold working Stresses
• Case hardening, electroplated coating
• Phase transformation and

 Residal Stress + Corrosive atmosphere  Stress Corrosion Cracking

 warpage & dimensional instability of steel
 Residual Tensile Stress  Reduced fatigue strength 2
Stress Relieving

…Heating steel uniformly to a temperature below the lower

critical temperature  holding for sufficient time 
uniform cooling

…for plain C-steel and low alloy steel: maxm. Temp. 600°C

Stress Relieving:
 Relieves residual stresses/ internal stresses/ locked in stresses
 No microstructural changes occur during the process


 …performed to improve toughness, restore ductility, alter various

mechanical, electrical and magnetic properties, remove residual stresses
 Slow cooling rate ~ 10/ hour 4
1200 |-

Diffusion annealing

Various Types of Annealing:

- Full Annealinng
- Partial Annealing
- Sub-critical Annealing
- Isothermal Annealing
- Diffusion Annealing annealing

- Process Annealing
- Recrystallization Annealing

Isothermal Annealing

…Heating hypoeutectoid steel above the upper critical

temperature (A3) holding  rapid cooling to a temp. less
than A1 (600°C - 700°C)  holding for sufficient time air
cooling to room temp.

 improves machinability and results in a better surface finish

by machining
 applied to alloy steels
 suitable for small-sized components

Diffusion Annealing

 Known as Homogenizing annealing

 …employed to remove any structural non-uniformity, e.g.,
dendrites, columnar grains, chemical inhomogeneities, etc.

…Heating steel much above the upper critical temperature

(1000°C - 1200°C)  holding for prolonged period, 10 – 20h
 slow cooling to room temp.

 Segregated zones are eliminated

 applied to alloy steels
 suitable for small-sized components
 Coarse pearlite is produced  needs follow up heat-treatment
Process Annealing

…Heating steel below the lower critical temperature (A1)

holding for sufficient time cooling to room temp. (cooling
rate not important)

 Reduces hardness or strength and increases ductility so that

further working may be carried out easily
 Applied to parts that are fabricated by cold forming, such as,
stamping, extrusion, drawing, etc.

Recrystallization Annealing

 Steels with prior heavy cold working are subjected to

recrystallization annealing
 …employed to remove any structural non-uniformity, e.g.,
dendrites, columnar grains, chemical inhomogeneities, etc.

…Heating steel above recrystallization temperature  holding

for sufficient time  cooling to room temp.

 Decrease in hardness or strength and increase in ductility

 Final microstructure consists of strain-free grains

Annealing of cold worked material

Recovery, Recrystallization & Grain Growth

Recovery occurs at relatively lower temperatures which

accompanies a rearrangement of dislocations into a more stable
configuration than existed in the cold-worked state

Recrystallization involves nucleation of strain free grains 

marked decrease in strength and hardness and a corresponding
increase in ductility

Grain Growth The driving force for growth is in the surface

energy of the grain boundaries  reduced yield strength ,
increased ductility


• Scenario 1 extra half-plane

of atoms Dislocations
Results from annihilate
diffusion atoms
and form
a perfect
to regions
of tension
extra half-plane
of atoms
• Scenario 2
3 . “Climbed” disl. can now
move on new slip plane
2 . grey atoms leave by
4. opposite dislocations
vacancy diffusion
meet and annihilate
allowing disl. to “climb”
1. dislocation blocked; Obstacle dislocation
can’t move to the right 12
• New grains are formed that:
-- have a low dislocation density
-- are small
-- consume cold-worked grains.

0.6 mm 0.6 mm

33% cold New crystals

worked nucleate after 13
brass 3 sec. at 580C.
Further Recrystallization

• All cold-worked grains are consumed.

0.6 mm 0.6 mm

After 4 After 8
seconds seconds 14
Recrystallization Parameters

Factors affecting the process of recrystallization

1) time;
2) temperature;
3) amount of prior deformation;
4) composition;
5) initial grain size; and
6) amount of recovery prior to recrystallization
Recrystallization Temperature (TR)
…The recrystallization temperature (TR) is arbitrarily defined as
that temperature at which 50% of the material recrystallizes in 1 h

Empirical laws of recrystallization:

• The higher is the degree of deformation, the lower is the TR
• The finer is the initial grain size, the lower is the TR
• Increasing the amount of cold work and decreasing the initial grain
size produce finer recrystallized grains
• The higher is the temperature of cold working, the less is the strain
energy stored in the material  higher TR
• The rate of recrystallization increases exponentially with temperature
Grain Growth

• At longer times, larger grains consume smaller ones

0.6 mm 0.6 mm

After 8 s, After 15 min,

580ºC 580ºC

• Empirical Relation: d n  d on  Kt

TR = recrystallization

Other Heat-Treatment Processes





- Austempering

- Martempering


…Heating steel just below the lower critical temperature

(A1) holding for prolonged period  slow cooling to
room temp.
…or, heating & cooling steel alternately just above & below
the lower critical temperature (A1) holding for prolonged
period  slow cooling to room temp.

 Results in a structure consists of globules or spheroids of

carbides in a matrix of ferrite.
 High C-steels and alloy steels are spheroidized to improve
 Fine pearlite  high rate of spheroidization
Development of Microstructure

The microstructure of a 1065 steel showing the The microstructure from the same 1065 steel
structure as received from the steel mill. The produced by a spheroidize annealing cycle. This
structure is a fine pearlite produced through rapid thermal treatment softens the steel in preparation
cooling. (500X) for cold working. (500X)

…Heating steel to about 40 - 50°C above the upper critical

temperature (A3 or Acm) holding for proper time air
cooling to room temp. (still air or agitated air)

 Microstructure  pearlite
 Enhanced mechanical properties
 Grain size is finer than in annealing
 Improves machinability
 Effective process to eliminate carbide network along grain
 Diffusion annealing is followed by normalizing

Development of Microstructure

Various Heat-Treatment Processes

Quench hardening

Hardening (Quench Hardening)
…Applications demanding high tensile strength and hardness require
the hardening treatment  for tool steels, gears, shafts, bearings
…Heating steel to a predetermined temperature (A3 or A1) holding
for proper time rapid cooling or quenching to room temp.
…Quenching media: water, oil or salt bath

 Microstructure  Martensite
 High hardness is developed due to transformation of Austenite into
non-equilibrium products (Martensite) accompanying rapid cooling
 Hypereutectoid steel  (Cementite+Martensite)  wear resistance
 Hypoeutectoid steel (above A1) (Ferrite+Martensite)incomplete
 Hypereutectoid steel  heating above Acm  Coarse Austenite
coarse accicular Martensite  poor mechanical properties 26
Development of Microstructure

Factors Affecting Hardening Process

 Chemical composition  critical temp. selection

Austenite stabilizers retained Austenite for alloy steel  reduces

Carbide forming elements  higher hardness, wear resistance,
longer tool life

 Size and shape of the steel part  very slow heating / cooling rate

 Hardening cycle: heating and cooling rate, hardening temp., holding

time  homogeneous Austenite must be produced

Factors Affecting Hardening Process
 Homogeneity and grain size of Austenite  complete

 Quenching media  sp. heat, temp. of medium, thermal


 Surface condition of steel part  presence of oil, grease, scale

and other foreign particles are not desirable

…Quenching  Non uniform cooling High internal

stresses  embrittlement

…Hardening is followed by Tempering  reduction of

internal stresses, improvement in other properties 29
Hardening Methods
… depending on quenching procedures,
i. Conventional or direct quenching

ii. Quenching in stages in sequence in different media

iii. Spray quenching

iv. Quenching with self-tempering or time quenching

v. Austempering or isothermal quenching

vi. Martempering or stepped quenching

…Consists of heating hardened steel below the lower critical
temperature (A1) holding for proper time air cooling to
room temp. (still air or agitated air)

 Decrease in internal stresses

 Reduction in the degree of brittleness
 Lowers hardness, strength and wear resistance however restores
ductility and toughness
 Higher the tempering temperature  more is the restored
ductility  tougher the steel

 …HARDENING followed by TEMPERING is the only

conventional heat-treatment process suitable for improving
Elastic Limit of steel 31
Structural Changes during Tempering

 Isothermal transformation of retained Austenite

 Ejection of carbon from BCT lattice of Martensite

 Growth and spheroidization of carbide particles

 Formation of ferrite-carbide mixture

Structural Changes during Tempering
…1st stage of tempering: heating is restricted to about 250C:
formation of low carbon martensite + epsilon () - carbide (Fe2.4C) 
toughness improves but to a lesser degree as compared to strength

…2nd stage of tempering: heating in the range of 250 - 350C:

retained austenite transforms to bainite (ferrite +  - carbide )  steel
develops maximum elastic properties : ductility and toughness increase
with a corresponding decrease in hardness and strength

…3rd stage of tempering: heating in the range of 350 - 500C:

Dissolution of of -carbide and precipitation of cementite  formation of
ferrite-cementite mixture  improved tensile, yield and impact strength,
free from internal stresses

…Above 500C: Secondary Hardening : Coarsening and spheroidization33

of cementite
Change in Lattice Parameter

Mechanical Properties
during Tempering

Tempering Temperature vs. Hardness

Effect of Alloying Elements on
 All alloying elements resist softening of steel during

 Carbide forming elements (Cr, Mo, W, V, Ti etc.):

resist softening due to formation of respective carbides

 Non-carbide forming elements (Cu, Ni, Al, Si, Mn):

very little impact on the tempered hardness of steel 
hardening is due to solid solution hardening effect

 For highly alloyed steels: improvement in hardness

values on tempering at elevated temp.  known as
secondary hardening  due to formation of alloy carbides 37
Effect of Mo on Tempering

Temper Brittleness

 Certain types of steel on holding for prolonged period

within a specific tempering temperature range (400 -
660 C)
 marked decrease in TOUGHNESS
 known as Temper Brittleness or
Temper Embrittlement

 The degree of brittleness depends on the cooling rate

from the embrittlement range
 Higher cooling rate  lesser degree of embrittlement
Temper Colours
 Hardened steel on heating during tempering  exhibits various colours

 Heating  formation of iron oxide film

 Colour of oxide film = function of oxide film thickness = f(Temp,time)

oxide film

Austempering (Isothermal Hardening)

• Heating above Austenitizing

temperature and then
quenching at a constant temp.
above Ms point and within the
Bainitic range (200 – 400C)

• Held at constant temperature

• Isothermal transformation

• Cooled in air to room


• Austenite  Bainite
transformation 41

• Formation of lower Bainite  better mechanical properties than

tempered Martensite  rarely need tempering

• As compared to conventional hardening and tempering treatment,

results in …
- better ductility at high hardness
- improved impact & fatigue strength
- freedom from distortion

• Parameters controlling the process:

- cooling rate for the first quench
- holding time in the quenching bath

• Suitability of a given steel for austempering depends on –

… TTT-curve : nose should be sufficiently away from temp. axis

… Time : required for Bainitic transformation should be within
reasonable limit : only few steels satisfy these requirements

• Heating above Austenitizing

temperature and then
quenching at a constant temp.
above Ms point and within the
Bainitic range (180 – 250C)

• Cooled in air (sufficiently

higher rate) to room temp.

• Austenite  Martensite

• Generally tempered …to

improve properties

• Formation of Martensite

• As compared to conventional quenching and tempering treatment,

results in …
- minimum internal stresses
- improved mechanical properties
- reduced tendency towards distortion and cracking

• Parameters controlling the process:

- cooling rate for the first quench
- holding time in the quenching bath

• Alloy steels are best suited for the Martempering process

- All alloying elements except Cobalt, increase hardenability
- Alloying elements increase incubation period

• A large number of steels satisfy these requirements 44

Problems due to Retained Austenite

• Requirement for fully hardened steel: Formation of Martensite

• retained austenite  greatly reduce mechanical properties

• retained austenite > 20% can only be revealed thro’ metallography

• Amount of retained austenite = f (carbon content, austenite

stabilizing elements)
• Stability of retained austenite is increased considerably if the steel is
kept at room temp. after hardening treatment

Sub-Zero Treatment
• Cooling steel to sub-zero temp. below Ms temperature and close to
Mf temperature

• Mf temperature in most steels lies between -30 and -70C

• Retained Austenite  Martensite transformation

• Sub-zero or cold treatment must follow just after the hardening


• tempering is done immediately …to relieve internal stresses

• Sub-zero treatment is employed for high carbon and high alloy steels
used for making tools, bearings, measuring gauges

 Special heat treatment given to medium C, high C and low alloy
steels wire rod
 …Heating steel to well above the austenitizing temperature (A3
or Acm) soaking for sufficient time  quenching to a bath
maintained at a constant temperature (at the nose of TTT-curve)
~ 450 - 550C  cooled in air or by spraying water
 Lead bath or salt baths are used for quenching

 Austenite  Pearlite transformation

 Homogeneous and fine pearlitic structure  capable of heavier
drafting during wire drawing

 Low C steels can be drawn in as-annealed condition ductility

 Patenting not employed 47

Hardness: surface resistance to indentation,

H = F/A

 ability of Fe-C alloy to harden by
forming martensite
 measure of the depth of penetration
of hardness across the cross section
Maximum Hardness depends on the carbon content in steel and
can be achieved by fulfilling following conditions-
- all C dissolves in austenite
- critical cooling rate is achieved
- no retained austenite
- no auto-tempering of martensite

Hardenability depends on the addition of alloying elements and

grain size of austenite along with following operational conditions-
- coolant used
- specimen size

Shallow Hardening Deep Hardening

Depth of hardness is Hardening is uniform

limited to a small throughout the cross
distance from the surface section
of the specimen

Ex. A number of
Ex. Carbon-steels Alloy steels

Significance of Hardenability
 Hardenability determines the rate at which a given steel should
be quenched
 Tells about the maximum hardness that can be achieved on the

Determination of Hardenability

 …depth at which 50% Pearlite + 50% Martensite structure is

 …depends on composition, austenite grain size, severity of
quench and size of specimen

 Hardenability of steel is determined by the following methods:

- Grossman’s critical diameter method

- Jominy end quench test
- Estimation of hardenability from chemical composition
- Fracture test

Grossman’s critical diameter method

 a number of steel bars with different dia. are quenched under

identical conditions
 length: diameter = 5:1

Critical dia. (D) = 1”