What is Precipitation Strengthening in Gastonia, NC and What is it Used for?

The gamut of metallurgical terms is vast and encompassing—so much so that even trained professionals need to look up a definition now and again to understand what they’re reading! One term that every metallurgist worth his salt should be familiar with, however, is precipitation strengthening.

Precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC is a common metallurgical treatment primarily given to aluminum alloys and other nonferrous metals that will be used in commercial applications, as a way to increase their resilience and resistance to wear and tear over time. But, a couple of very important variables must be in place for this heat treatment technique to take hold:

  • An appreciable level of solid solubility of the alloying element in the host metal.
  • A solid solubility limit that decreases rapidly with decreasing temperature.

Now, what’s most confusing about this term for most people is the word “precipitation.” No, it doesn’t have anything to do with rain, snow or sleet—this term is in reference to the particles that are formed during heat treatment of a nonferrous metal, which are called precipitates. These precipitates serve to increase the strength and hardness of an alloy by reinforcing the existing lattice structure of the material.

Where and why is it used?

Commercial applications vary far and wide, which brings about the question of where precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC is used and what benefits it has in these applications. In many cases, aluminum materials that have been subject to precipitation strengthening are used in aerospace applications, such as jet planes because their lightweight composition, yet tremendously improve strength allows for manageability while in flight.

Aerospace applications aren’t the only area of focus for precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC—commercial structural engineering is also an industry of focus when it comes to this heat treatment option. While aluminum isn’t durable enough to be used exclusively for infrastructure, the appeal of precipitation strengthened aluminum for façade features and other implementations is quite high.

How does it work?

Explaining the molecular goings on of precipitation strengthening is a lengthy process in and of itself, so we’ll narrow it down to the basics. Essentially, when heated to the right temperature, a nonferrous alloy will produce precipitates that prevent further movement and dislocations in the crystal lattice structure of the alloy. And, because dislocations are the most common cause of plasticity in an alloy, the prevention of these dislocations increases the alloy’s overall strength.

This basic explanation is just the tip of the iceberg for precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC, but the process is something that any metallurgist is familiar with. With a spanning use of applications and a thorough understanding of what’s causing the alloy to become stronger, precipitation strengthened alloys have become a staple in our modern world and one that we’re not likely to move on from anytime soon!

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