Three Types of Heat Treatment and Why We Perform Them

Did you know that the metals we use in products today are much different than the ones used even a few decades ago? It’s true! Thanks to advanced heat treatment techniques, like precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC, highly trained professionals can take a piece of metal and change its physical and sometimes its chemical properties to make it more suitable for different types of services.

It’s interesting to note that heat treatment can both harden and soften a metal to make it easier to work with; it depends on the technique that’s used. Here are some more interesting details regarding heat treatment:

  • Annealing: There are two types of annealing: complete and partial annealing. Both, however, are meant to serve the same purpose: to make the metal softer. Why would you want a softer metal, though? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of using metal? While metal is generally going to be a hard material when it’s cooled, we want to soften it at times to make it easier to work with. Experts can cut and mold metal much easier if it’s been annealed and made softer. The process involves heating the metal to very high temperatures (up to 1400 degrees), and holding it at that specific temperature for a set period of time (depending on the metal being treated). After the metal has been heated and held at that temperature, it’s set to cool. Most metals are cooled slowly, but some are cooled quickly. Annealing changes both the physical and chemical properties of the metal.
  • Precipitation strengthening: Unlike annealing, precipitation strengthening in Gastonia, NC is a form of heat treatment used to harden and strengthen metal. It’s most commonly performed on aluminum to create an alloy. During this process, the metal is heated to a high temperature for a specific period of time and then cooled very rapidly. The rapid cooling process prevents defects in the metal, essentially strengthening and hardening it. The tricky part about this heat treatment is trying not to heat it for too long. A metal that’s been heated for too long and then cooled quickly will lose a lot of its strength. Our professionals are highly trained in this technique, so customers can rest assured that their metals will end up stronger, not weaker.
  • Quenching: The outcome of this method of heat treatment can go one of two ways. Depending on the metal a technician is working with, the result can either be a softer metal or a harder metal. If copper, aluminum or nickel is quenched, the end result will be softer. On the other hand, if steel or cast iron is quenched, they’ll be much harder. Quenching involves heating the metal to high temperatures, and then cooling is very quickly. The metal can either be cooled in water or oil, or by undergoing a forced-air treatment.
  1. F. Heat Treating Inc. offers a variety of the heat treatment services listed above. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can change the properties of your metal to meet your specific needs.
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