Unless you are a metallurgist or otherwise work in the field of metal heat treatment, it’s likely that you have only seen metal objects in a hardened form. The thing is that, before it gets to a final hard formed state, metal must go through a heating process. But did you know that metal is actually softer than most people think? Furthermore, different metals have different properties that are desirable or undesirable, depending on the type of application.
There are a few forms of heat treatment to take into consideration for different purposes, and each type of heat treatment can only be achieved through the right process and at the right heat levels. For instance, when dealing with steel and cast iron metal materials, the three most common heat treatments are annealing, normalizing and tempering.
So, what are the right heat levels for treating metals with heat? How are the correct results achieved by metallurgical services in Gastonia, NC? Here are some of the common types of heat treatment and how they can be achieved based on varying temperature levels:
- Annealing: The fact that metal is already soft means that it can be workable after a bit of heat is applied. The heat level depends on the type of metal and the goal you have in mind for the final application—annealing is one type of heat treatment you might use. Annealing is a heat process that brings metal to high temperatures, then allows it to cool down in a slow manner. This process takes the metal’s composition and makes it more durable internally and more workable externally.
- Normalizing: Normalizing is essentially what it sounds like—it normalizes heated metal materials, bringing its composition back to a normal state. A metal material or form can get stressed, but normalizing takes off internal stresses that may be caused by other heat treatment processes. Typically after cold working, this process improves the structural integrity of the metal, boosting its ductility and strength.
- Quenching: Quenching involves heating a metal material to high temperatures, then cooling it quickly. The hot metal can be cooled in water or oil or by going through a forced air treatment. It’s a method of heat treatment that can either result in a softer metal or a harder metal. For example, quenching copper, nickel or aluminum will result in softer metals, while steel or cast iron will be much harder.
- Tempering: While you want the heated and formed metal to harden, it should not over-harden. This is where tempering comes in. Happening at a lower heat, tempering reduces the natural brittleness of metal and gives it flexible properties. What’s more is that the temperature at which the metal is being tempered will determine hardness, and tempering can change the color of the metal depending on the type of tempering and the temperature that’s applied.
To learn more about the common heat treatment processes or to inquire about specific metallurgical services in Gastonia, NC, don’t hesitate to contact the team at J.F. Heat Treating Inc. Call us today!