How Does Heat Treatment Work?

Heat treatment is an important part of metal manufacturing. It’s a process that allows for various enhancements to be made to metal to help it better hold up to ongoing wear and tear and other types of deterioration.

Heat treatment can occur in various stages of the manufacturing process to change some of the metal’s or alloy’s properties. It can be performed to make metal more stable, more durable, more ductile, stronger or harder, depending on your specific needs for that material in its application.

But how does heat treatment work, exactly? Here’s an overview of what you should know.

A crash course in heat treatment

In heat treatment, a metal or alloy gets heated to a specific temperature and held there for a certain amount of time, then cooled. The way the variables here (temperature, time, cooling method) are adjusted depends on the effects desired and the type of metal in question.

The amount of time for which the metal is heated is referred to as the “soak time” for the heat treatment process. Soak time influences the metal’s characteristics. Longer soak times will result in different changes to the microstructure of the material than shorter soak times.

Metal can be cooled very rapidly in some circumstances, in a process known to as “quenching.” It can also be cooled very slowly in the furnace. Again, the specific cooling processes and times used will play a role in determining the properties that result from the heat treatment process. In some cases, metals and alloys can be heat treated multiple times to get the desired outcome.

This means any manufacturer that will be performing heat treatment with metal must be familiar with the temperatures at which certain metals should be heated and cooled, and the specifics of each step of the process to get the desired outcome. Different metals have different chemical properties and may take to heat in different ways. Metallurgists study the effects of heat on metal and alloys and give manufacturers the information they need about the specific processes they should (and should not) perform with pieces of metal.

Without heat treatments, metal would not function for its desired purposes or to its desired specifications. In some cases, certain types of metals would not exist at all without heat treatment, and many that do exist would be significantly weaker. Products that are used in cars, airplanes, aerospace and other fields require strong metals for both performance and safety.

Heat-treated metals allow machines and equipment to run more efficiently and to last for a longer time thanks to their durability and structural integrity.

Interested in learning more about the processes associated with heat treatment, and why heat treatment is such an important part of metal manufacturing? Contact the team at J.F. Heat Treating Inc. today and we will be pleased to answer any questions you have about the work we provide and our capability to handle the job you have in mind. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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