Heat Treating Metal: A Basic Overview

Have you ever wondered how metal is made to be so malleable and flexible? It’s a very strong material — sturdy and reliable — and yet we see it in curved, twisted, or rounded forms. The answer to this is simple: heat treating. 

But what is heat treating, and how does it work? Does it not affect the strength and durability of the material? Why is metal heat treated in the first place? We’ll try to answer all those basics and more here in this article. 

What Is Heat Treating

Heat treating, as the name suggests, is the process of applying heat to a material like metal. The objective is for it to strengthen its durability properties. 

Remember how the blacksmiths of old would quench their knives and swords in fire, and then pound on them to make the metal bend to the shape or form they want? It’s the same principle applied to modern-day heat treating of metal, only with more advanced and sophisticated machines. 

Ironically, the secret to strengthening the metal is in the cooling process. Different variations to the heating and cooling temperatures are used to create different types of metals. 

Stages of Heat Treating

The three main stages of heat treating metal are the following:

  • Slow heating
  • Soaking
  • Cooling

The slow heating stage is necessary to ensure that the metal is being heated consistently throughout at a uniform temperature. The effectiveness of this stage also largely depends on the condition of the metal itself. 

Hardened and stressed metals should ideally be heated much slower than those that have not been manipulated this way before. Otherwise, there’s a risk of damaging or warping the material. 

The soaking stage, meanwhile, helps maintain the ideal temperature required for the metal’s internal structure to achieve its intended shape. The soaking period, therefore, will depend on what temperature is being maintained. 

Finally, the cooling stage puts the metal at room temperature to cool down. It might take a long while, which is why certain cooling tools should help, such as a cooling liquid, gas, or a combination of both. 

Why Heat Treat Metal

Heat treating metal yields plenty of benefits, such as improving the meta’s tensile strength, shock resistance, and overall hardness. It also helps reduce brittleness. You can even improve its magnetic or electric properties through heat treating. 

If you need heat treating metal services, it’s best to approach a professional like J.F. Heat Treating. It takes a lot of technical skills and knowledge to properly heat treat metal, so leave it in the hands of the pros.

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