Material Properties and Heat treatment Overview
of the main factors contributing to the utility of steels is the broad range of
mechanical properties which can be obtained by heat treatment. For
example, easy formability and good ductility may be necessary during fabrication
of a part. Once formed very high
strength part may be needed in service. Both
of these material properties are achievable from the same material.
steels can be softened to some degree by annealing.
The degree of softening depends on the chemical composition of the
particular steel. Annealing is
achieved by heating to and holding at a suitable
temperature followed by cooling at a suitable rate.
steels can be hardened or strengthened. This
can be accomplished by cold working, heat treating, or an appropriate
combination of these.
working is the technique used to strengthen both low carbon low alloyed steels
and highly alloyed austenitic stainless steels. Only
reasonably high strength levels can be attained in the carbon low alloyed
steels, but the highly alloyed austenitic stainless steels can be cold worked to
rather high strength levels. Most
steels are commonly supplied to specified minimum strength levels.
treating is the primary technique for strengthening the remainder of the steels.
Some common heat treatment of steels are listed below:
Figure 1 Schematic of Time Temperature Transformation Diagram
and alloy steels are Martensitic hardened by heating to the Austenitizing
temperature followed by cooling at the appropriate rate.
One requirement for full transformation to Martensite is that cooling must occur
prior to the nose of the transformation start curve in Figure 1. Cooling frequently occurs by quenching in oil or water.
Some steels are capable of Martensitic transformation when air cooled.
Ms is when the Martensite transformation starts. Mf is when the Martensite transformation finishes. Martempering is a martensitic transformation where the part is cooled rapidly to above the Ms and held until the temperature becomes uniform across the cross section.
Martensitic transformation the steel is then tempered.
Tempering consists of reheating the steel to an intermediate temperature.
Tempering causes microstructural changes in the steel in addition to
relieving internal stresses and improving toughness.
maximum hardness of carbon and alloy steels, after rapid quenching to avoid the
nose of the isothermal transformation curve, is a dependent on the alloy
content, predominantly the carbon content. The
maximum thickness for complete hardening or the depth to which an alloy will
harden is measure of a steels hardenability.
transformation is another transformation for austenite during cooling.
If cooling of austenite is not quick enough some or all of the steel may
transform to Pearlite instead of Martensite.
While Pearlite is not as hard as Martensite, the steels properties are
still quite good and Pearlitic structures are used in many applications.
Austempering is another heat treatment for steels. In this heat treatment steels are Austenitized followed by rapidly quenching avoid transformation of the austenite to Pearlite. The steel is held at a temperature below temperatures that promote Pearlite formation and above the Martensite start transformation range. While held at this temperature range the austenite transforms isothermally to a completely Bainitic microstructure. Finally the steel is cooled to room temperature. The intention of Austempering is to acquire increased ductility or notch toughness at high hardness levels, or to decrease the possibility of cracking and distortion that might occur by traditional quenching and tempering.
Some steels have been developed that are strengthened by age hardening. These steels are heat treated to dissolve certain constituents in the steel into solution followed by cooling. Subsequently these steels are age hardened to precipitate the constituents in some favored particle size and distribution.
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