Steel with an extremely low-carbon content requires the highest annealing temperature. As the carbon content increases, the annealing temperatures decrease.
Copper becomes hard and brittle when mechanically worked; however, it can be made soft again by annealing. The annealing temperature for copper is between 700°F and 900°F. Copper maybe cooled rapidly or slowly since the cooling rate has no effect on the heat treatment. The one drawback experienced in annealing copper is the phenomenon called "hot shortness." At about 900°F, copper loses its tensile strength, and if not properly supported, it could fracture.
Aluminum reacts similar to copper when heat treating. It also has the characteristic of "hot shortness." A number of aluminum alloys exist and each requires special heat treatment to produce their best properties.
Normalizing is a type of heat treatment applicable to ferrous metals only. It differs from annealing in that the metal is heated to a higher temperature and then removed from the furnace for air cooling.
The purpose of normalizing is to remove the internal stresses induced by heat treating, welding, casting, forging, forming, or machining. Stress, if not controlled, leads to metal failure; therefore, before hardening steel, you should normalize it first to ensure the maximum desired results. Usually, low-carbon steels do not require normalizing; however, if these steels are normalized, no harmful effects result. Castings are usually annealed, rather than normalized; however, some castings require the normalizing treatment. Table 2-2 shows the approximate soaking periods for normalizing steel. Note that the soaking time varies with the thickness of the metal.
Normalized steels are harder and stronger than annealed steels. In the normalized condition, steel is much tougher than in any other structural condition. Parts subjected to impact and those that require maximum toughness with resistance to external stress are usually normalized. In normalizing, the mass of metal has an influence on the cooling rate and on the resulting structure. Thin pieces cool faster and are harder after normalizing than thick ones. In annealing (furnace cooling), the hardness of the two are about the same.
The hardening treatment for most steels consists of heating the steel to a set temperature and then cooling it rapidly by plunging it into oil, water, or brine. Most steels require rapid cooling (quenching) for hardening but a few can be air-cooled with the same results. Hardening increases the hardness and strength of the steel, but makes it less ductile. Generally, the harder the steel, the more brittle it becomes. To remove some of the brittleness, you should temper the steel after hardening.
Many nonferrous metals can be hardened and their strength increased by controlled heating and rapid cooling. In this case, the process is called heat treatment, rather than hardening.
To harden steel, you cool the metal rapidly after thoroughly soaking it at a temperature slightly above its upper critical point. The approximate soaking periods for hardening steel are listed in table 2-2. The addition of alloys to steel decreases the cooling rate required to produce hardness. A decrease in the cooling rate is an advantage, since it lessens the danger of cracking and warping.
Pure iron, wrought iron, and extremely low-carbon steels have very little hardening properties and are difficult to harden by heat treatment. Cast iron has limited capabilities for hardening. When you cool cast iron rapidly, it forms white iron, which is hard and brittle. And when you cool it slowly, it forms gray iron, which is soft but brittle under impact.
In plain carbon steel, the maximum hardness obtained by heat treatment depends almost entirely on the carbon content of the steel. As the carbon content increases, the hardening ability of the steel increases; however, this capability of hardening with an increase in carbon content continues only to a certain point. In practice, 0.80 percent carbon is required for maximum hardness. When you increase the carbon content beyond 0.80 percent, there is no increase in hardness, but there is an increase in wear resistance. This increase in wear resistance is due to the formation of a substance called hard cementite.
When you alloy steel to increase its hardness, the alloys make the carbon more effective in increasing hardness and strength. Because of this, the carbon content required to produce maximum hardness is lower than it is for plain carbon steels. Usually, alloy steels are superior to carbon steels.Continue Reading