Heat treatment


Heat treating (or heat treatment) is a group of industrial and metalworking processes used to alter the physical, and sometimes chemical, properties of a material. The most common application is metallurgical. Heat treatments are also used in the manufacture of many other materials, such as glass. Heat treatment involves the use of heating or chilling, normally to extreme temperatures, to achieve the desired result such as hardening or softening of a material. Heat treatment techniques include annealing, case hardening, precipitation strengthening, tempering, carburizing, normalizing and quenching.

Effects of composition: The specific composition of an alloy system will usually have a great effect on the results of heat treating. If the percentage of each constituent is just right, the alloy will form a single, continuous microstructure upon cooling. Such a mixture is said to be eutectoid. However, If the percentage of the solutes varies from the eutectoid mixture, two or more different microstructures will usually form simultaneously.

Eutectoid alloys: A eutectoid (eutectic-like) alloy is similar in behaviour to a eutectic alloy. A eutectic alloy is characterized by having a single melting point. This melting point is lower than that of any of the constituents, and no change in the mixture will lower the melting point any further. When a molten eutectic alloy is cooled, all of the constituents will crystallize into their respective phases at the same temperature.

Hypo eutectoid alloys: A hypoeutectic alloy has two separate melting points. Both are above the eutectic melting point for the system, but are below the melting points of any constituent forming the system. Between these two melting points, the alloy will exist as part solid and part liquid. The constituent with the lower melting point will solidify first. When completely solidified, a hypoeutectic alloy will often be in solid solution.

Hypereutectoid alloys: A hypereutectic alloy also has different melting points. However, between these points, it is the constituent with the higher melting point that will be solid. Similarly, a hypereutectoid alloy has two critical temperatures. When cooling a hypereutectoid alloy from the upper transformation temperature, it will usually be the excess solutes that crystallize-out first, forming the proeutectoid. This continues until the concentration in the remaining alloy becomes eutectoid, which then crystallizes into a separate microstructure.

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