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Heat Treatment - Strength Mechanics of Materials

Strength / Mechanics of Materials Table of Content

Heat treatment of large carbon steel components is done to take advantage of crystalline defects nd their effects and thus aobtain certain desirable properties or conditions.

During manufacture, by varying the rate of cooling (quenching) of the metal, grain size and grain patterns are controlled. Grain characteristics are controlled to produce different levels of hardness and tensile strength. Generally, the faster a metal is cooled, the smaller the grain sizes will be. This will make the metal harder. As hardness and tensile strength increase in heat-treated steel, toughness and ductility decrease.

The cooling rate used in quenching depends on the method of cooling and the size of the metal. Uniform cooling is important to prevent distortion. Typically, steel components are quenched in oil or water.

Welding can induce internal stresses that will remain in the material after the welding is completed. In stainless steels, such as type 304, the crystal lattice is face-centered cubic (austenite). During high temperature welding, some surrounding metal may be elevated to between 500F and 1000F. In this temperature region, the austenite is transformed into a bodycentered cubic lattice structure (bainite). When the metal has cooled, regions surrounding the weld contain some original austenite and some newly formed bainite. A problem arises because the "packing factor" (PF = volume of atoms/volume of unit cell) is not the same for FCC crystals as for BCC crysta

The bainite that has been formed occupies more space than the original austenite lattice. This elongation of the material causes residual compressive and tensile stresses in the material. Welding stresses can be minimized by using heat sink welding, which results in lower metal temperatures, and by annealing.

Annealing is another common heat treating process for carbon steel components. During annealing, the component is heated slowly to an elevated temperature and held there for a long period of time, then cooled. The annealing process is done to obtain the following effects.

a. to soften the steel and improve ductility

b. to relieve internal stresses caused by previous processes such as heat treatment, welding, or machining

c. to refine the grain structure

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