There are many different options in heat treatments that can be used for a range of metals. The choice of the specific steel heat treating process is a factor of the desired end results and the resistance or hardening required for the part or the component.
In some cases, there may be more than one option to consider. This typically provides the OEM with different prices to consider, and also allows for the best process to be selected in conjunction with the other needs for the part. Working with a top company offering different options in steel heat treating provides an OEM with a full choice of processes and options.
Quenching and Tempering
A very common option in treating steel is to use the quenching and tempering process. In this process, the steel is heated to a temperature just above the critical temperature and held there for a period of time to allow for a transformation to an austenite phase.
At this point, a rapid cooling process using oil, water, or specific types of polymers is used. This locks in the changes in the microstructure of the steel, creating a hard, durable surface. The specific microstructure can be pearlite, bainite, or martensite, depending on the desired end result.
Tempering follows as a form of annealing to reduce the brittleness of the steel during the quenching process.
Another form of annealing, precipitation hardening is also known as age hardening. It includes steel heat treating that holds the part at a specific temperature for one to four hours, which allows for a hard, uniform surface that is free from distortion and provides superior wear resistance.
Similar to quenching, induction hardening can be done on selective areas of a part using magnetic coils that harden the surface of the part in specific areas. This is an ideal option for complex or simple parts where only specific areas of the surface need to be hardened. Unlike other types of heat treating, induction processes can be precisely controlled for very limited surface depths, helping to reduce processing costs and time.