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Annealing and normalizing of steel

Objective:To study the effect of the cooling rate and the amount of alloying elements on the micro structure and the mechanical properties ( Rockwell hardness ) of medium carbon steel.

Background:Full annealing is the process of slowly raising the temperature about 50 C (90 F) above the Austenitic temperature line A3 in the case of Hypoeutectoid steels (steels with < 0.77% Carbon) and 50 C (90 F) into the Austenite-Cementite region in the case of Hypereutectoid steels (steels with > 0.77% Carbon).
It is held at this temperature for sufficient time for all the material to transform into Austenite or Austenite-Cementite as the case may be. It is then slowly cooled at the rate of about 20 C/hr (36 F/hr) in a furnace to about 50 C (90 F) into the Ferrite-Cementite range. At this point, it can be cooled in room temperature air with natural convection.

The grain structure has coarse Pearlite with ferrite or Cementite (depending on whether hypo or hyper eutectoid). The steel becomes soft and ductile.

Normalizing is the process of raising the temperature to over 60 C (108 F), above line A3 or line ACM fully into the Austenite range. It is held at this temperature to fully convert the structure into Austenite, and then removed form the furnace and cooled at room temperature under natural convection. This results in a grain structure of fine Pearlite with excess of Ferrite or Cementite. The resulting material is soft; the degree of softness depends on the actual ambient conditions of cooling. This process is considerably cheaper than full annealing since there is not the added cost of controlled furnace cooling. The main difference between full annealing and normalizing is that fully annealed parts are uniform in softness (and machinablilty) throughout the entire part; since the entire part is exposed to the controlled furnace cooling. In the case of the normalized part, depending on the part geometry, the cooling is non-uniform resulting in non-uniform material properties across the part. This may not be desirable if further machining is desired, since it makes the machining job somewhat unpredictable. In such a case it is better to do full annealing. Process Annealing is used to treat work-hardened parts made out of lowCarbon steels (< 0.25% Carbon). This allows the parts to be soft enough to undergo further cold working without fracturing. Process annealing is done by raising the temperature to just below the Ferrite-Austenite region, line A1on the diagram. This temperature is about 727 C (1341 F) so heating it to about 700 C (1292 F) should suffice. This is held long enough to allow recrystallization of the ferrite phase, and then cooled in still air. Since the material stays in the same phase through out the process, the only change that occurs is the size, shape and distribution of the grain structure. This process is cheaper than either full annealing or normalizing since the material is not heated to a very high temperature or cooled in a furnace.

The Iron Carbon Equilibrium Diagram :Pure iron is a relatively soft, ductile low strength metal with few practical engineering applications. The addition of Carbon to pure iron increases strength and hardenability to useful levels. However it decreases ductility. The addition of Carbon influences the allotropic changes discussed in the last section. Since mechanical behaviour is directly related to the phases present it is important to study these phases and how they are influenced by temperature. A study of the IronCarbon phase diagram is used for this purpose. Figure 1 is an Iron - Carbon diagram showing the phases present in any alloy containing up to 6% Carbon. As you can see a eutectic point also exists in this diagram

Ferrite Known as -iron Pure iron at room temperature Body-centered cubic structure BCC. Austenite Known as -iron 910C Face-centered cubic FCC. Much softer than ferrite More easily worked

Pearlite (Perlite) Pearly luster in the microscope Interference of light in its regular layers Most common constituent of steel Gives steel most of its strength layered mixture of ferrite and cementite of average composition 0.83% carbon Cementite Hard, brittle, white melts at 1837C density of 7.4 g/cc On the phase diagram, cementite corresponds to a vertical line at 6.7% C Engineers only care about compounds with less carbon

Materials:A stock bar of plain carbon steel AISI 1040 and a stock of low alloy steel AISI 4340. They both have the same carbon content, about 0.4%, but the second contains other alloying elements such as molybdenum, nickel, and chromium.

Procedures:1. Cut two small pieces from the plain carbon steel stock, and two similar pieces from the low alloy steel stock. 2. Remove burrs from the samples by filling or grinding and stamp an identification code on each sample. 3. Place each sample in a small resistant furnace which is set at the proper autenitizing temperature, about 840C. Keep each specimen in the furnace half an hour after the temperature returns to its initial setting. 4. Take one plain carbon steel specimen and one low alloy steel specimen out of the furnaces and let them cool down to room temperature (place them on a refractory tile or a brick in still air). As explained in your textbook, this is called a normalizing operation. 5. Furnace cool the other two specimens (the plain carbon steel and one low alloy steel).This is achieved by shutting off the furnace while keeping its door closed and the specimen inside, thus ensuring low cooling rate, which can actually be determined. This operation is called annealing. Remember, this takes a very long time so you can let the furnace cool down overnight. 6. Measure the Rockwell hardness of each specimen. If possible, use scale B or even scale A, so that the Rockwell hardness of the two annealed and two normalized specimens would fall on the same scale, thus facilitating comparison. 7. Prepare a microsection from each specimen for metallographic examination, and take a photomicrograph for each specimen. 8. Compare the Rockwell hardness of the different specimens as well as their photomicrographs and try to draw a correlation between the microstructure and the Rockwell hardness.

Review Questions on annealing and normalizing of steel:1. What is the effect of increasing the cooling rate (from furnace cooling to air cooling) on the fineness of pearlite formed and on the amounts of the different phases of the AISI 1040 specimens and AISI 4340 specimens? 2. What is the effect of increasing the cooling rate (from furnace cooling to air cooling) on the hardness of the AISI 1040 specimens and AISI 4340 specimens? 3. Explain why it is very difficult to determine the carbon content of a normalized steel specimen from its microstructure only? 4. Estimate the amount of pearlite in each specimen and compare these amounts with the equilibrium values obtained from the iron carbon phase diagram. 5. Mention some factors that may affect the actual cooling rate of an air cooled specimen. 6. What effects do the alloying additives have on the microstructure and mechanical properties of air cooled (normalized ) steel specimens? 7. What effects do the alloying additives have on the microstructure and mechanical properties of furnace cooled (annealed) steel specimens?