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Heat treatment

of Heat treatment

Heat treatment consists of heating up and cooling down process.

Heating up is carried out to temperatures in the austenite range in the IronCarbon phase diagram.
This is called austenitizing, and will change all microstructure to austenite, i.e. one homogeneous

single phase solid solution.

Cooling down the steel at different cooling rates will change the microstructure from austenite to

different structures, depending on the cooling rate

A change in microstructure will result in a change in mechanical properties

Slow cooling Annealing

The objective of annealing is primarily to soften the material to prepare it for further processing
such as coldforming and machining.
There are 3 stages of annealing which include
1. recovery,
2. recrystallization
3. grain growth.

For steels, there are three annealing processes:
subcritical annealing / process annealing
intercritical annealing / spheroidizing annealing
full annealing.

The difference between the three are the temperatures at which the heat treatment is carried

out, with respect to the eutectoid part of the FeFe3 phase digram.
Normalizing is also a nonhardening process carried out on steels, where a faster cooling
rate (faster than annealing but much slower than the cooling rate applied during hardening)
is applied after austenitizing.


Annealing produces a microstructure of coarse pearlite, while normalizing produces a fine

pearlitic structure


Fast cooling Hardening

Through hardening is produced by first heating in the austenitizing range, keeping it long enough

so that material is fully austenitized. The material is then quenched, i.e. cooled very fast.
Through hardening produces a martensitic ( ) structure, g g p ) , which is very hard and brittle.

The hardness of martensite increases with an increase in the carbon content.

Martensite is too brittle to be used in the asquenched state for most practical applications. Thus,
tempering must be carried out after quenching, to improve the ductility and impact properties, and
relieve the internal stresses created during quenching. The gain in ductility and toughness is

however balanced by a reduction in strength and hardness.

Tempering is carried out by heating a martensitic steel to a temperature below the A1 temperature
between 250 and 650C for a specific time period, in order to modify the structure of the steel. The

steel is then aircooled.

Martensite is not an equilibrium phase, and thus does not appear on the FeFe3C phase diagram.
Tempering the martensite, causes the thermodynamically stable and Fe3C

TTT diagram

TTT termed as time-temperature transformation diagram, also known as SCurve, C-Curve, Bains
curve or Isothermal transformation diagram. This is particularly used in the assessment of
decomposition of austenite in a heat treatable steel.


The Fe-C diagram shows only the phases and the resulting microstructures corresponding to
equilibrium conditions, whereas, the principal source of information on the actual process of
austenite decomposition under non equilibrium conditions is the TTT diagram, which relates the
transformation of austenite to the time and temperature conditions to which it is subjected.

Steps to construct a TTT diagram

1) Obtain a large number of relatively small specimens cut from the same bar.
2) Place the samples in a molten salt bath held at the proper austenitizing temperature, (Fig. 3). For
1080 (eutectoid) steel, this temperature is approximately 7800C. Specimens are kept in the molten
salt bath for long enough to form complete austenite.

3) When austenitized, the samples are quickly transferred to an other molten salt bath held at
desire reaction temperature below A1, say 7050C.
4) After varying time intervals in the salt bath, each sample is quenched in cold water or iced brine.
5) After cooling, each sample is checked for hardness and studied microscopically
6) The above steps are repeated at different temp until sufficient points are determined to plot the
curves on the diagram.
Steps 3, 4 and 5 are shown schematically in Fig 4. Sample 1, after 30 s at 705 0C and quenched,
showed only Martensite at room temp. Sample 2, after 6 h at 7050C and quenched, showed about
95% Martensite and 5% coarse pearlite at room temp. Similarly other samples are also changed
from austenite to its respective structure based on the time and for const temp 7050C. The resultant
curve obtained for this isothermal treatment of samples at 7050C is shown in Fig 5 with its
microstructure, which is also called as reaction curve.


Fig 4. The progress of austenite transformation to coarse pearlite at 13000F as related to the structure at
room temp;
As a result of this experiment, two points may be plotted at 7050C or 13000F, namely the time for
the beginning and the time for the end of transformation.It is also common practice to plot the time
for 50% transformed.
The entire experiment is repeated at different subcritical temperatures (below A1 line) until
sufficient points are determined to draw one curve showing the beginning of transformation,
another curve showing the end of transformation, and a dotted curve in between showing 50%
transformed, shown in Fig 6 the resulting diagram know as TTT or IT diagram


Explanation of TTT diagram based on 1080 steel

The TTT diagram for eutectoid steel is shown in Fig. 7. Above the A1 or Ae1 line austenite is
stable. The area to the left of the beginning of transformation consists of unstable austenite. The
area to the right of the end of transformation line is the product to which austenite will transform at
const temp.



area between the beginning and the end of transformation labeled A+F+C consists of three phases,
austenite, ferrite and carbide.
The point on the beginning of the transformation line farthest to the left is known as the nose of the
The Ms temperature is indicated as horizontal line, representing the Martensite start, arrows
pointing to the temp scale indicate the temp at which 50% and 90% of the total austenite will on
quenching have transformed to Martensite.
Cooling curves and the TTT diagram
The effect of cooling rate on the formation of different reaction products is shown in Fig 8.



Cooling curve a: very slow cooling rate, typical of conventional annealing. Transformation
product is coarse pearlite with low hardness.
Cooling curve b: transformation will start at 3 with the formation of coarse pearlite and finish at
4, with the formation of medium pearlite. (since there is a greater temperature difference between
point 3 and 4 than there is between 1 and 2, the structure will show a greater variation in the
fineness of pearlite and a smaller proportion of coarse pearlite as compared to that of curve-a.
Curve-b involves faster cooling rate than curve-a and may be considered typical of normalizing.)
Cooling curve c: this curve is typical of a slow oil quench and the microstructure will be a
mixture of medium and fine pearlite.
Cooling curve d: this curve is typical of an intermediate cooling rate and austenite will start to
transform to fine pearlite. As Ms line is crossed, the remaining austenite will transform to
Martensite. The final structure at room temp will thus consist of Martensite and fine pearlite.
Cooling curve - e: this curve is typical of drastic quench, the substance remains austenitic until the
Ms line is reached, and changes to Martensite between the Ms and Mf lines.
Cooling curve ef: this curve obtains bainitic structure by cooling rapidly enough to miss the nose
of curve and then holding in the temperature range at which Bainite is formed until transformation
is complete.
Cooling curve g: this curve is tangent to the nose of TTT curve. The cooling rate associated with
curve-g is approximate critical cooling rate (CCR) for this steel. Any cooling rate equal to or faster
than CCR will form only Martensite and any cooling rate slower than CCR will form pearlite or
Heat Treatment processes
Heat treatment may be defined as an operations involving heating and cooling of a metal/alloy in
solid state to obtain desirable conditions such as to relieve internal stresses or to achieve desirable
properties such as better machinability, improved ductility and homogeneous structure etc.
Classification of heat treatment processes
1. Annealing Stress-relieve annealing (to relieve internal stresses developed during
manufacturing), process annealing (to remove the effect of previous cold work and to permit
further to continue),
spheroidising (to produce a Spheroidal or globular form of carbide in steel so as to improve
machinability, etc.) and full annealing
2. Normalizing
3. Hardening
4. Tempering
5. Martempering


6. Austempering
7. Maraging
Stages of heat treatment process
1. Heating a metal/alloy to definite temperature
2. Holding/soaking at that temp for a sufficient period to allow necessary changes to occur
3. Cooling at a rate necessary to obtain desired properties associated with changes in the nature,
form, size and distribution of micro-constituents, such as ferrite, pearlite, martenstite etc.,)
Heat treating temperatures for carbon steels
The below fig 9 shows temperatures for various heat treating processes.

The Softening Processes

Used variously to soften, relieve internal stresses, improve machinability and to develop particular
mechanical and physical properties.


In special silicon steels used for transformer laminations annealing develops the particular
microstructure that confers the unique electrical properties.
Annealing requires heating to above the As temperature, holding for sufficient time for
temperature equalisation followed by slow cooling, possibly by furnace cooling. See Curve 2 in
Figure 10.

Also used to soften and relieve internal stresses after cold work and to refine the grain size and
metallurgical structure. It may be used to break up the dendritic (as cast) structure of castings to
improve their machinability and future heat treatment response or to mitigate banding in rolled
This requires heating to above the As temperature, holding for sufficient time to allow temperature
equalisation followed by air cooling. It is therefore similar to annealing but with a faster cooling
rate. Curve 3 in Figure 10 would give a normalised structure.
The Hardening Processes
In this process steels which contain sufficient carbon, and perhaps other alloying elements, are
cooled (quenched) sufficiently rapidly from above the transformation temperature to produce
Martensite, refer Curve 1 in Figure 10.


There is a range of quenching media of varying severity, water or brine being the most severe,
through oil and synthetic products to air which is the least severe.
After quenching the steel is hard, brittle and internally stressed. Before use, it is usually necessary
to reduce these stresses and increase toughness by 'tempering'. There will also be a reduction in
hardness and the selection of tempering temperature dictates the final properties.
Tempering curves, which are plots of hardness against tempering temperature exist for all
commercial steels and are used to select the correct tempering temperature. As a rule of thumb,
within the tempering range for particular steel, the higher the tempering temperature the lower the
final hardness but the greater the toughness.

Martempering and Austempering

The steel is heated to above the critical range to make it all austenite is then quenched into a salt
bath maintained at a temp above the Ms and is held at this temp long enough until the temp is
uniform across the section of the work piece without transformation of the austenite and
subsequently cooled in air through the Martensite range, the result is the formation of Martensite
with a minimum distortion, stresses and cracking


Austempering is another type of interrupted quenching, that forms Bainite, it almost resembles
with Martensite structure, however this structure are tougher and more ductile that steels of
tempered Martensite having equal hardness and tensile strength, the TTT diagram representing
both the process is shown in fig.11.

It is the ability of a material to become uniformly hard or to harden in depth direction. It is noted
that the hardenability is not an indication of the hardness of a specimen; rather it is an index of the
depth to which Martensite can be formed in a given specimen as the result of quenching.
Methods to determine hardenability
a) The Grossmann method of hardness distribution curves: the heated round steel bars of


diameters to the austenitizing temp, quenched in oil and sectioned them and transverse readings of
hardness on the section to be taken to plot the hardness with the diameter of the bar. However this
method is not satisfactory due to (a) possible tempering during cutting of sections (b) the large
number of bars required to establish the hardness distribution curve and (c) the time and expense
consumed for only one heat of steel
b) Jominy test: the second and the most widely used method of determing hardenability is the endquench hardenability test or Jominy test. The testing procedure and the evaluation of hardenability
are discussed blow.
The Jominy Test
Application of hardenability
CCT diagrams are unavailable for most steels.


Instead, a Jominy Test is used to compare hardenabilities of steel. This is a standard test
adopted by ASTM (American Society for Testing & Materials) and by SAE (Society for
Automotive Engineers).
A steel bar 100mm long and 25mm in diameter is
austenitised, placed into a fixture and sprayed with one end
with a jet of water of specified flow rate and temperature.

After the test, Rockwell

hardness measurements are made along

the test specimen every 1/16 inch from
the quenched end for the first inch. The
distance(s) between hardness tests for the
remaining length of the bar is at the
discretion of the tester.

A plot of
hardness vs.
distance from
quenched end is
plotted to produce
a hardenability
This method of

quenching results in different rate of cooling along the length of the test piece. The quenched end
cools the most rapidly and exhibits the maximum hardness, since 100% martensite is formed.
The cooling rate at the opposite end can be considered to be air cooled, a very slow cooling rate,
producing a structure which is less hard.
We need to know the hardness at different cooling rates,
rather than the hardness at different distances.
The distance from quenched end is the Jominy distance & is
related to the cooling rate.
Each steel alloy has its own unique hardenability curve.
This standard quench process produces a common cooling
rate gradient along the Jominy bar, for all carbon and low
alloy steels. Thermal properties are nearly identical for these
ironcarbon alloys.


Factors determining hardness attained

Alloying element :Alloying elements shift the nose of TTT
& CCT diagrams to the right
Size of component : A small component cools much
quicker, than a larger component, since the latter will have
different cooling rates at the centre and at the surface. The
surface becomes fully martensitic, while pearlite will be
found at the core of the specimen.
Cooling medium: The cooling medium determines the
severity of the quench. Water produces the most severe quench, while air produces the slowest cooling
rate. The degree of agitation of the medium also affects the rate of heat removal.

Age hardening Treatment:

The strength and hardness of some metal alloys may be enhanced by the formation of extremely
small uniformly dispersed particles of a second phase within the original phase matrix; this must be
accomplished by phase transformations that are induced by appropriate heat treatments. The
process is called precipitation hardening because the small particles of the new phase are termed as
It is also been termed, age hardening or dispersion hardening, is a heat treatment technique used to
increase the yield strength of malleable materials, including most structural alloys of aluminum,
magnesium, nickel and titanium, and some stainless steels. It relies on changes in solid solubility


with temperature to produce fine particles of an impurity phase, which impede the movement of
dislocations, or defects in a crystal's lattice.
Since, dislocations are often the dominant carriers of plasticity, this serves to harden the material.
The impurities play the same role as the particle substances in particle-reinforced composite
materials. Just as the formation of ice in air can produce clouds, snow, or hail, depending upon the
thermal history of a given portion of the atmosphere, precipitation in solids can produce many
different sizes of particles, which have radically different properties. Unlike ordinary tempering,
alloys must be kept at elevated temperature for hours to allow precipitation to take place. This time
delay is called aging.
Examples of alloys that are hardened by aging technique include Al-Cu, Cu- Be, Cu-Sn and Mg-Al;
some ferrous alloys are also precipitation hardenable
Age heat treating can be accomplished by two different methods, one is solution heat treatment and
other is precipitation heat treatment
Solution heat treatment
In solution heat treatment all solute atoms are dissolved to form a single-phase solid solution.
Consider an alloy of composition C0 in Fig. 12. The treatment consists of heating the alloy to a
temp within the _-phase field; say, T0, and waiting until all the _ phase that may have been present
is completely dissolved. Followed by rapid cooling or quenching to temp T1, the reason being,
avoiding further any diffusion of beta phase.


Precipitation heat treating

In this case, the supersaturated alpha solid solution is ordinarily heated to an intermediate temp T2
(Fig 12) within the _+_ two-phase region, at which temp diffusion rates become appreciable. The
beta precipitate phase begins to form as finely dispersed particles of composition, this process
sometime termed as aging. After the appropriate aging time at T2 the alloy is cooled to room

Both solution and precipitation heat treatments are represented on the tempversus- time plot shown
in fig 13.


Cryogenic treatment of alloys

Cryogenic treatment is the one involves the process of reducing the temperature of components
over an extended period of time to extreme cold levels, usually slightly below -190C / -300F.
Liquid Nitrogen is a common fluid for the process being relatively inexpensive and making up
more than 70% of the atmosphere.
As the LN2 Liquid Nitrogen boils off from liquid to gas at around -195 degrees celsius, the the
components in its proximity are also cooled. The process is controlled by microprocessors so that
thermal shock is not generated at the same time resulting in damage to components. Before these
microprocessors were created, people would dip parts in liquid nitrogen and virtually turn them to
brittle instantaneously.
As the material cools, its molecular structure is drawn together through contraction and stress and
dislocation (brought about by production methods) is removed or reduced. Cryogenic treatment
removes heat from an object which then allows the object to enter its most relaxed state or a
condition with the least amount of kinetic energy. After heat treatment, steels still have a certain
percentage of retained austenite which can be transformed into martensite via cryogenic treatment.
All metals including copper, aluminum, alloy, etc., not just steel benefit from the residual stress
relief that cryogenic treatment promotes.
The process has a wide range of applications from industrial tooling to improvement of musical
signal transmission. Some of the benefits of cryogenic treatment include longer part life, less
failure due to cracking, improved thermal properties, and better electrical properties including less


electrical resistance, reduced coefficient of friction, less creep, improved flatness, and easier

Surface-hardening process or Thermo-chemical Processes

Numerous industrial applications such as cams, gears, etc require a hard wear resistant
surface called the case and a relatively soft, tough and shock resistant inside, called the
Non of the plain carbon steel can possess both the aforementioned requirements, however,
both these may be obtained by employing a LCS with suitable core properties and then
adding C, N or both to the surface of the steel part in order to provide a hardened case of
definite depth, is known as case hardening or surface hardening.
These involve the diffusion, to pre-determined depths into the steel surface, of carbon,
nitrogen and, less commonly, boron. These elements may be added individually or in
combination and the result is a surface with desirable properties and of radically different
composition to the bulk.
Carbon diffusion (carburising) produces a higher carbon steel composition on the part surface. It is
usually necessary to harden both this layer and the substrate after carburising.
Nitrogen diffusion (nitriding) and boron diffusion (boronising or boriding) both produce hard
intermetallic compounds at the surface. These layers are intrinsically hard and do not need heat
treatment themselves.
Nitrogen diffusion (nitriding) is often carried out at or below the tempering temperature of the
steels used. Hence they can be hardened prior to nitriding and the nitriding can also be used as a
Boronised substrates will often require heat treatment to restore mechanical properties. As borides
degrade in atmospheres which contain oxygen, even when combined as CO or C02, they must be
heat treated in vacuum, nitrogen or nitrogen/hydrogen atmospheres.

Processing Methods



the past the thermo-chemical processes were carried out by pack cementation or salt bath

processes. These are now largely replaced, on product\ quality and environmental grounds, by gas
and plasma techniques. The exception is boronising, for which a safe production scale gaseous
route has yet to be developed and pack cementation is likely to remain the only viable route for
some time to come.

The gas processes are usually carried out in the now almost universal seal quench furnace, and
any subsequent heat treatment is readily carried out immediately without taking the work out of
the furnace. This reduced handling is a cost and quality benefit.