Metals have many commercial uses, from giant steel beams for skyscrapers to intricate small parts for machines. However, no matter what the use, metals must go through a special heat treatment process to become stronger, more efficient, and resistant to corrosion. The heat treat furnace is the heart of metal finishing processes and plays a significant role in business today.
What is Heat Treatment?
Heat treatment is used to alter specific properties of metals. For example, iron or steel alloys can be made stronger or more flexible when heated and then cooled (quenched) rapidly. There are several processes used to improve metals today, and they involve heating followed by cooling, with the help of a heat treat furnace.
How Does Heat Treatment Work?
Metal is made up of tiny crystals, and when these crystals are heated, they can be rearranged to change the properties of the metal. Through a special process, carbon steel becomes martensite (an extremely hard metal) when it is heated and then rapidly quenched.
Martensite is very hard but also brittle, so it undergoes another heat treatment process known as tempering. This makes the metal a little softer, easier to work with, and less brittle (tempered steel).
Heat Treatment Furnaces
The modern heat treat furnace makes it possible to create tools like chisels and hammers that are extremely durable and hard, and many other metal items are improved with this method. In fact, heat treatment furnaces can perform a number of operations.
A heat treat furnace uses a vacuum to enhance the heat treatment process greatly. When O2 is removed, the likelihood of metal contamination is greatly reduced, and it also allows for rapid cooling down or quenching. Here are some of the methods used today:
* Carburizing – adds carbon to metal to increase hardness and resistance to wear. * Carbonitriding – allows carbon to interact with nitrogen to raise the tensile strength of the metal. * Gas Quenching – this process utilizes gas instead of oil or water to rapidly cool metal. It is an environmentally friendly method that also minimizes distortion. * Double Flow Gas Quenching – this method uses two heat exchangers and allows for different cooling speeds. This is often used to improve distortion and hardness.
The modern day heat treat furnace is an invaluable part of the metals industry today. It significantly enhances the world around us with better metals and offers eco-friendly solutions, with fewer emissions and chemicals used.