Heat Treatment - The Science of Forging

Posted by Steven Tuckey on

Metalworking and fire appear to be inextricably linked, but the interactions of heat and metals are much more than just melting, casting, and shaping. This relationship delves deep into the molecular material world, showing how electron arrangement can greatly affect a structure.

Before the invention of present metalworking techniques, blacksmiths used heat to soften steel. The hot metal was quickly cooled after being formed into the required shape. Rapid cooling made the metal tougher and less brittle. Modern metalworking processes have become much more sophisticated and precise, allowing for the use of distinct techniques for different applications.

The Effect of Heating Metal

Excessive heat causes metals to expand and alters their structure, electric conductivity, and magnetism. Heat transfer is a fairly self-explanatory concept. Metals expand at optimal temperature, which varies depending on the metal. Metal's true structure changes as it heats up. A process also known as allotropic phase transformation, softens, weakens, and makes metals more ductile. The capacity to stretch metal into a wire or anything similar is referred to as ductility.

The electrical conductivity of a metal can also be affected by heat. The more electrons disperse as the metal heats up; the more resistance the metal has to an electrical current. Metals can lose their magnetic strength when heated to specific temperatures. Magnetism can be removed completely by rising temperatures to 626 °F (330 °C) to 2,012 °F (1,100 °C), depending on the metal. The Curie temperature of a metal is the point at which this change occurs.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatment refers to the act of heating and cooling metals to alter their microstructure and bring out the physical and mechanical properties that make metals. The temperatures to which metals are heated as well as the rate at which they cool can have a significant impact on their properties.

The following are some of the most common heat treatment methods:


Annealing is a heat treatment that brings metals closer to their equilibrium condition. It softens the metal, making it easier to deal with and increasing ductility. You will heat a metal over its upper critical temperature to modify its microstructure. The metal is then cooled down.

Steel becomes softer and more conductive after annealing. To achieve these highly desired characteristics, annealed steel employs careful control of a slow, consistent cooling process. The cooling period is closely checked to ensure that the process is finished successfully.

Not only is annealed steel more flexible and soft, but also eliminates many of the grain's initial impurities. Annealing is a viable choice for industrial machinery that demands pure, precise, and long-lasting components.

Welded constructions, wire, and sheet metal all benefit from the annealing process. The integrity of your annealed steel can be harmed if the metal isn't adequately cooled in a conditioned environment.


A less expensive heat treatment process that swiftly cools metal after it has been heated above its critical temperature. The quenching procedure prevents the metal's microstructure from being altered by the cooling process. Quenching strengthens steel at the same temperature as full annealing, and it can be achieved with water, oil, or other mediums.

The metal is heated to the proper hardening temperature, then quickly cooled by dipping the hot section in water, oil, or another appropriate liquid, resulting in a fully hardened construct. To obtain the necessary toughness, ultimate hardness, and formability, quenched parts are frequently aged, toned, or tension cured.


Seasoned hardening is another name for precipitation hardening. It makes the crystalline structure of metal more consistent, rendering the material stronger. Following a quick cooling process, solution treatment is heated to high temperatures. Precipitation hardening is typically done in an inert environment at temperatures between 500 and 600 degrees Celsius. The procedure can take anything from an hour to four hours to complete. The amount of time it takes is usually determined by the thickness of the metal and other considerations.

The application of this technique will increase the compressive strength qualities as well as the degree of hardness, resulting in a tougher, more lasting object. Alloys are heated to temperatures above the material's critical transformation temperature, then cooled down to turn the soft original material into a much harder, stronger structure. Depending on the number of composites in the material, alloys can be air-cooled or quenched in oil, water, or another liquid. To enhance structural stability and hardness, hardened metals are frequently tempered or stress eased.

Tempering is a thermal process used to improve the hardness and toughness of steel, and also minimize brittleness. It is widely employed in steelmaking nowadays. The procedure results in a structure that is more ductile and solid. Tempering is used to attain the highest mix of mechanical qualities in metals, and it's necessary to combine quenching with tempering to make robust parts. Tempering temperatures and periods are often managed to get the steel's final qualities. The final result is a product that has the right combination of hardness, strength, and endurance for the job. Tempering can also help to alleviate the strains caused by quenching.


After metals have been cooled, cast, normalized, and so forth, stress-relieving is a heat treatment method that reduces stress. Heating metal at a reduced temperature than that necessary for transformation helps relieve stress. The metal is then carefully cooled after this process.


This is achieved by adjusting the grain structure to be more consistent throughout the metal. This type of heat treatment removes impurities and enhances strength and hardness. This is accomplished by using air to cool the metal after it has been heated to a particular temperature.

Cryogenically Treated

Whenever metal is cryogenically treated, liquid nitrogen is used to slowly chill it. The metal is protected from thermal stress by the delayed cooling process. After that, the metal portion is maintained at a temperature of around – 190 °C for about a day. When the metal portion is heat tempered, the temperature rises to around 149 degrees Celsius. This minimizes the levels of fragility that can result from the formation of martensite following cryogenic treatment.


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