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Heat Treating

Heat treating represents a group of processes used in industry and metalworking, in order to change the physical, and in some cases chemical, properties of a material.Metallurgical application has been the most often used one. Heat treatments can likewise be used when it comes to manufacturing some other materials as well, for example, glass.This process includes the use of heating as well as chilling to extreme temperatures in both cases, in order to get the wanted result, like softening or hardening of the material.Techniques included are: precipitation strengthening, case hardening,  annealing, normalizing, quenching, and tempering.The term heat treatment is used in the processes where the heating and cooling are intentionally applied when a specific purpose of altering properties is needed,but the same processes can occur unintentionally, when some manufacturing processes, for example, welding or hot forming are performed.

Metallic materials have a small crystal microstructure, and those small crystals are called crystallites. It is the nature of the crystallites that determines the metals general mechanical behavior,and the heat treatment is a process that allows the manipulation of the properties of the metal, with a controlled rate of diffusion, as well as the rate of cooling, inside the microstructure.This process is usually used when the mechanical properties of a metallic alloy need to be changed, and that includes properties like strength, elasticity, hardness,  toughness, and ductility.

During heat treatment, two mechanisms will allow alloy's properties to be changed:

Martensite formation - Causes the crystals to deform intrinsically.

Diffusion mechanism - Causes alters the homogeneity of the alloy.

The atoms, that are forming the crystal structure, are grouped in a very specific order, called a lattice.On almost every known element, depending on conditions like pressure and temperature, the lattice will rearrange itself.This process is known as polymorphism or allotropy, can happen several times, depending on the treated metal.

Unlike iron-based alloys, most alloys that are heat treatable, do not go through a ferrite transformation, because in them, the nucleation at the grain-boundaries usually makes the crystal structure stronger,and they harden through a slow process called age hardening.

When cooled quickly, a martensite transformation can be seen in many metals as well as non-metals. In the case where a metal is cooled rapidly, the insoluble atoms cannot migrate out of the solution in time,and this is known as the "diffusionless transformation." When the crystal matrix shifts to low temperature order, the atoms of the solute remain trapped inside the lattice, and don’t allow the crystal matrix to fully transform into its low temperature allotrope. This creates shearing stresses inside the lattice. When steel is cooled quickly, the martensite transformation makes the metal harder, while on the other hand , in case of aluminum, it makes it softer.
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