If you have ever used anything made out of steel, chances are it went through a process involving an annealing furnace, during production. Annealing is a very important part of metal finishing today and provides everyone with enormous benefits. Here is a closer look at the procedure and some of the equipment used.
What is Annealing?
Annealing is processed that heats metal and then cools it off. There are many variations of this method and depending on the amount of heat and the rate of cooling, different effects can be achieved. The main purpose of annealing is to make metal better. Here are some of the things annealing can do:
* Increase the hardness of metal
* Make metal more flexible and durable
* Increase or decrease resistance to corrosion
* Make metals easier to work with
* Soften metal
* Improved machinability
Many annealing processes take place in very large ovens. The annealing furnace has individual sections to heat metal and also cool it down (quench). Heating is often done with gas heat and is accomplished in a vacuum. Vacuum pumps remove oxygen from the chambers, and this is vital to the process.
Oxygen and other gases inside the heating chamber may contaminate the annealing process. In other words, the heat is used to diffuse atoms of carbon (in the case of carburizing) to steel. The addition of oxygen or other elements could substantially weaken the integrity of the metal, and annealing would not be possible. This is why annealing is done inside a vacuum.
For greater efficiency, many companies are turning to processes that use an annealing furnace to handle both heating and cooling. In fact, many furnaces are capable of performing a broad range of operations. These ovens operate at very high temperatures, some in excess of 1000 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are several types of annealing processes, and each one is designed to create specific benefits, such as:
* Full annealing – this method is used to provide a stable and uniform microstructure. Heat is applied until the material forms austenite. It is then slowly cooled inside the annealing furnace to provide steel with greater ductility and lower tensile strength.
* Normalization – steel is rapidly heated, and air cooled to make it less brittle.
* Process annealing – used to restore ductility so steel can be easier to work with.
* Short cycle annealing – increased malleability
The modern day annealing furnace is used to provide a number of processes for improving metal. You can choose from many different models, and when you go with a trusted provider of heat treatment vacuum furnaces, you have helped finding the right solutions.