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Heat treatment is a heating and cooling process of a metal or an alloy in the solid
state with the purpose of changing their properties. It can also be said as a
process of heating and cooling of ferrous metals especially various kinds of steels
in which some special properties like softness, hardness, tensile-strength,
toughness etc, are induced in these metals for achieving the special function
objective. Mainly comprises of 3 phases,
- Heating of metal
- Soaking of metal
- Cooling of metal
Heat treatment in furnaces is generally carried in two type of furnaces
- Hearth furnaces
- Bath furnaces
These furnaces are heated by fuel which may be coke, coal, gas (town, blast or
natural) and fuel oil. They can also be operated electrically. They are generally of
two types.
Direct fuel fired furnace
Stationary type

Indirect fuel fired furnace

Multiple furnace
Re-circulation furnace

Movable type

Car bottom type

Rotary Type

These are further classified as
- Liquid bath type
- Salt bath type
- Lead bath type
- Oil bath type

Micro structure of mild steel

White constituent in this figure is very pure iron or having very low free carbon in
iron in form of ferrite and dark patches contain carbon in iron is chemically
combined form known as carbide (Cementite). Cementite is very hard and brittle.

Micro structure of pearlitic eutectoid steel

These layers arealternatively

of ferrite and cementite. This substance is called as

pearlite and is made up of 87% ferrite and 13% cementite. But with increase of
carbon content in steel portion of pearlite increases up to 0.8% C. The structure
of steel at 0.8% C is entirely of pearlite

Micro structure of of high carbon steel

If carbon content in steel is further increased as free constituent up to 1.5% C,
such steel will be called as high carbon steel.
Tracing the cooling temperature of iron from 1600 C to ambient temperature is difficult
in actual practice but can be traced used TTT curve ( Temperature , Time and
Transformation )
If iron cooled from molten condition to solid state following changes will occur

Molten-Fe (Liquid state of iron)


Delta-Fe (Body centered)


Gamma-Fe (FCC atomic arrangement and austenite structure)

770- 910C

Beta-Fe (Body centered-nonmagnetic)

Up to 770C

Alpha-Fe (BCC atomic arrangement and ferrite structure)

- First changing occurs at l539C at which formation of delta iron starts.

- Second changing takes place at 1404C and where delta iron starts changes into
gamma iron or austenite (FCC structure).
- Third changing occurs at 910C and where gamma iron (FCC structure) starts
changes into beta iron (BCC structure) in form of ferrite, leadaburite and
- Fourth changing takes place at 768C and where beta iron (BCC structure) starts
changes into alpha iron in form of ferrite, pearlite and cementite.


Iron carbon diagram helps us to identify the formation of various structures
during heating and cooling phases. Main microscopic constituents that forms
during the heating and cooling process of iron and steel are
- Austentite
- Ferrite
- Cementite
- Pearlite

On heating the steel, after upper critical temperature, the formation of
structure completes into austenite which is hard, ductile and non-magnetic. It is
able to dissolve large amount of carbon.It is formed when steel contains carbon
up to 1.8% at 1130C. On cooling below 723C, it starts transforming into pearlite
and ferrite. Austenitic steels cannot be hardened by usual heat treatment
methods and are non-magnetic.

Slow cooling of low carbon steel below the critical temperature produces
ferrite structure. Ferrite does not harden when cooled rapidly. It is very soft and
highly magnetic. Ferrite contains very little or no carbon in iron.
when the carbon forms definite combinations with iron in form of iron
carbides which are extremely hard in nature. The brittleness and hardness of cast
iron is mainly controlled by the presence of cementite in it. It is magnetic below
200C. Cementite is a chemical compound of carbon with iron and is known as
iron carbide (Fe3C).
Pearlite is relatively strong, hard and ductile, whilst ferrite is weak, soft and
ductile. It is built up of alternate light and dark plates. These layers are
alternately ferrite and cementite. When seen with the help of a microscope, the
surface has appearance like pearl, hence it is called pearlite. Hard steels are
mixtures of pearlite and cementite while soft steels are mixtures of ferrite and
pearlite. Pearlite is a eutectoid alloy of ferrite and cementite. It occurs particularly
in medium and low carbon steels in the form of mechanical mixture of ferrite and
cementite in the ratio of 87:13.


Heat treatment
Case hardening
Surface hardening




Softening process in which iron base alloys are heated 40 to 50C above the
upper-critical limit for both hypo and hyper eutectoid steels and held there for a
specified period and followed by cooling in still air up to room temperature
- Soften metals
- Refine grain structure
- Improve grain size
Softening process in which iron base alloys are heated above the
transformation range held there for proper time and then cool slowly (at the of
rate of 30 to 150C per hour) below the transformation range in the furnace itself.
Heating is carried out 20C above upper critical temperature point of steel in
case of hypo eutectoid steel and the same degree above the lower critical
temperature point in case of type eutectoid steel.
Objective :
- Soften the steel
- Improve grain size
- Relieve internal stress
Lowest temperature range of annealing process in which iron base alloys are
heated 20 to 40C below the lower critical temperature, held therefore a
considerable period of time then allowed to cool very slowly at room temperature
in the furnace itself. During this process, the cementite of steel which is in the
combined form of carbon becomes globular or spheroidal leaving ferrite in matrix,
thus imparting softness to steel.
Objective :
- To reduce tensile strength
- To increase ductility
Hardening is a hardness inducing kind of heat treatment process in which
steel is heated to a temperature above the critical point and held at that
temperature for a definite time and then quenched rapidly in water, oil or molten
salt bath. Steel is hardened by heating 20-30C above the upper critical point for
hypoeutectoid steel and 20-30C above the lower critical point for hyper
eutectoid steel and held at this temperature for some time and then quenched in
water or oil or molten salt bath.

If high carbon steel is quenched for hardening in a bath, it becomes extra
hard, extra brittle and has unequal distribution internal stresses and strain and
hence unequal harness and toughness in structure. These extra hardness,
brittleness and unwanted induced stress and strain in hardened metal reduce the
usability the metal. Therefore, these undesired needs must be reduced for by
reheating and cooling at constant bath temperature. In tempering, steel after
hardening, is reheated to a temperature below the lower critical temperature and
then followed by a desired rate of cooling.
Reheating the of hardened steel is done above critical temperature when the
structure is purely of austenite and then quenching it in a molten salt path having
temperature in the range of 150-500C. This is done to avoid transformation to
ferrite and pearlite and is held quenching temperature for a time sufficient to give
complete formation to an intermediate structure referred to as bainite then
cooled to room temperature. It is divided in to 5 categories based on their heating
- Low temperature tempering
- Medium temperature tempering
- High temperature tempering
- Aus tempering
- Mar tempering
Hardened steel parts requiring tempering are heated up to 200C and then
quenched in oil.Tempering is used to retain hard micro-structure of martensite
which increases brittleness.
Hardened steel parts requiring tempering are heated in the temperature
range of 200-350C. This process gives troosite structure. Troosite structure is
another constituent of steel obtained by quenching tempering martensite. Less
hard and brittle than martensite.
Hardened steel parts requiring tempering are heated in the temperature
range of 350-550C. This process gives sorbite structure. Sorbite structure is
produced by the, transformation of tempered martensite.
It is a special type of tempering process in which and steel is heated above the
transformation range then suddenly quenched in a molten salt bath at a

temperature 200 to 450C. The piece is held at that temperature until the and
outside temperature are equalized. The part is then reheated and cooled at
moderate rate. Aus-tempering produces fine bainite structure in steel but with
minimum distortion and residual stresses.
Tempering process in which and its base alloys are heated above the
transformation range then suddenly quenched in a molten salt bath at a
temperature 80 to 300C. The piece is held at that temperature until the and
outside temperature are equalized. The part is then reheated and cooled at
moderate rate. Mar-tempering produces martensite in steel but with minimum
distortion and residual stresses.
Some times special characteristic are required in metal such as hard outer
surface and soft, tough and more strength oriented core or inner structure of
metal. This can be obtained by casehardening process. They are as follow
Carburizing can be of three types
1. Pack carburizing
2. Liquid carburizing and
3. Gas carburizing
Pack carburizing :
Metals to be carburized such as low carbon steel is placed in cast iron or steel
boxes containing a rich material in carbon like charcoal, crushed bones,
potassium Ferro-cyanide or charred leather. Such boxes are made of heat
resisting steel which are then closed and sealed with clay. The boxes are heated to
a temperature 900C to 950C according to type of steel for absorbing carbon on
the outer surface. carbon enters the on the metal to form a solid solution with
iron and converts the outer surface into high carbon steel.
Liquid carburizing :
Liquid carburizing is carried out in a container filled with a molten salt, such
as sodium cyanide. This bath is heated by electrical immersion elements or by a
gas burner and stirring is done to ensure uniform temperature. This process gives
a thin hardened layer up to 0.08 mm thickness. Parts which are to be
case-hardened are dipped into liquid bath solution containing calcium cyanide
and polymerized hydro-cyanide acid or sodium or potassium cyanide along-with
some salt. Bath temperature is kept from 815C to 900C.

Gas carburizing :
In gas carburizing method, the parts to be gas carburized are surrounded by a
hydrocarbon gas in the furnace. The common carburizing gases are methane,
ethane, propane, butane and carbon monoxide are used in this process. Carbon
containing gas such as carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), ethane (C2H6) or
town gas is introduced in the furnace where low carbon steel is placed. The
furnace is either gas fired or electrically heated. Average gas carburizing
temperature usually varies from 870 to 950C.
Cyanide may also be used to case harden the steel. It is used to give a very
thin but hard outer case. Cyaniding is a case hardening process in which both C
and N2 in form of cyaniding salt are added to surface of low and medium carbon
steel. Sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide may be used as the hardening
Nitriding is a special case hardening process of saturating the surface of steel
with nitrogen by holding it for prolonged period generally in electric furnace at
temperature from 480C to 650C in atmosphere of Ammonia gas (NH3). The
nitrogen from the ammonia gas enters into on the surface of the steel and forms
nitrides and that impart extreme hardness to surface of the metal. Nitriding is a
case hardening process in which nitrogen instead of carbon is added to the outer
skin of the steel.
It consists of moving an oxyacetylene flame, over the part where hardening is
required. Immediately after this, the heated portion is quenched by means of
water spray or air passing over it.
Induction hardening is accomplished by placing the part in a high frequency
alternating magnetic field. It differs from surface hardening in the way that
hardness of surface is not due to the increase in carbon content but due to rapid
heating followed by controlled quenching. In this process, a high frequency
current is introduced in the metal surface and its temperature is raised up to
hardening range. As this temperature is attained, the current supply is cut off
instantaneously water is sprayed on the surface.