What is the Normalization?
The normalization process is a heat treatment method applied to improve the mechanical properties of materials that have post-production structural irregularities, heterogeneous structures, and coarse-grained microstructures, such as cast parts, forged materials, or rolled sheets. This process aims to make structural adjustments to ensure metal parts achieve optimum performance.
The normalization process involves rapidly heating the material to a specified target temperature and holding it at that temperature for a certain period. The material is then air-cooled in a controlled manner. During this process, the microstructure of the material transforms entirely into the austenite phase, resulting in a finer-grained and homogeneous structure. For hypoeutectoid steels, a ferrite and pearlite structure is formed, while for hypereutectoid steels, a pearlite and cementite structure is formed.
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Steel is commonly a material with a body-centered cubic (bcc) structure as raw material. During the hardening process, the steel’s raw structure is held at specific temperatures and durations to transform into an austenitic structure. Austenite has a face-centered cubic (fcc) crystal structure and occupies a smaller volume than the body-centered cubic structure. After the annealing process, the material is rapidly cooled to return from the fcc structure to the bcc structure, forming martensite structure with over-saturated carbon residues. The martensite phase has a larger volume than unhardened steel at room temperature and possesses high hardness due to high internal stresses.
Quenching is the process of rapidly cooling the product using oil, gas, or other quenching media. The tempering process is applied to create the desired mechanical properties (hardness, toughness, etc.) of the material. Additionally, tempering helps reduce internal stresses, transform residual austenite, and stabilize martensite.
The hardening process performed in atmosphere-controlled furnaces protects the surfaces of the parts from oxidation, decarburization, and carburization. Such furnaces can reverse the processes of decarburization and carburization by controlling the carbon potential in the atmosphere.
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