Understanding and Preventing Steel Decarburization, Part 2

understanding preventing steel decarburization
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Understanding and Preventing Steel Decarburization, Part 2

understanding preventing steel decarburization

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the basics to be aware of when it comes to decarburization in steel. This process, which involves high temperatures removing some of the carbon content in a given piece of steel, can have significant effects on the mechanical properties and other characteristics of the steel in question.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to give you details on carbon content and any questions about decarburization for any of our steel products, from steel bar and steel pipe to steel tube and many others. In today’s part two of our series, we’ll dig into some of the tactics you can take to prevent or remove decarburization effects from steel if it’s taken place, plus a few rare situations where decarburization is actually done intentionally.

Preventing Decarburization

While decarburization is generally not a desirable process, and one that can have a significant negative impact on many steel materials, it can be easily controlled. The simplest way to do this is by stopping the material from reaching its recrystallization temperature, which as we noted in part one is around 700 degrees Celsius for most steel types.

Now, as those who have worked with steel are well aware, steel often must be heated to this level for various purposes. In such cases, take care to flood the surroundings of the steel with gasses that do not react to carbon – some of the best gasses here include argon and nitrogen, though this may vary depending on the specific application you’re heating the steel for.

Removing Decarburization

And even in cases where you are not able to directly prevent decarburization from taking place, it can still be removed through a couple different methods:

  • Removing the entire decarburized part of the material, which can be done through milling, grinding or several other processes.
  • Restoring the carbon that was lost to the steel substrate, which can be done by heating it back to its recrystallization temperature and then flooding the area around it with hydrocarbons, which will attach to the material. Be sure that if you go this route, you use the proper amount of carbon to return to the steel.

Intentional Decarburization Cases

As we’ve noted, decarburization in steel is almost never desirable. However, in rare cases it will be done intentionally. The primary use of this method is for steel products where a high degree of machinability and formability are desired – by lowering the amount of carbon, you also limit its hardness. However, you should be sure you’ve performed all the proper research and testing before attempting this method, as it comes with risks.

For more on steel decarburization, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.