Within the world of steel and metal, heat treatment is a very important area. Heat and metal interact in various ways, and these interactions play a huge role in the properties and useful applications of a given metal type.
At Wasatch Steel, we have a wide variety of steel products available, from steel tube to plate and much more. We can also help advise you on all heat treatment processes, one of which is called normalizing. In this two-part blog, we’ll go over all the basics of normalizing, why it’s used, and how it compares to similar heat treatments.
Normalizing is a process meant to create a more ductile, tougher metal product after it’s gone through another thermal or mechanical hardening process. During normalizing, metals will be heated to a very high temperature, but then allowed to naturally cool back down to room temperature by exposure to this level of air directly after heating.
This process allows for the structure of the metal itself to be altered. This alteration reduces the hardness of the metal, making it more ductile while also helping with overall toughness.
In many cases, normalizing is used as a solution of sorts when another process of some sort has decreased the ductility of a metal while increasing its hardness. This sometimes happens intentionally, but it also may happen unintentionally as you were meaning to accomplish something else with a previous process.
In either case, normalizing causes structures to reform into a more ductile format. Metals that have been through this process are more machinable, more formable, and less likely to involve residual stresses that lead to metal failure. It’s a common process across several applications, which we’ll get into in part two of this blog.
If you’re familiar with several heat treatment processes, you may have already noticed that normalizing is very similar to another process called annealing. Both involve heating a metal above what’s called its “recrystallization temperature,” allowing them to cool slowly to increase ductility.
However, they differ when it comes to the rate and location of cooling. Annealing processes involve placing the material in a furnace to cool at a controlled rate, while normalizing, as we explained above, cools at room temperature. This leads to a faster cooling rate for normalizing, which may lead to slightly less ductility or slightly more hardness in most cases. However, normalizing is also significantly less expensive than annealing in most cases – it doesn’t require added time in the furnace, and cools down faster in general as well.
For more on the normalizing process, or to learn about any of our steel services or buy our steel online, speak to the pros at Wasatch Steel today.