Manufacturers that use metal in their projects often source their metals from whoever can give it to them cheap and in bulk. Unfortunately, that often means they can end up with metals of subpar quality.
Either the metal is too hard, strong, brittle, and stressed. Or the metal is too soft, weak, and out of spec for manufacturability. In either case, there are options available to you. But only a reputable thermal processing facility can help.
Thermal Processing, or Heat Treatment
Thermal processing is a phrase that encompasses several techniques. It has to do with using heat to either soften or harden metals. Heat treating contractors can take your metals and use heat from special furnaces to either soften or harden your metals until they are within your specifications. In fact, working with them can help you figure out if your own specifications are right for your application.
A thermal processing service offers you these options, or combinations thereof:
Hardening – Increases hardness, increases durability, increases stress
Tempering – Reduces hardness, increases ductility, decreases stress
Quenching – A process by which metal is cooled after heating and before tempering
Each of these serve as umbrella terms for various techniques that heat treatment professionals use. It will all depend on the types of metals or alloys, and your desired specifications. But how can you tell if your metal stock needs to go through any of these processes before you can start the manufacturing process?
When You Need to Harden Metals
If you work with soft metals, then you may want to harden them at some point. For example, consider if you're mass-producing pieces of jewelry that you need to stamp a design into. Stamping the design and shaping the pieces is best when the metal is soft and pliable. However, you don't want a finished product that a customer can easily bend or break.
In such a case, you need to harden the finished product without ruining it. You likely don't have to worry about whether the piece will become too brittle since the jewelry will not find itself under a lot of stress. Of course, this is just a small example, but you should get the idea.
When You Need to Soften Metals
If you find yourself with hard metals but need them softer so you can work them, then you need tempering. For example, consider if your product requires welding, but also needs a certain amount of flexibility.
Softening it will allow you to properly weld it. The finished product can go through a process of hardening, quenching, and tempering in order to get to the perfect state that allows for strength and flexibility.
Find the Right Thermal Processing Service
It's important that you use thermal processing services that have a history of dealing with pieces in your specific industry. They will come with the right knowledge and skills. They may even teach you something new so you can make your product better.