The ability to treat metal in different ways allows for many industries to complete complex tasks. The most commonly used methods of treating metal are annealing, tempering, and heat treatment. Different treatments allow metals and alloys to become harder/softer or brittle/stiff. The company using the treated metals chooses the characteristic desired for their material.
Heat Treatment is the general term for the two treatments that require high temperatures: annealing and tempering. The processes are used to alter character traits of metals, but the process also works on glass. The changes to metal and glass are on a molecular level, which fundamentally changes materials throughout.
Annealing is used to increase ductility while simultaneously reducing internal stress (resulting in the stronger overall product). There are three stages to the annealing process.
- Heat to a desired temperature
- Let sit at a consistent heat for up to several days
- Slowly, and consistently cool material (this is the most important part of the process)
Tempering plated wire increases ductility, but this comes at the expense of strength. The final product also has less hardness. Some benefits of tempering are quick cooling times, increased workability, and minimized cracking. The process for tempering is more complex than annealing because materials must be austenized before being tempered