Heat Treatments And Thermal Processing: An Introduction For Curious Consumers

Think about all of the different times you have purchased some form of metal as the average consumer, whether it was screws and fasteners, sheet metals, or otherwise. If you are like most consumers, you will notice that many type of metal are tagged with the "heat treated" or even "thermally treated" descriptors. While these terms are common in the metal industry (and companies like Pacific Metallurgical Inc will offer services of this nature routinely), most consumers know little about what they mean. To better help you understand what products you should be using, it is a good idea to get slightly educated about such heat treatment processes. Take a look at these common questions and answers about thermal processing and the answers you need to know. 

What exactly is heat-treated or thermally processed metal?

Heat-treated metal has been through a thermal process to make it more resilient. The heat treating process happens in several different ways, but is most often a part of the original extruding or shaping process of the metal. Heat treatment is most commonly done on steel and stainless steel, but can also be performed on metals like copper and zinc. Annealing is also a form of heat treatment, which involves holding metals at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time. Therefore, regardless of what type of metal you are buying for a project, there is a chance that heat treated options are available. 

What are the advantages of heat-treatment and thermal processing with metals?

When you find metals in various forms that have been through the thermal processing process, they are often well worth the money even though they may be a little more expensive. These metals are usually proven to be more resilient, wear resistant, and even more capable of handling heat and cold stresses in the environment, depending on the thermal process that has taken place during the manufacturing process.

What does it mean of a metal has been through a case harden process?

If you find certain metal pieces with the case hardened description,  you are probably looking at a piece that has a softer inner core, such as a steel camshaft with a copper or zinc interior. If the piece has been case hardened, it basically means that the exterior layers have been heat treated, either with a chemical or temperature manipulating process, while the inner layers or the core have not been treated so they will remain at a softer consistency.