Stainless steel is an extremely versatile material used in an extensive range of applications, including food and beverage production, oil and gas refining, chemical processing, and more. We supply a range of stainless grades to myriad industries, with a particular focus on manufacturing pressure management equipment. However, the adaptability of stainless grades suits an ever-growing range of end-use scenarios.
One of the key factors underlying the versatility of stainless steel is how readily it can be heat treated, specifically how well it responds to tempering. The tempering process allows manufacturers to adapt grade properties after quenching, enabling key material properties to be adjusted for specific performance parameters.
This is what you need to know about tempering and how it can enhance stainless steel performance.
The Basics of Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is a type of steel that contains 10.5% chromium and other alloys, including nickel. It is strong and durable due to this chemical composition.
Steel is naturally robust because it creates martensite when it cools. As martensite has more carbon, that means it is strong and, therefore, it is more difficult to manipulate its current atomic structure. Stainless steel can increase its toughness through quenching. Quenching is the process of quickly cooling down the metal to avoid reactions from slower cooling speeds.
Sometimes the process can cause the metal to become fragile when its atomic structure changes from a cube into a tetragon:
The Process of Tempering Stainless Steel
Tempering is the process of improving the toughness of metal alloys through heat treatment. Depending on what qualities the steel needs, tempering starts with heating the metal up to a specific temperature. Higher temperatures will make the metal more flexible. Lower temperatures will increase the metal’s hardness. Once the desired tempering effects are achieved, the metal will then be cooled. Different metals require specific temperatures and cooling speeds depending on their grade and alloy composition.
The Properties of Tempered Stainless Steel
Tempering affects the toughness and hardness of stainless steel. Stainless steel performance will depend on the tempering process and the stainless steel’s grade. Tempering can affect the properties of stainless steel by increasing its toughness. This is known as precipitation strengthening. Hard particles, known as carbides, are created at an optimum size and can cause the structure to move or dislocate. This means the structure is strengthened.
By tempering stainless steel, you can affect the following properties:
· A heightened durability due to the heat treatment
· Better corrosion resistance
· Increased recyclability
Tempering can subsequently be adjusted to suit specific purposes. Stainless steel for a spring would be tempered at a higher temperature to retain its flexibility. However, for stainless steel deployed in construction, a lower temperature would be used to ensure the metal’s properties enhance its toughness and corrosion resistance.
The Benefits of Using Tempered Stainless Steel
Our stainless steel experts understand that tempering stainless steel is the best way to provide more control over the metal’s atomic structure and enhance the stainless steel’s overall performance.
Without tempering, it is more likely that the steel will become brittle during the quenching process. So, if you purchased stainless steel to use for the formation of a bridge or storage tank, there is a chance that the steel could decline faster than anticipated.
Using tempered stainless steel offers many advantages, including:
· Decreasing hardness to increase its durability and avoid hydrogen cracking
· Making it more resistant to corrosion
· Increasing ductility and flexibility
· Enhancing the stainless steel’s magnetic qualities
Masteel can help you find your perfect grade of stainless steel
No matter what grade or type of tempered stainless steel you need, we offer worldwide shipping, profiling and testing services to make sure that you receive the metal that would best suit your project.
Find out more about how our specialists can help you, and what sort of stainless steel stock is available, by calling +44 (0) 1675 437 733 or emailing [email protected].