Stainless steel is one of the most commonly used alloys in a range of different industries and applications. You will find stainless steel in everything from jewelry through to fasteners, components, and parts as well as used in fabrication and manufacturing.
While stainless steel it is naturally corrosion resistant, thanks to the alloying with chromium, nickel and even molybdenum, there are other processes that are also used to improve the characteristics. One of the essential considerations in many types of applications is annealing stainless steel.
What is Annealing?
Most stainless steel will go through some type of working process. When stainless steel is worked, it will become hardened, which changes the characteristics of the steel. By annealing stainless steel, which includes heating the material to temperatures at or over 1040 degrees Celsius and then cools it either through quenching or cooling. There is some type of stainless that can be annealed at lower temperatures, so precision setup of the process is required.
Various types of annealing stainless steel are used for the different categories of metal. For example, austenitic stainless will use quench annealing while martensitic stainless will use process annealing. This both options can be used for ferritic stainless steels.
To keep stainless steel bright and free from scaling, most annealing of stainless steel in completed in a controlled atmosphere. This includes flooding the chamber where the annealing occurs with nitrogen and hydrogen, preventing the presence of oxygen.
Bright annealing processes require the use of controlled atmospheres and provide a shiny, bright surface that is highly resistant to wear and also aesthetically a good option for many parts and components.
Why Annealing is Important
As mentioned above, annealing is used on work-hardened stainless. This process will allow for the metal to become softer and easier to machine and work with. It is also important to reduce any internal stress while also allowing the formation of fine internal grains for better overall performance.