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What happens to steel when forged?

Views: 99 Update Date:Jun 03 , 2024
When steel is forged, it undergoes a series of physical and microstructural changes that enhance its mechanical properties. Here's a detailed overview of what happens to steel during the forging process:

1. Heating:

Temperature Increase: The steel is heated to a high temperature, typically between 950°C and 1250°C (1742°F and 2282°F), depending on the type of steel.
Phase Transformation: At these high temperatures, steel may undergo phase transformations. For instance, it can transform from its room-temperature body-centered cubic (BCC) structure (ferrite) to a face-centered cubic (FCC) structure (austenite).

2. Plastic Deformation:

Forging Process: The heated steel is subjected to compressive forces using hammers, presses, or rollers to shape it.
Grain Refinement: The intense plastic deformation breaks down and refines the grain structure of the steel, resulting in smaller, more uniform grains.
Dislocation Density: The density of dislocations (defects within the crystal structure) increases, which can impede the movement of dislocations and thus strengthen the steel.

3. Dynamic Recrystallization:

New Grain Formation: As the steel is deformed at high temperatures, new grains form, replacing the deformed ones. This process is called dynamic recrystallization.
Enhanced Properties: The new grains are typically smaller and more equiaxed (uniform in all directions), which enhances the toughness and strength of the steel.

4. Controlled Cooling:

Microstructure Development: After forging, the steel is cooled at a controlled rate. The cooling rate can significantly influence the final microstructure.
Transformation Products: Depending on the cooling rate and the composition of the steel, various microstructures can form, such as pearlite, bainite, or martensite. These structures have different hardness, strength, and toughness characteristics.
Residual Stresses: Slow cooling helps to minimize residual stresses that could lead to warping or cracking.

5. Improved Mechanical Properties:

Strength and Toughness: Forging generally improves the mechanical properties of steel, making it stronger and tougher.
Fatigue Resistance: The refined grain structure and the elimination of internal voids and porosity enhance the fatigue resistance of the steel.
Directional Strength: Forging aligns the grain flow in the direction of the applied force, providing directional strength, which is particularly beneficial for components subjected to cyclic loads.

6. Final Heat Treatment (Optional):

Further Property Enhancement: After forging, steel may undergo additional heat treatments, such as quenching and tempering, to further refine its properties. Quenching can increase hardness, while tempering can improve toughness.

Forging steel involves heating it to high temperatures, applying mechanical forces to shape it, and then cooling it in a controlled manner. These processes refine the microstructure, improve mechanical properties such as strength and toughness, and can create a more uniform and defect-free material.
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