Hardened steel is used in applications that require tough material. Manufacturers choose hardened steel for products such as padlocks, machine parts, tools, and more. Continue reading for three interesting things to know about hardened steel.
Hardened Steel Requires Carbon
Only steel that has a medium or high carbon content can be hardened. A smith or metalworker hardens steel by heating it to extremely high temperatures to alter its composition.
The carbon content doesn’t just make it possible to harden steel—it also dictates how hard the steel can become. Medium-carbon steel contains 0.3 to 0.5 percent carbon, while high-carbon steel contains 0.6 to 1.0 percent carbon.
Tempering Makes It Less Brittle
Another interesting thing to know about hardened steel is that it’s very brittle after quenching. Therefore, the metalworker must temper the steel to make it tougher.
Quenching is the act of rapidly bringing a metal from a very high temperature down to room temperature. Rapid cooling changes the steel’s crystal structure, making it hard but brittle.
In the tempering process following quenching, a worker heats the metal to just under its critical point temperature before letting it air-cool. The critical point temperature is the minimum temperature the material must reach for recrystallization. Tempering removes excess hardness and makes the steel tougher and less brittle.
Steel Is One of the World’s Most Recycled Materials
Steel is one of the most recycled materials in the world, and all steel forms are recyclable. Recycling preserves raw resources, benefits the environment, and pays individuals and businesses well. Steel scrappers can collect home, industrial, and obsolete steel scrap, or owners can bring these materials to drop off-locations or buy-back programs.
Workers will then sort the steel and send it to mills or foundries, where the steel is melted in furnaces at nearly 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A mill will convert the melted metal into slabs or sheets, then send them to fabricators to be formed into components and parts. Interestingly, recycled steel has the same strength and durability as new steel.
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