Building An Addition: A Homeowner's Guide

Completing Thermal Processes Successfully

by Toni Richards

Pure metals and metal alloys serve as critical components in many of the products that are manufactured throughout the world. These metal products are used extensively in the construction industry, which means they must be able to retain their strength and integrity over time. Thermal processes are applied to metal construction materials to ensure their durability and performance well into the future.

Here are three tips that you can use to ensure you are able to successfully complete the application of thermal processes to your metal products in the future.

1. Avoid working with thick materials.

Thermal processes require that you heat a piece of metal to an extreme temperature in order to alter its basic composition, then rapidly cool the metal in order to retain the new composition over time.

If the piece of metal that you are attempting to apply thermal processes to is very thick, you will not be able to achieve uniform cooling. The exterior surface of the metal will cool properly, but the interior may retain excess heat for an extended period of time. This lack of uniform cooling can actually compromise the strength and integrity of the metal, achieving the opposite of your intended goal. Limit thermal processes to thin metals for the best results.

2. Work with metals in their original state.

It's important that you ensure you aren't working with any metals that have been cold-processed when you are attempting to apply thermal processes. Reversing the effects of cold processing can be challenging and time consuming.

Excessive grain growth and oxidation can occur as the crystal structure created through cold processing within the metal is altered by the heat applied during thermal processes. To ensure that your metal products are strong and durable, work only with metals in their original state as you apply thermal processes.

3. Cool metals quickly.

Thermal processes are completed only after the cooling process takes place. Cooling metals quickly is essential when it comes to locking in the new crystal structure. You should ensure that you are using the right quenching mediums to facilitate proper cooling.

Ideally, you should quench a thermal processed metal in water first, then oil, then by exposure to the air. This three-pronged approach to cooling ensures that your metal will cool quickly and properly so that stress fractures and warping aren't an issue.

Being able to successfully complete thermal processes to enhance the strength and durability of your metal products will allow you to access construction materials that will stand the test of time.