What is the quenching?


Quenching is a process of cooling a metal at a rapid rate. This is most often done to produce a martensite transformation. In ferrous alloys, this will often produce a harder metal, while non-ferrous alloys will usually become softer than normal.

To harden by quenching, a metal (usually steel or cast iron) must be heated above the upper critical temperature and then quickly cooled. Depending on the alloy and other considerations (such as concern for maximum hardness vs. cracking and distortion), cooling may be done with forced air or other gases, (such as nitrogen). Liquids may be used, due to their better thermal conductivity, such as oil, water, a polymer dissolved in water, or a brine. Upon being rapidly cooled, a portion of austenite (dependent on alloy composition) will transform to martensite, a hard, brittle crystalline structure. The quenched hardness of a metal depends on its chemical composition and quenching method. Cooling speeds, from fastest to slowest, go from brine, polymer (i.e. mixtures of water + glycol polymers), fresh water, oil, and forced air. However, quenching a certain steel too fast can result in cracking, which is why high-tensile steels such as AISI 4140 should be quenched in oil, tool steels such as ISO 1.2767 or H13 hot work tool steel should be quenched in forced air, and low alloy or medium-tensile steels such as XK1320 or AISI 1040 should be quenched in brine.

Some Beta titanium based alloys have also shown similar trends of increased strength through rapid cooling. However, most non-ferrous metals, like alloys of copper, aluminum, or nickel, and some high alloy steels such as austenitic stainless steel (304, 316), produce an opposite effect when these are quenched: they soften. Austenitic stainless steels must be quenched to become fully corrosion resistant, as they work-harden significantly.

For producing qualified casting grinding media balls, quenching is the very important process. After molding by the molding line, the balls HRC is low, about 40-50 degrees. It is much lower than what we needed for balls. So we need to do quenching. Quenching for balls has oil quenching, air quenching. But mostly what we choose is the oil quenching for common high chrome balls. After the balls heating in the furnace for certain hours, then come out and fall into the quenching oil for certain minutes. Quenching pocess is to get the martensite structure. And the balls hardness can up to 56-65 degrees.