Annealing is a heat treatment technique that can be used to improve the material properties of steel. However, the annealing process itself is complex. Experience and expertise are required to avoid annealing errors and to control the delicate balance between heating, holding and cooling. The specialist bright steel producer Steeltec has extensive experience in the field of metal technology. At the company’s advanced production facilities, annealing is carried out under a protective gas atmosphere, which not only improves the properties of the free-cutting steel, but also imparts to the material a defined coercive field strength.

Free-cutting steels are indispensable in automotive production, mechanical engineering, and in the plant and equipment construction sectors – and these steels find use in a wide range of applications. The bright steel manufacturer Steeltec offers an extensive portfolio of free-cutting steels of different grades. To ensure that the properties of free-cutting steels such as 11SMnPb30 and 11SMn30 are optimized for processing on CNC machining centers, these steels are subjected to carefully controlled heat treatment under a protective gas atmosphere. Steeltec is able to influence the magnetic properties of the steel to minimize the resulting coercive field strength.

Softening and other annealing cycles

Cold-drawn or peeled free-cutting steel is softened in Steeltec’s conveyor furnace at a temperature of above 700 °C. After maintaining the material at that temperature for a defined holding time, it is then allowed to cool in a controlled fashion. The annealing process yields a specific material microstructure and also modifies the magnetic properties of the steel. Steeltec is able to limit the coercivity to no more than 2.5 A/cm. The resulting soft annealed steel also exhibits improved machinability and is easier to form. This premium-quality steel exhibits a bright smooth surface free of scale. Steeltec offers softening treatment for its entire range of round steel bar products with diameters between 8 mm and 10 mm.

The company also offers other annealing cycles, such as stress relief annealing and normalizing. Stress relief annealing serves to reduce the residual stresses that can arise within the steel as a result of mechanical processing, such as cold forming or machining. In the normalizing process, Steeltec heats the steel to just above the austenitizing temperature in order to achieve a homogeneous microstructure with a uniform, fine-grained ferrite/pearlite distribution.

Focused on customer needs

Steeltec also offers its customers a number of finishing options, such as grinding the heat-treated free-cutting steel product. Customers benefit from Steetec’s expert technical advisers, extensive experience and a comprehensive service portfolio that covers raw material procurement and processing to final packaging – all from under one roof. The company – one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of special bright steels – puts its customers at the heart of everything it does, offering steel solutions specially tailored to meet each customer’s specific needs.

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