Steel Plate Enhancement: Reviewing Heat Treatment Processes

Adjusting different steel plate mechanical properties is necessary to fit specific functions and applications. For example, the steel used in construction equipment requires much thicker and more durable properties than steel used in appliances. These features are generally improved by performing carbon reduction or introducing alloys. However, these processes aren’t always enough to create a desirable product.

The Different Types of Heat Treatment Processes

Heat treatment is performed on steel plates to reinforce different properties. It allows steel plates to have increased strength, hardness, ductility, toughness, and machinability. Depending on the heat treatment applied, steel plates will increase one or more of the properties mentioned.

In this article, we’ll go over the four heat treatment processes and how it improves steel plates’ properties.

1. Quenching and Tempering

Quenching involves a two-part process that involves heating and rapid cooling. First, the material is treated to a temperature between 1,500 and 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit. Afterward, the material is rapidly cooled with water. This process is also known as quenching.

After the material is quenched, it’s reheated to below-critical temperature, which should be around 300 to 700 degrees only. It’s air-cooled afterward to complete the process of tempering. This two-step heat treatment alters the metal’s grain structure, which improves a metal’s hardness, strength, and toughness. It’s the preferred treatment to produce steel for construction equipment like trailers, dump trucks, cranes, and assorted mining equipment.

2. Precipitation hardening

Similar to quenching and tempering, precipitation-hardening also has a two-step process of heating and cooling. First, the material is heated to a temperature between 1,000 and 1,300 degrees, followed by rapid cooling. Afterward, the material is treated to age hardening, where it’s reheated to below-critical temperatures following rapid cooling once more.

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Through this process, the strength and toughness of a steel plate is increased while also improving its machinability. This allows the material to withstand high stress, making it usable in rail cars, truck frames, and shipbuilding components.

3. Normalizing

Normalizing introduces steel plates to extreme temperatures and is held for over an hour per every one inch of plate thickness. The material is then taken out to air-cool at room temperature.

This process takes a relatively long time, depending on the desired application of the steel plate. The treated normalized plate becomes ideal for various construction applications, primarily for pressure vessels that have high ductility, machinability, and strength.

4. Annealing

Annealing follows a very similar process to normalizing. However, it has a more controlled cooling process as it’s cooled below-critical temperature. This allows the treated metal to alter the metal’s ductility and reduce hardness. Instead of prioritizing hardness, annealed steel has higher ductility and strength to bear huge loads. It’s also stretchable without becoming too brittle, which is essential in various applications like building bridges.


Steel is generally a very malleable material, which is why it’s present in a wide range of industries. Since it can be used for various applications, it must be produced and appropriately treated to fit into its numerous roles. This is why steel suppliers study and refine their treatment processes to develop the right products for the right clients.

At KGS Steel, we offer steel production services to meet your needs through our quality products. As a family-owned business since 1985, KGS Steel continues to maintain our virtue of being committed to our customers. If you’re looking for steel suppliers in Nashville, TN, contact us today!

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