Vacuum heat treating furnaces are used for a wide range of applications. However, one of the most important uses is for the heat treatment of aluminum alloys used in aircraft structures. While the type of alloy an aircraft designer chooses is important, when it comes to aircraft design, the heat treatment used on that metal is just as crucial.
For obvious reasons, aircrafts need to function at optimum levels and environmental conditions have everything to do with the strength and life of a plane. A plane’s life is dependent on the grain structure of its alloy which in turn, is totally dependent on vacuum heat treating.
A vacuum heat treating furnace is used to heat metals to extremely high temperatures through high consistency and low contamination of gases. The vacuum blocks oxygen which reduces rapid oxidation. Vacuum heat furnaces improve the overall condition of the metal alloy in that they cover the area more evenly, make the cooling process quicker, and improving the overall life and functionality of the metal.
NASA has determined 9 types of vacuum heat treating definitions for the training and certification of their vacuum heat treating personnel.
This is a heat treatment process, which consists of applying a low temperature for sufficient time to strengthen the alloy to the desired temper.
Here the alloy is treated above its room temperature.
This is the localized melting of the low-melting eutectic composition in some alloys. A big loss of ductility and reduction in the resistance to fatigue cracking often results from this type of melting
This is the normal aging of metal at room temperature.
This is the age hardening of an alloy by the formation of precipitates.
This is the rapid cooling of hot metal.
This is a heat treatment that places at least one phase into a solid solution and keeps that solid solution by cooling it rapidly.
This is usually a thermal cycle to relieve stress that occurs over time.
This is the thermal cycle performed following the quench to increase the durability or other mechanical properties of the metal.
So, to answer the question, why are vacuum heat treating furnaces important for aerospace? This type of alloy heat treatment is essential in that it allows the designer to build planes that have higher strength materials, giving the plane better functionality in that there are fewer repairs and a longer overall lifespan of the aircraft.
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