Slat-band chains are used as conveyors by the food industry, breweries and bottling plants. The operating conditions require abrasion resistance and strength which are at the limit of the capabilities of the current material of choice, cold worked type 430. In an unconventional way of strengthening this material, Mintek developed a process in which the cold worked material is aged between 450°C and 500°C. The present work aims to elucidate the strengthening mechanism, using type 430 stainless steel containing 16.42% Cr and 0.036% C, in the cold-rolled condition (38% reduction in area), with and without prior solution heat treatment. The Cr-rich precipitate α" may form in the 450°C to 500°C range (due to the miscibility gap in the Fe-Cr system), resulting in the increased hardness and lowered ductility. Mossbauer studies confirmed that the α", at this composition and temperature, forms through the process of nucleation and growth. Hardening due to α" precipitation was only observed after aging for 64 hours or more, however. After increasing the dissolved interstitial content by solution heat treatments (in the vicinity of 900°C), increases in Vickers hardness of 30-50 kg/mm2 could be obtained after only 8 minutes at 475°C. This hardness increase corresponds to an increase in tensile strength of more than 100 MPa. The increased hardness does not appear to be caused by strain aging, and presumably results from fine carbide or nitride precipitation. Solution treatment at 930°C also introduced some martensite (α') into the microstructure, which raised the hardness of the unaged cold worked material. Overaging of the carbide and nitride precipitates was observed at 475°C, but not at 450°C, probably due to the lower diffusion rates at the lower temperature. No averaging of the α" precipitates occurred, for aging times up to 2072 hours. Samples aged for selected periods of time at 475°C had low impact strengths - even well before the formation of α" - and revealed predominantly cleavage fracture with some ductile fracture areas, mostly at grain boundaries. Both impact strength and lateral expansion indicated that embrittlement accompanies the increased hardness obtained by aging. Calculation of critical crack lengths from the impact data, however, revealed that a maximum flaw length of 0.8 mm, for specimens solution treated at 880°C, could be tolerated before catastrophic failure. Since it is not expected that flaws of that size would exist in the as manufactured links, fatigue will probably determine the lifetime of the chains, although the lower K1c values indicate that less crack propagation will be tolerated before brittle fracture. During the aging treatment, the strength may be lowered by recrystallisation of the coldworked material. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed the start of recovery, but no recrystallisation. Some large precipitates (around lμm in diameter) were present. These were identified, through their diffraction patterns, as M23C6; these carbides were present in both aged and unaged material and hence represent precipitates which had not dissolved during the initial solution treatments. The α" precipitates- and the presumed newly formed nitride and carbide precipitates - were too fine for detection by TEM. Potentiodynamic testing of the treated material in a 0.5M H2SO4 solution indicated that, although the probable hardening mechanisms imply localised Cr depletion of the matrix, the general corrosion resistance and passivation behaviour were not affected. It is concluded that the strength of the chain may be increased markedly by short-term heat treatments at 475°C, with lowered toughness, but with no decrease in corrosion resistance. Martensite, work hardening, and precipitation of carbides and nitrides all contribute to the final strength, with α" formation only becoming significant after longer aging times.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2013.