Not all heat treating processes are for hardening…
Annealing is a broad term that encompasses several different sub-processes such as: solution annealing, isothermal annealing, full annealing, sub-critical annealing and more. Unlike other common heat treating processes, annealing is a process typically used to soften or reduce the hardness of various materials, or otherwise prepare their internal structure for further processing. This is achieved by first heating the material to very high temperatures (dependent upon material but anywhere from 1500 to 1900°F or more), followed by some sort of controlled cooling cycle (i.e. 100°F per hour). The primary differences in the various types of annealing processes are mainly dependent upon both or either of the heating temperature and rates of cooling.
Normalizing is a process used to achieve a particular type of microstructure, mostly the grain structure of the metal, after forming processes such as forging, casting or hot rolling. The normalizing process typically heats the material to a temperature similar to the hardening temperature, held for a period of time, followed by cooling in air.
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