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Hardening or precipitation hardening is a heat treatment method for increasing the hardness – i.e. the mechanical resistance of the material to a harder test body – and the strength, which also describes the mechanical resistance a material shows as a result of plastic deformation or separation, of alloys.

Alloys are, as is well known, metallic materials which consist of at least two elements or substances, the solubility or absorption capacity of which depends on several factors: the type and number of alloy elements, the relative mass in relation to the total mass of the mixture and the temperature.

If the temperature is lowered, the solubility of the alloy elements or the mixture is also reduced. Therefore, the alloy is first heated until all the substances necessary for precipitation are dissolved. During quenching, in which the material undergoes rapid cooling, a certain crystal structure is formed, which hardens the material but also leaves it brittle.

The diffusion of the elements owing to the thermal self-movement of the particles can be compensated by subsequent age-hardening, i.e. the material acquires an optimal material structure due to another thermal treatment.

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