Heat Treatment of CA6NM: Enhancing Corrosion Resistance and Strength

Heat treatment plays a crucial role in optimizing the mechanical properties and corrosion resistance of stainless steel alloys. In the case of CA6NM, a corrosion-resistant martensitic stainless steel, specific heat treatment processes are recommended to achieve the desired microstructure and properties.

This article explores the heat treatment steps for CA6NM, focusing on homogenization, austenitizing, and tempering, along with the suggested temperature ranges.

Understanding CA6NM Alloy

CA6NM is a cast martensitic stainless steel alloy that finds extensive application in industries such as oil and gas, chemical processing, and power generation. It is renowned for its exceptional combination of strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance, making it ideal for critical components subjected to harsh operating conditions.

Chemical Compositions of CA6NM Alloy

CA6NM is a cast martensitic stainless steel alloy with the following chemical compositions:

  • Carbon (C): 0.06-0.12%
  • Silicon (Si): 0.50% maximum
  • Manganese (Mn): 0.50-1.00%
  • Phosphorus (P): 0.04% maximum
  • Sulfur (S): 0.03% maximum
  • Chromium (Cr): 11.50-14.00%
  • Nickel (Ni): 3.00-4.50%
  • Molybdenum (Mo): 0.50-1.00%
  • Copper (Cu): 0.75% maximum
  • Nitrogen (N): 0.03-0.10%
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Mechanical Properties of CA6NM Alloy

The mechanical properties of CA6NM alloy depend on the specific heat treatment applied. The following are typical mechanical properties achieved through proper heat treatment:

  • Tensile Strength: 655-795 MPa (95,000-115,000 psi)
  • Yield Strength: 415-540 MPa (60,000-78,000 psi)
  • Elongation: 20-30%
  • Reduction in Area: 55-65%
  • Hardness: 25-35 HRC (Rockwell C scale)
  • Impact Toughness (Charpy V-notch): 40-60 J (30-44 ft-lbf) at -46°C (-50°F)

CA6NM alloy’s combination of high strength, toughness, and corrosion resistance makes it suitable for a wide range of applications, including valve bodies, pump and compressor components, turbine blades, and other critical components in industries such as oil and gas, chemical processing, and power generation.

Heat Treatment Stages

The heat treatment of CA6NM consists of several stages, each designed to impart specific properties to the alloy. The two primary stages of heat treatment are:

  1. Solution Treatment:
    • The initial step involves heating the alloy to a temperature range of 980-1065°C (1800-1950°F).
    • This temperature range facilitates the dissolution of carbides and other precipitates, resulting in a homogenous austenitic structure.
    • The duration of the solution treatment is typically around 1-4 hours, depending on the thickness and size of the component.
  2. Aging or Precipitation Hardening:
    • Following the solution treatment, the alloy is rapidly cooled to room temperature.
    • Subsequently, it undergoes an aging process, where it is held at a lower temperature (typically between 595-760°C or 1100-1400°F) for a specific period.
    • Aging promotes the precipitation of fine carbides and other strengthening phases within the austenitic matrix, which imparts increased hardness and strength to the alloy.
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Homogenization for Chemical Composition and Microstructure Uniformity

To improve the uniformity of chemical composition and microstructure, a homogenization process is employed. Heating CA6NM above 2000°F (1090°C) helps reduce alloy segregation and dendritic structure, especially in heavy sections.

This step minimizes inconsistencies in chemical composition and enhances the overall mechanical performance and corrosion resistance of the material.

Austenitizing for Hardening

Austenitizing involves heating the CA6NM alloy within the temperature range of 1800 to 1850°F (980 to 1010°C) to transform its microstructure into austenite. This step is crucial for achieving the desired hardness and strength. After austenitizing, the material is air-cooled for rapid quenching, which results in the formation of a martensitic structure.

Tempering for Optimal Hardness and Impact Values

Tempering is performed immediately after austenitizing, before the parts reach room temperature. Tempering helps relieve internal stresses, improve toughness, and adjust the hardness to meet specific requirements.

For CA6NM, tempering at approximately 1150°F (620°C) is recommended to achieve the desired hardness level. However, it’s important to avoid tempering in the range of 700 to 1100°F (370 to 590°C) as it can lead to decreased impact values.

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Double tempering, which involves two tempering cycles, is advised to enhance the mechanical properties further.

The first tempering cycle is performed directly after austenitizing, followed by air cooling. Subsequently, the material is tempered again at the specified temperature range to achieve the desired balance of hardness, strength, and impact resistance.


The heat treatment process for CA6NM, a corrosion-resistant martensitic stainless steel, involves specific steps to optimize its microstructure, mechanical properties, and corrosion resistance. Homogenization above 2000°F (1090°C) ensures uniformity in chemical composition and microstructure.

Austenitizing at 1800 to 1850°F (980 to 1010°C) followed by air cooling results in the formation of a martensitic structure. Tempering immediately after austenitizing, preferably at 1150°F (620°C), helps achieve the desired hardness while avoiding the range of 700 to 1100°F (370 to 590°C) for improved impact values.

Double tempering is recommended to further enhance the mechanical properties of CA6NM. By following these heat treatment guidelines, manufacturers can ensure that the CA6NM castings exhibit optimal corrosion resistance, strength, and impact resistance for their intended applications.