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The properties of irons and steels are linked to the chemical composition, processing path, and resulting microstructure of the material. For a particular iron and steel composition, most properties depend on microstructure. Processing is a means to develop and control microstructure, for example, hot rolling, quenching, and so forth. This article describes the role of these factors in both theoretical and practical terms, with particular focus on the role of microstructure. It lists the mechanical properties of selected steels in various heat-treated or cold-worked conditions. In steels and cast irons, the microstructural constituents have the names ferrite, pearlite, bainite, martensite, cementite, and austenite. The article presents four examples that have very different microstructures: the structural steel has a ferrite plus pearlite microstructure; the rail steel has a fully pearlitic microstructure; the machine housing has a ferrite plus pearlite matrix with graphite flakes; and the jaw crusher microstructure contains martensite and cementite.

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