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Surface hardening improves the wear resistance of steel parts. This article focuses exclusively on the methods that involve surface and subsurface modification without any intentional buildup or increase in part dimensions. These include diffusion methods, such as carburizing, nitriding, carbonitriding, and austenitic and ferritic nitrocarburizing, as well as selective-hardening methods, such as laser transformation hardening, electron beam hardening, ion implantation, selective carburizing, and surface hardening with arc lamps. The article also discusses the factors affecting the choice of these surface-hardening methods.

A wide variety of stop-off technologies for heat treatment are used to selectively prevent the diffusion of carbon and/or nitrogen during atmosphere carburizing, carbonitriding, vacuum carburizing, and various forms of nitriding. In addition to selective stop-off, technologies are also available for scale prevention in open-fired furnaces. This article describes two stop-off technologies, mechanical masking and copper plating, along with stop-off paints/compounds. Prior to the application of stop-off paints, the part surface of the furnaces should be properly cleaned and dried. The article also describes the usage of stop-off paints in different heat treating processes, namely, carburizing and carbonitriding, deep carburizing, vacuum carburizing, nitriding and nitrocarburizing, and plasma nitriding. The article concludes by reviewing the application methods of stop-off paints: brushing, dipping, dispensing, spraying and stamping.

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