Vacuum carburizing with high pressure gas quenching is increasingly employed to reduce near-surface intergranular oxidation (IGO) and reduce quenching distortion. Vacuum carburizing can be conducted at higher operating temperatures, as high as 1100°C, to reduce the processing times and increase furnace productivity. However, processing at elevated temperatures may result in excessive austenite grain coarsening, leading to the degradation of fatigue performance. Microalloying to form small carbonitride precipitates is one effective method to limit austenite grain growth during carburizing. In this study, the effects of microalloying a carburizing steel with molybdenum (Mo) and niobium (Nb) on microstructural grain refinement in the core have been investigated. Additions of Nb alone are found to provide some control of abnormal austenite grain growth. Additions of Mo in combination with Nb provide enhanced resistance to austenite grain growth, especially at high carburizing temperatures up to 1050 °C. The enhanced control is attributed to solute and precipitation effects.

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