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Microstructures can be altered intentionally or unintentionally. In some cases, metallographers must diagnose what may have happened to the steel or cast iron based on the microstructural details. This chapter discusses how microstructure in steels and cast irons can be intentionally altered during heat treatment, solidification, and deformation (hot and cold working). Some specific examples are then shown to illustrate what can go wrong through unintentional changes in microstructure, for example, the loss of carbon from the surface of the steel by the process known as decarburization or the buildup of brittle carbides on the grain boundaries of an austenitic stainless steel by the process known as sensitization.

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