Ion Nitriding is a surface-hardening heat treatment in which Nitrogen Ions are diffused into the surface of a metal. When a metal is placed into an "ion-nitrider", the container is sealed and the air is pumped out. It is then replaced with a nitrogen rich atmosphere. When a negative charge is applied to the metal, the nitrogen ions attract and bombard the metal. This creates a chemical bond, and as a result hardens the metal.
Ion Nitriding can be vastly superior to other methods of metal hardening because the variables are easier to control. The control of temperatures, voltages, amperage, and gas mixtures work together to control the depth of penetration and the hardness of the metal. Ion Nitrided metals also have a higher abrasion resistance. This results in less wear between moving parts and the surface lubricity of the metal is enhanced. Metals can be made to have more than double the hardness of other treating techniques. Ion Nitriding improves fatigue strengths, which results in a longer lifespan of the metal. Ion Nitriding is much more precise and versatile than other treating techniques. Ion Nitriding is non-polluting and it requires less energy and utility costs. Ion Nitriding can reduce the time it takes to treat the metals, mainly because the parts can be used immediately after being treated since no polishing is necessary.
So the primary reasons for using the Ion Nitriding process are:
- To obtain high surface hardness
- To increase wear resistance
- To improve fatigue life
- To improve corrosion resistance (except for stainless steels)
- To obtain a surface that is resistant to the softening effect of heat at temperatures up to the Nitriding temperature
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