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"Should we be baking case hardened parts for Hydrogen Embrittlement?"

Current question and answers:

March 15, 2021 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. We are Manufacturers of Self Drilling screws for the Construction Industry. we use SAE 1018 CHQ Material. We are doing Forging, rolling, Case Carbonising and Alkaline Plating.

Do I need to do Hydrogen embrittlement on the fasteners, and if I do then what should be the duration of the baking?

Satendra Bhodoriya
- Manaser Gurgaon, India

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March 23, 2021

A. Case-hardened articles are particularly sensitive to hydrogen embrittlement due to internal stress. Most manufacturers of self-drilling, self-tapping screws [sometimes called 'TEKS' (r)] use non-embrittling finishes such as mechanical plating or zinc-rich paints (usually applied over dry phos). There is a risk-reward scenario. If you plate and bake, you can reduce the risk. But you cannot eliminate it. For guidance, see ASTM B-850 (recommended reading). Alkaline non-cyanide zinc plating is more resistant to hydrogen embrittlement. This seems counter-intuitive because the efficiency is low compared to acid zinc (more hydrogen is generated). But the lamellar structure of alkaline zinc offsets that issue. Any plating of these articles without baking, IMHO, would amount to assuming an excessive amount of risk regardless of the end-use market.

Tom Rochester Plating Systems & Technologies, Inc.  

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CTO - Jackson, Michigan, USA

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Previous closely related Q&A's starting in:


Q. We manufacture steel parts that get case hardened (Rc 56) and through hardened (Rc 36-40). We plate our parts with Yellow Zinc Dichromate. ASTM B633 [affil. link to spec at Techstreet] says that we should bake for Hdrogen embrittlement above (Rc 38). My question is: does this apply to our 12L14 Case hardened parts as well? Should we be baking for hydrogen embrittlement ...Case Hardened parts (Rc 56) where the case depth is (0.008" - 0.012") deep ?

Thank You.

Ken Haas
Manufacturing - Union City, Pennsylvania, USA


A. Basically, yes.

Then it depends on the geometry of the part, the metal of manufacture, how close it can come to yield strength in actual use and what kind of physical abuse will it possibly get. A 1x2x4 block that has another part rub on it with no great pressure probably would not absolutely have to have it.

The reality is you can sleep better at night if you do post plate bake it. If you do not and it fails, someone is terribly injured, a sharp lawyer gets it you will be sued and he can hire a number of the world recognized authorities that will say--It should have been baked-- It would have prevented this terrible accident. You will lose 99.999% of the time. The bake is the cheapest insurance you can buy. Or, how about you supplied 500,000 auto parts that had to be recalled. Bad news.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


A. Yes, you must process the parts through an embrittlement relief heat treatment when they have been carburized. The requirements for time and temperature are specified in ASTM B850-98 [affil. link to spec at Techstreet] or SAE USCAR 5 [affil. link to spec at Techstreet]. One point about the hardening of these parts does not seem correct-- 12L14 is not capable of being through hardened to 38-40 HRC, so I do not know how the parts will be certified to meet that requirement.

Toby Padfield
Automotive module supplier - Michigan

July 26, 2012

Q. What about the need to bake case hardened 12L14 that is plated with zinc nickel? I have read some articles about zinc nickel having less susceptibility to hydrogen embrittlement because of the fractured coating layer of the ZnNi.

Joel Anderson
- Bemidji, Minnesota

July 30, 2012

A. Joel: I don't think he is saying that their 12L14 parts are through hardened; those are different parts from some other raw material which does through harden.

In any case, carburized and hardened parts are susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement of the surface and should be baked.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

August 7, 2012

A. Joel,

You need to bake hardened parts plated with zinc-nickel if their hardness is over 30 HRC. If hardness is lower, there is a minimum risk of hydrogen embrittlement. If hardness is higher, the risk is measurable and you should bake the parts.

Hope you can solve this! Regards!

Daniel Montanes
Self-Drilling Fasteners Manufacturer - Canuelas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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