Hot stamping of sheet metal is an established method for the manufacturing of light weight products with tailored properties. However, the generally-applied continuous roller furnace manifests two crucial disadvantages: the overall process time is long and a local setting of mechanical properties is only feasible through special cooling techniques. Hot forming with rapid heating directly before shaping is a new approach, which not only reduces the thermal intervention in the zones of critical formability and requested properties, but also allows the processing of an advantageous microstructure characterized by less grain growth, additional fractions (e.g., retained austenite), and undissolved carbides. Since the austenitization and homogenization process is strongly dependent on the microstructure constitution, the general applicability for the process relevant parameters is unknown. Thus, different austenitization parameters are analyzed for the conventional high strength steels 22MnB5, Docol 1400M, and DP1000 in respect of the mechanical properties. In order to characterize the resulting microstructure, the light optical and scanning electron microscopy, micro and macro hardness measurements, and the X-ray diffraction are conducted subsequent to tensile tests. The investigation proves not only the feasibility to adjust the strength and ductility flexibly, unique microstructures are also observed and the governing mechanisms are clarified.
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