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Annealing involves heating the metal and then cooling it slowly. It can take place before or during cold rolling operations to prepare the metal for rolling. It may also be applied after rolling to stabilize tempered properties as required, and to prepare the metal for later mechanical forming.

Heat is applied to the steel by convection, through the atmosphere in an annealing furnace. Typically, metal is soaked for two hours or so, then cooled at a closely controlled rate. Annealing converts steel into its softest, most ductile state.

Because the metal is at its softest state while being annealed, and because it recrystallizes to relieve internal stresses, it can be prone to surface defects. Manual process monitoring is difficult in the hot conditions of the annealing oven, so a real-time, automated solution is essential.
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