Shot peening has few practical limitations in terms of the materials or the size, shape, quantity, surface condition, and surface hardness of parts that can be peened. Major limitations are not related to the mechanical aspects of the peening process, but to subsequent processing, such as the effects of machining and post-peening elevated temperature, that can nullify the beneficial results of shot peening.

Size and Shape of Workpiece. The size of the peening cabinet is usually the only limitation on the size of workpiece that can be peened. To some extent, even this limitation can be overcome by the use of portable mechanized peening equipment. Provided the surface to be peened is accessible to the blast, the shape of a workpiece is seldom a limitation. The peening of small radii in fillets and thread roots is limited by the smallest available media size, currently 0.0200 mm (0.001 in.) diameter glass beads. Sharp edges that must retain their sharpness should not be peened.

Surface condition, provided the workpiece surface is free of gross contaminants, is seldom a limitation in shot peening. Water, oil, and grease seriously contaminate the shot and interfere with peening quality and effectiveness. An as-forged surface usually shows greater improvement in fatigue strength than a polished surface as a result of peening. Cast surfaces respond as well to peening as wrought surfaces. Peened aluminum parts may be bright-dipped before being anodized.

Temperature Limitations. Low tempering temperatures, such as those conventionally used for carburized parts, have no adverse effect on peening stresses. Low-alloy steels can be heated to about 175 to 230 °C (350 to 450 °F) for about a half hour before significant decrease in the compressive stresses occurs. Steels intended for elevated-temperature application usually withstand temperatures of 260 to 290 °C (500 to 550 °F) without undergoing a significant stress-relieving effect; however, exposure at 540 °C (1000 °F) or above relieves induced stresses in all high-temperature alloys. Exposure to temperatures above 175 °C (350 °F) can eliminate the induced compressive stresses in some alloys of aluminum.

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