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surface hardening

treatment of steel by heat or mechanical means to increase the hardness of the outer surface while the core remains relatively soft. The combination of a hard surface and a soft interior is greatly valued in modern engineering because it can withstand very high stress and fatigue, a property that is required in such items as gears and anti-friction bearings. Surface-hardened steel is also valued for its low cost and superior flexibility in manufacturing.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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