A process involving the heating and cooling of a metal, commonly used to induce softening. The term refers to treatments intended to alter mechanical or physical properties or to produce a definite microstructure.
Source: The OHIO State University
Annealing, in metallurgy and materials science, is a heat treatment wherein a material is altered, causing changes in its properties such as strength and hardness. It is a process that produces conditions by heating to above the re-crystallization temperature and maintaining a suitable temperature, and then cooling. Annealing is used to induce ductility, soften material, relieve internal stresses, refine the structure by making it homogeneous, and improve cold working properties. In the cases of copper, steel, silver, and brass this process is performed by substantially heating the material (generally until glowing) for a while and allowing it to cool slowly. In this fashion the metal is softened and prepared for further work such as shaping, stamping, or forming.
Treatment of a metal, alloy, or other material by heating to a predetermined temperature, holding for a certain time, and then cooling to room temperature, done to improve ductility and reduce brittleness. Process annealing is carried out intermittently during the working of a piece of metal to restore ductility lost through repeated hammering or other working, if several cold-forming operations are required but the metal is so hardened after the first operation that further cold working would cause cracking (see hardening). Full annealing is done to give workability to such parts as forged blanks destined for use in the machine-tool industry. Annealing is also done for relief of internal stresses in metal and glass. Annealing temperatures and times differ for different materials and with properties desired; steel is usually held for several hours at about 1,260°F (680°C) and then cooled for several hours. See also heat treating, solid solution.