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Fun with Bainite! Entry #2, April 18, 2014

Lately …

The photo shown here is from last week at the AFS Metalcasting Congress. It features AP’s Kathy Hayrynen and everyone’s favorite metallurgist, Gene Muratore. Dr. Hayrynen delivered the Hoyt Memorial Lecture and Gene was awarded the Pangborn Gold Medal at the Congress. For those readers who are not in the metal casting industry, please know that these are major, career-capping honors. Both are richly, richly deserved.

Austempered Steel … metallurgical fun for your Friday

This will be fun. One reason you might austemper your steel instead of performing quench & temper is warpage. The austempered steel cycle does not involve crossing the martensite start line, so the martensitic transformation never occurs. You get a body centered cubic structure instead of body centered tetragonal. This means the parts have less warpage as shown in this photo of prototype 1075 steel bottle openers run at Applied Process. The parts on the left were austempered and have the same hardness as the martensitic parts on the right. Notice how the austempered parts remain flat. John Keough discusses this at the Bainite is Better group on LinkedIn, which you should check out.

Now, deep in Pennsylvania’s Laurel Highlands another demonstration was done. A trained professional shot this austempered steel bottle opener (HRc55) from 10 yards with a .38 Special handgun. The steel did not even bend. According to what info we had available the bullet (158 grains) was travelling at 754 ft./sec. Do not try this at home. The takeaway is that impact resistance is another reason to austemper your steel. PS – no deer were harmed (BELIEVE ME) in this demonstration.

Vasko Reading Pick


Businessweek has some interesting reads.  I like this one from April 14: “You can make really great olive oil anywhere … How the oil is made is much more important than where.”  These are very American sentiments, and they represent something very good.  Specifically, you can do something excellent and be recognized, regardless of where you come from.  Please do read the article, and then go do something awesome yourself.

In the Heartland

Buckeye Dave makes agricultural equipment.  Here is his take on the 2014 forecast for such equipment: “the 2014 forecast was for a slowdown (compared to 2013) but the customers haven’t let us do that.”  That’s a good thing, and it reflects well on the state of America’s farm economy despite some tremors from Washington.

Vasko Popovski, PE, is Director of Sales and Marketing for Applied Process Inc.  Vasko is a Metallurgical Engineer as well as an Economist.  The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of Applied Process.  Vasko welcomes questions, comments, and corrections.  More than anything he welcomes guidance on how to better land rainbow trout in Pennsylvania.

Goings-On In American Manufacturing.

Greetings!  This is my inaugural entry in this blog where I will discuss goings-on in American manufacturing, with a focus on component design and metalcasting.  Some economic ideas will be thrown in to add some context.  Some occasional marketing ideas might pop up. I will even cite actual numbers now and then.  Happy reading!

Lately …

I attended the AFS Metalcasting Congress last week in Schaumburg, IL.  Attendees were in good spirits, and the North American metalcasting industry is in fine shape.  There are a lot of reasons why, but I think the main cause gets back to fundamentals: the metalcasting process allows designers to put material where they want it and no material where they do not want it.  More and more designers are learning this.  It is a simple matter of allocation of scarce resources in designing a part.   

An alternative manufacturing method would be welding of steel, which has its own pros and cons.  However, anecdotal evidence from the field tells me that welders are in short supply.  Multiple manufacturers in the US and Canada have told me that there are “no qualified welders available at any price”, with many of them already working as part of the domestic oil and gas surge.  Further, a recent search of the Monster job board found 500+ openings for welders.  This factor limits the growth of some companies in the US/Canadian manufacturing sector in that there is simply a shortage of people to make the things their customers demand. 

So what are the takeaways?  Well, some of you should run, not walk, to welding school, where you will learn a skilled trade that is in demand.  The rest of you should design and buy your components, when appropriate, as metal castings.  

Vasko’s Reading Pick

David P. Goldman is a visionary writer.  He often sees and writes about things that nobody else wants to acknowledge.  Goldman’s stuff is not always for the hyper-sensitive (this is a non-political blog).  He often writes about macro-concepts that impact US manufacturing.  For example, food prices are going up due to short term variables like weather, but the macro-trend is associated with longer-term factors like a rising middle class in Asia.  What does that mean to American manufacturers?  It means many American farmers will get high prices for their crops and in turn they will buy equipment … which means more work for metal casters … we hope. 

Bait and Switch

We ate at (and closed) a very nice seafood place this past week in Chicago while attending the AFS Metalcasting Congress.  A good time was had by all, and I will not embarrass the attendees by listing them all here (hi, Matt!).  Anyway, all of that seafood prompted me to remember that the original name of the “Chilean Sea Bass” is “Patagonian Toothfish”.  Now, this is a hideous creature, but tasty.  The takeaway here is that the name change makes the fish much more marketable but adds no other value to what is on your plate.  I find the idea strangely compelling and repugnant, all at the same time.

Vasko Popovski, PE, is Director of Sales and Marketing for Applied Process Inc.  Vasko is a Metallurgical Engineer as well as an Economist.  The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of Applied Process.  Vasko welcomes questions, comments, and corrections.  More than anything he welcomes guidance on how to better land rainbow trout in Pennsylvania.

Social Responsibility and Manufacturing are NOT Mutually Exclusive

After 36 years in the metals industry I am honored to be elected to the ASM International Board of Trustees.  ASM is the Materials Information Society, home of the much-referenced Materials Handbooks and part-owner of Granta Design, famous for material property bubble charts.  ASM conducts extensive training and the local chapters attract insightful speakers to meetings worldwide.  Applied Process employees have benefitted from training, resource materials, technical networking and leadership opportunities offered by ASM and its chapters.

The ASM Board regularly reviews its strategic plans to align the organization for continued growth.  To that end, for some time the Board has included student members to assure that the input of the next generation of leaders is considered in ASM’s strategic plan.  So, it is with great interest that I attended my first strategic planning meeting in Cleveland this past week.  During strategic brainstorming it was apparent that our student members hold social responsibility as a duty separate from their avocation in materials engineering.  I was alarmed by the apparent disconnect.  I can only assume that it is a result of our educational system teaching the children, from a very young age, that you can either do good, or do well.

Our experience is that doing good and doing well are NOT mutually exclusive.  In fact, materials engineering offers the perfect opportunity for engineers to positively affect society and the environment.  Materials engineers work with designers to choose the material/process combination that most efficiently accomplishes the task at hand.  Developments in material science have reduced the mass of our means of transportation, increased the efficiency of our engines and motors, increased the durability of our metals, ceramics and polymers (and the recyclability of all of them), and improved the thermal efficiency of our buildings.  This has led to lower costs for products, lower cost of operation, reduced energy consumption and environmental improvements……all societal advantages.

At Applied Process we are passionate people providing innovative Austempering solutions.  95% of our business comes from replacing one material/process combination with a better, faster, cheaper one.  In each case we have reduced the mass, met or improved the strength or durability and reduced the cost of an application.  In every case we have reduced the energy embodied in the component and provided a solution that is 100% recyclable.  Those innovations are accomplished in clean, safe, good-neighbor facilities that use 15% less process energy than the industry average and employ 100% recycling of all quenchants, process water and consumable fixtures.  Our employees take their technology, community and leadership experiences gained at Applied Process and use their energies in leadership roles with their families, communities, and places of worship.  These are people doing good and doing well.

The engineering and manufacturing communities need to make clear to our future leaders that good engineering and good conscience are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, material science, applied efficiently to human need, is a truly worthy cause.  The people at Applied Process are proud to be part of that journey.

Spring has finally sprung and the Austempering business is bloomin’

The Rocky Mountain reservoirs are filling up with melted snow and springtime temperatures are regulating.  At Applied Process business is blooming.  Austempering opportunities abound and the AP crew is carefully tending to the garden.

AP just held its second AP University and 37 eager learners spent three days learning about the process of designing and executing conversions from weldments, forgings and other castings to ductile iron and Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) designs.  Two days of classroom instruction, networking and a visit to the Applied Process Inc. facility in Livonia, Michigan were capped with a visit to the Joyworks LLC ( ) studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Attendees left APU with ideas and the tools needed to consider, assess and implement ductile iron and ADI conversions. They also all left with, now coveted, Hostile Duck Iron wall-mount bottle openers cast at Joyworks.

Meanwhile, like the spring thaw, economic conditions for manufacturers of Durable Goods are starting to warm up after a long winter nap.  Late snows have broken the drought in much of the country, positively affecting those in agriculture and turf care and those who supply equipment to them.  Construction of new homes continues its slow, steady climb, positively affecting employment and producers of the trucks and equipment used in residential construction.

Designers continue to exploit the advantages of ADI: high strength-to-weight ratio, good wear resistance and noise damping, near net shape manufacturing, low embodied energy, recyclability and low product cost.  Like thoughtful gardeners, they plan, they plant, they nurture and see what works.  And when an application works, like that gardener, they plant more.  Experience tells us that once the first ADI design is implemented and meets or exceeds the desired results in application, consideration of other, cost-effective conversions becomes much easier.  The garden is soon colorful, diverse in form and pleasing to the gardener.

Spring has sprung, and Applied Process is working in the garden, growing the pie and planting new ideas and opportunities in anticipation of a beautiful blooming season and a record harvest. Come visit our garden

Meet us in St. Louie; Louie

Meet us in St. Louie, Louie.  Hmmmm…….Louie Louie: a classic party song….it reminds me of good times.  Every few years, all of us metal casting geeks get together to catch up with one another, learn from each other and share some good times.  This year’s AFS Cast Expo will be held April 6-9, 2013 in St. Louis and a good time will be had by all.   Unlike our “friends” in the Federal Government there will be no hot-tub hijinks, no Star Trek videos or multi-million dollar afterglow parties.  Here, metalcasters (wealth creators) will meet to collectively improve their game; to provide better products faster and more cost effectively than before.  New technologies.  New faces.  New ideas.  WE LOVE METAL CASTINGS!….and we’re all about growing the pie.

Applied Process Inc. is proud to be an active participant in the metal casting industry.  By Austempering castings, we make, what you make BETTER.  This enables engineers and designers to produce products and designs that are superior to those that preceded them: tougher, lighter, stronger, quieter, and more wear resistant.  We help our customers (and their customers) convert from one material/process combination to a better, faster, cheaper one.  It’s what we do……and we do it better than anyone else.  That’s why the owners of AP have launched the Joyworks studio; to take projects from concept to prototypes in weeks.  It’s why AP’s staff has more depth of experience.  It’s why AP has the greatest capacity for Austempering; anywhere.  It’s why we created the Monster Parts™ Division.  It’s why AP’s customers (and their customers) expect nothing less than parts done right every time…..and we deliver on that expectation.   All of this serves one purpose; to grow the pie for high performance castings.

Sure, we plan to meet some old friends and share a meal or two at the 2013 AFS Cast Expo in St. Louis, but we’re going ‘cause we’re all about GROWING.  Meet us in St. Louie, Louie.  More precisely in BOOTH 1081.  We’ll look forward to seeing you there, and sharing some good times.

Monster Parts(TM): a Concept Realized, a New Standard Established

Applied Process Inc. was incorporated in 1984 to build on its parent’s cornerstone; Austempering.  Atmosphere Furnace Company, now AFC Holcroft, founded in 1962, was one of the original companies of Atmosphere Group.  In the late 1970’s AFC embarked on a developmental project to improve the quench speed and efficiency of salt quenches.  Eventually  AFC’s Universal Batch Quench Austemper (UBQA) furnace was born.  UBQA technology integrated an atmosphere controlled furnace with a sealed salt quench.  The UBQA’s quench was revolutionary in the application of ambient pressure, water addition and quenchant flow rate to produce a quenching rate that rivaled that of fast oil systems.  This made the processing of larger forgings, weldments and castings a commercial reality.  The original UBQA furnace was a 36 in. x 48 in. x 30 in. (914mm x 1219mm x762mm) with a two ton gross load capability.  Applied Process Inc. was founded to exploit the capabilities of the UBQA furnace and to commercialize the Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) process.

UBQA technology advanced over the next 20 years.  36 in. x 72 in. x 36 in. (914mm x 1829mm x 914mm) UBQAs with 3 ton load capacity followed.  54 in. (1372mm) high units and units with a footprint of 72 in. x 72 in. (1829mm x1829mm) followed…..all with 3-ton load capacity.  Then, over a McDonald’s lunch about ten years ago, the concept of a double-wide, high-capacity UBQA line was conceived.  Finally, in 2012, the Monster Parts™ UBQA came to life.

Built at AFC-Holcroft in Wixom, Michigan, USA, the furnace made its journey to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA for installation in a new, purpose-built shop; the Monster Parts™ Division of AP Westshore.  The journey of the Monster™ from conception to delivery is captured in a video that can be accessed below:

Today the Monster Parts™ furnace is exceeding all expectations.  Its 84 in. x 96 in. (2134mm x 2438mm) footprint and 10-ton gross load capacity make it the largest integral quench batch furnace on the planet.  What makes it exceptional is its performance and capabilities.  Capable of carburizing or neutral hardening atmospheres and a high-speed quench with a mere 10ºF quench temperature rise when quenching a 10-ton load, the unit is unmatched in its attributes.

Carbo-Austempering™ of large steel gears, bearings or shafts, Austempering of large steel or ductile iron components for gearboxes, material handling, structural, pump and compressor components, processing of Carbidic ADI (CADI™) wear parts, and Austempered Gray Iron (AGI) components…..the Monster Parts™ line does it all.  It is, hands down, the most capable, precise, efficient, salt-quench furnace on the planet.  How can the Monster™ help you to reduce the cost and/or improve the performance of your large components?  Watch the video and then visit us at so we can collaborate on a Monster™ success story with you.

You can also visit our friends at Gear Technology and read more in their February newsletter:

The Stuff Matters- AP University

In the Austempering business we are constantly amazed how limited the engineering community’s general knowledge of material/process selection really is.  Often, engineers make material selection based on the incumbent products or the guy with the most voluminous editorial or advertising material.  Or they can be pushed to lower density materials believing what they’ve heard, that low density = lightweight = green.  Ladies and gentlemen, The Stuff Matters.  I can’t blame the engineers.  Everybody’s being asked to do more with less and every engineer is expected to know everything about everything and they just can’t.

So we found it mildly amusing when Ford announced a few months back (Automotive News August 2012) that they intend to reduce the mass of the US’ #1 selling vehicle, the Ford F-150, by 750 lb. (340kg).  The mass reduction will be accomplished by converting steel and iron components to aluminum in:

-The cargo box

-The tailgate

-The hood

-The chassis

-The suspension.

The mass reduction is expected to 1) increase the fuel efficiency of the vehicle by 8% and, 2) increase the cost of the vehicle by $3,000.  Hmmmm.  If one drives their F-150 10,000 miles (16,130 km) per year and gasoline sells for $3.50/gallon, this modification will pay for itself in 10 years.  In other words, it will be like buying $3,000 worth of gasoline IN ADVANCE.  (That energy is embodied in the aluminum that is substituted for ferrous alloys that require much less energy to extract from the earth).  It sounds green……a lighter vehicle, 8% better “fuel efficiency”…..but is it, really?  You decide.

To help engineers and buyers make better material/process decisions, Applied Process Inc. recently held its inaugural “AP University” in Livonia and Ann Arbor, Michigan.  31 attendees representing 16 companies participated in a 3-day seminar focusing on engineering conversions.  They learned how to design a casting, the metallurgy of ductile iron and Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI), solidification and 3-D modeling, machining and all aspects of converting steel and aluminum castings, forgings and weldments to ductile iron and ADI castings.  For the capstone events the attendees toured Applied Process’ Livonia facility and participated in mold making and a ductile iron pour at Joyworks Studio in Ann Arbor…..each taking home a rather snazzy looking Hostile Duck Iron, wall-mount bottle opener.

The AP University attendees asked great questions and learned much.  One attendee, an engineer with a purchasing function, working for a Tier One supplier summed it up the best: “There were things that I did not think would be (candidates) for the Austempering process… I would not have considered it before.  Moving forward, I can apply this knowledge to more new applications”.  THAT is the point of AP University.  Oh, by the way, one of the AP University attendees was a Ford engineer.  We hope he’s working on the F-150.

AP University could not have happened without the hard  work of Vasko Popovski, Kathy Hayrynen, Justin Lefevre, Henry Frear, Chad Kelsey, Ryan Breneman, Cindy Duman and the teams at Applied Process, AP Tech, Magmasoft and Communica.  Thanks to the lot of ya. We’re growin’ the pie here at Applied Process.

Managing Excellence and a Prosperous Future

It is election season and here in the US we’re all about picking the right person for the job.  One group has a vision of a fixed-size pie and work hard to adjust the size of the pieces and distribute them.  Some, and we include Applied Process in this lot, envision a growing pie with enough for all, where less attention is paid to the individual pieces and more attention is paid to building a bigger pie.  You have a clear choice this November.  Exercise it.

So, speaking of picking the right person for the job, with this blog I am pleased to announce that AP’s COO, John Wagner, will add the title President to his business card.  John, a former Marine, with a sheepskin from the University of Wisconsin and decades of heat treat experience will  now lead the heat treat industry’s A-Team (or should I say AP Team?).  I will support John and his team as Chairman (and executive middle-linebacker).  We’re loaded for bear, having expanded our capacity by 50% in the past 18 months we’re all about growing the pie for Austempering.

Some heat treaters are great vendors.  They wait patiently to take orders for existing business and compete aggressively to continually increase their share of the existing business.  At AP we grow the pie.  If you’ve got a six-piece steel weldment, we’ll help you convert it to a one-piece ADI casting.  If those fat aluminum structural components are costing you a bundle, perhaps we can replace them at equal weight with thin-walled ADI castings.  Troubles with imported ground-engaging parts.  We might be able to help you convert to CADI™.  Are you being torqued off with your carburized or induction hardened shafts?  Perhaps we can solve your long nightmare with Carbo-Austempering™.  Are you paying an arm and a leg to hog large parts out of steel bar stock?  Perhaps our Monster Parts™ furnace will allow us to replace that machining nightmare with a near net shape ADI casting.  We get paid to heat treat people’s parts.  But what we really do for a living is help our customers to replace one material/process combination with a better, faster, cheaper one.

John Wagner and the AP A-Team stand ready to help you grow the pie.  Check ‘em out……and remember to vote for pie growth, not redistribution.

The Applied Process Group of Companies- in Pursuit of Excellence

The Applied Process group of companies is a commercial heat treating company specializing in the Austempering process.  We get paid to heat treat people’s parts, but what we really do for a living is help customers convert from one material/process combination to a better, faster, cheaper one.  Our laser-like focus on the Austempering process has lead us to healthy market growth in North America and a world-wide network of customers and licensees.  It’s easy for a business owner to get so tied up within his/her own business as to lose sight of its performance relative to the rest of the industry.  So when external benchmark information is available I am a hungry consumer of it.

Applied Process has been a member of the Metal Treating Institute (MTI) since its incorporation in 1984.  The MTI is a network of heat treaters and suppliers to the industry that work together to advance the business and science of heat treatment.  MTI heat treat members are the best in the industry.  Amongst the activities of the MTI are certain (anonymous) benchmarking activities that allow participating heat treat members to compare things like sales and costs in their business to the industry.  So it is with great interest that we were just able to review MTI’s 2012’s Operational Cost Survey (covering calendar year 2011).

My mother always told me not to be prideful, but I have to say that the operational performance of the AP team simply ROCKS.  Here are some of the highlights:

-AP people deliver nearly twice the sales per employee as the MTI industry average.

-Due to our manpower efficiency, self-insuring and proper management, our health care plan costs us 28% less than the industry average.

-Our attention to safety and a safe workplace has driven down our workers compensation premium to one-quarter of the industry average (and lost-time accidents are scarce).

-The AP Team’s relentless pursuit of efficiency (year in and year out) has resulted in AP’s energy consumption being 37% LESS than the industry average….with more improvements in store.

-Our commitment to preventive and predictive maintenance allows us to keep our maintenance costs down to about half of the industry average and keeps our equipment running reliably.

-AP’s quality bests the industry average by AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE.  (We speak in single-digit PPM….most of the heat treating industry doesn’t).

Applied Process’ policy is to deliver the highest quality Austempering services available ANYWHERE, on time and at competitive prices.  We continually strive to live up to that policy.  The AP Team, working with our customers, has built us into a heat treat industry leader and the leading supplier of Austempering services on the planet.  Many thanks go to our team and our customers.  We will continue our relentless drive for excellence.  I’m REALLY proud of our team.  I hope my mom will forgive me.