Tag Archives: Applied Process

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 www.appliedprocess.com 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:

http://www.geartechnology.com/newsletter/0213.htm

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…..so 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.

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.

Applied Process’ Customers ARE our focus.

Yes, you’ve heard that Applied Process’ mission is to “grow the pie”, and that’s true.  You’ve heard that we’re “passionate people providing innovative Austempering solutions”, and that’s true.  You may have also heard that we provide the highest quality Austempering services available ANYWHERE, on time and at competitive prices.  These define WHAT we do and, perhaps, HOW we do it, but WHY do we do those things?  It is because we are passionate about seeing our customers succeed and our success grows from theirs.

 Applied Process recently invited 16 people representing 10 customers to a one-day “customer advisory board”.  Now we all think we know what our customers need and want, but how often do we REALLY ask them?  How many requests do you get for surveys?  How many to you either throw in the trash or click out of?  So when 16 people give up their valuable time to give us unvarnished feedback we listen. This blog is not the place to go through all of their affirmation and critique, but we thank the participating customers for their full and honest feedback.  Suffice it to say that we have a clear picture of what our customers want more of, and what they could use less of.  Now it is our job to act to become continually better at meeting their needs.  Why?  Because our business comes from THEM.  If our objectives/strategies align with theirs then we can all work together to grow the pie profitably.

 Our Technical Sales Group Leader, Vasko Popovski, and our Executive Administrative Assistant, Cindy Duman, did a masterful job of arranging and executing the “customer advisory board” event and we’re certain it won’t be our last.  Hats off also to Nedra Sadorf of Hunter Business ( www.hunterbusiness.com ) for her masterful facilitation of the meeting.

 Why do we do what we do?  Because what we do is help our customers create new opportunities to make things better, faster, cheaper and more sustainably.  And by making them successful, we become successful.  They want more of that….and we’re prepared to give it. 

50 Years of Continuous Austempering

Fifty years ago this month, Bob Keough, a 45-year old engineer, banked on his previous 20 years of thermal processing equipment and heat treating experience and took an entrepreneurial risk.  With a couple of his brothers and some partners, in a former food warehouse on Idaho Street in Detroit, Michigan, he started Atmosphere Furnace Company and a commercial heat treater aptly named Controlled Atmosphere Processing Company (CAPCO).

In March of 1962 Detroit had, perhaps, the most competitive heat treat market on the planet.  Commercial heat treaters were in great abundance.  One seasoned heat treater commented that, “In those days Detroit had a heat treat on every corner”. Bob Keough needed a niche if his businesses were to survive……so he invented one.

Conventional quenching and tempering, carburizing and hardening, and nitriding were all well established in the area.  Austempering, however, was essentially a process that was restricted to the highest value applications.  Small, salt-to-salt processing lines (more often used for tool hardening) were the primary processing systems in use. These systems worked well for tooling and armaments, but when used for processing small, medium carbon, steel stampings the price for was prohibitive for high volume applications like automotive stampings.  Larger cast-link belt furnaces with controlled atmospheres and oil quenches were used to harden steel parts cost effectively, but these same controlled atmosphere furnaces could not be used with a molten salt quench due to the risk of explosion associated with a carbon and nitrate salt mixture.

Mr. Keough saw his opportunity.  He integrated a 1,500 lb/hr (680kg/hr) continuous, cast-link, atmosphere controlled furnace with a nitrate/nitrite salt quench using a clever combination of a quench curtain and a gas eductor that mitigated the risk of explosion.  Overnight, this development dropped the price for Austempering of steel stampings by an order of magnitude.  This continuous, atmosphere-to-salt process became the cornerstone of the Keough businesses and created a minor revolution in the light-weight steel stamping business.  It allowed for thin, complex stampings to be bright hardened to Bainite with little or no distortion, good ductility and resistance to hydrogen embrittlement, even at hardnesses exceeding Rc40.

Bob Keough wasn’t done.  The continuous mesh-belt Austemper and the fully integrated batch atmosphere-to-salt (UBQA) types of equipment followed in the next two decades.  These developments have moved Austempering of steel and iron into the mainstream of thermal processing.  AFC-Holcroft, Austemper Inc., Atmosphere Heat Treat Inc. and the Applied Process family of companies can all trace their roots to these developments and they continue to innovate in Austempering.  With the introduction of the 10-ton Monster Parts™ UBQA line at AP Westshore in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the legacy lives on.  But it all began 50 years ago in a little food warehouse in Detroit when Bob Keough took a risk and acted on an innovative idea.

Grab your torches and pitchforks! The MONSTER is coming!

We were working in the lab, late one night,

When our eyes beheld an AWESOME sight,

When the MONSTER we created began to rise,

Then suddenly to our surprise…….

There’s a Monster coming!  With Halloween just around the corner it seems fitting that I’d be talking about a MONSTER in this blog.  It’s not some gored zombie, or Sasquatch, or Frankenstein (although it’s big and has bolts in its neck).  It’s not even organic, although we’re breathing life into it now.  It’s the Monster Parts™ furnace that’s dwelling in Oshkosh……and it’s a MONSTER.  With a footprint that is 7ft x 8ft and the ability to swallow ten tons in one sitting it’s the largest integral quench atmosphere batch furnace in the world.  Oh, and did we tell you that it has a salt quench?

Long in the making, this MONSTER will allow us to Austemper steel and iron parts heretofore not possible.  The furnace design required extensive (and close) teamwork between the Applied Process companies (www.appliedprocess.com) and AFC-Holcroft (www.afc-holcroft.com).  As described by AFC-Holcroft’s Bill Disler, “This project was a collaborative effort between AFC-Holcroft’s engineering and production staff and the engineering and plant services staff at the Applied Process companies”.  And here’s the cool part.  The Monster Parts™ furnace will run all the stuff that our customers now have AND adds the capability for us to run large and heavy steel, iron and Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) parts.

The Monster Parts™ furnace will be capable of heating the parts in a carburizing or neutral atmosphere.  The recovery rate and temperature uniformity will meet or exceed that of our existing lines…..in a big way.  Quite frankly, this furnace is awesome.  Our Technical Sales Group Leader, Vasko Popovski says that “the new furnace means the engineering community is now freed from the overwhelming reliance on large-scale steel components in favor of less costly and lighter ADI components”.  Think about it; weldments, stampings, forgings all machined and welded together to make a large, gangly component.  Replace that with a one-piece, elegant ADI casting.  Wow!  That being said, this line will also carburize and/or neutral harden big steel stuff too.

This furnace line will give Applied Process a unique opportunity to work with engineers, buyers and the management of manufacturers to develop new, cost-effective conversions of large parts….Monster Parts™…and will increase our capacity to process conventional Austempering work.  We’ve been anxiously awaiting this MONSTER…..and now it’s coming.  Trick or Treat

If we haven’t scared you away yet you can contact Vasko at vpopovski@appliedprocess.com and he’ll be glad to listen to your scary story.

Applied Process- Austempering Innovation with a Customer Value Orientation

The Applied Process family of companies just concluded a record fiscal year.  It didn’t happen by accident.  It took the focus, energy and commitment of our employees and licensees worldwide.  Excuse me for waxing sentimental, but I’m certain that we’ve got the best team ON THE PLANET.

Now, if you think I’m just blowing smoke, consider this.  During a recent in-person customer survey the quality executive at a major international axle and suspension company stated “it is clear from the efforts that the folks at AP have made that they are focused on being a value-minded supplier”.  You couldn’t phrase it any better.  The customer has high praise for our AP Livonia team and makes no bones about sharing it.  That is not just a satisfied customer.  That is a loyal customer, and AP works 24-7 to continually earn that loyalty.

Recently, Henry Frear, one of our Sales Engineers, teamed up with one of AP’s foundry customers and engaged a prospective component supplier.  They defined a serious life problem with the incumbent consumables used in certain large recycling machines.  Henry saw the opportunity to help this customer solve this problem and he ran with it.  He consulted with the customer on the part design and the target material/process combinations.  Henry returned to his alma mater, University of Wisconsin- Platteville, and with the help of students Joe Gray and Philip Aliota, they modeled, machined and finished a multiple cavity pattern and produced 200lb chemically bonded sand molds.  With the assistance of the AP Tech R&D crew, the molds were poured in alloyed ductile iron at the Joyworks studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The parts were then cut off, cleaned and sent to Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  Faced with a testing deadline, the AP Westshore team got the numerous iterations of parts Austempered and shipped to the test site on the west coast

As I write this blog the parts are on test.  The customer explained to us that the regular life of those parts is 3 days.  The parts currently on test will soon enter their third week of testing.  The customer also indicated that the superiority of this new Austempered product could have them (happily) increasing their production plan by over 10 times……so much so that he questions if the casting supplier will be able to manage the volumes.  (That’s the kind of problem that particular foundry would LOVE to manage).  AP’s Technical Sales Group Leader, Vasko Popovski described this as “a total team effort”.

Each of these stories is unique, but together they form the character of Applied Process.  We are passionate people providing innovative Austempering solutions…….and, BOY, am I proud of our team.

Growing the Pie- The 115th AFS Casting Congress

The Applied Process team is just back from the 115th American Foundry Society Casting Congress in Schaumburg, Illinois and it was a good one.  Everybody is bouncing back nicely from the Great Recession and demand for castings is rising smartly.  Demand for Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) is no exception.  Visitors stopped by the AP booth and shared their experiences (and Dr. Kathy’s home-made cookies).

Numerous attendees were actively looking for equipment to increase the throughput and productivity of their metal casting plants.  At the Hoyt Memorial Lecture, Denny Dotson, of Dotson Iron Castings (www.dotson.com ) raised the curtain a bit on Saugus 2, a collaborative “foundry in a box” that is slated to be the first greenfield cast iron foundry in the US since 1974…….principal customer, location and collaborators to be announced…..but he claims they’ll be “pouring iron in 2013”.

Kathy Hayrynen chaired panels and presented on the AFS Cast Iron Committee’s activities while I presented the paper “ADI- A Green Alternative” in both design and marketing sessions.  Vasko, Justin and Henry visited with customers both existing and potential.

Discussions abounded about conversions from steel and aluminum castings, weldments and forgings to ADI……and we’re up to the challenge.  I don’t know yet what the final attendance was but the papers were well attended, the show traffic was steady and the mood was positive.  It’s great to see our metal casting industry smiling again.

A Hub of ADI Activity

Every once in a while you get the opportunity to work collaboratively with a company in a way that stimulates both concerns to grow.  Call it synergy or what you like.  One of those companies for me is Walther EMC where Chris Walther and Phil Fensel have built a company on sound engineering and a straight forward business plan; to build wheel-ends and associated components for heavy vehicles.  Their cornerstone product, Austempered Ductile Iron Dura-Light® Hubs replace premium aluminum hubs at equal weight.  (Huh? Iron hubs can replace aluminum at equal weight?).  But, SURPRISE, this little company, tucked on a hillside in Franklin, Ohio USA is not what it would appear.  Inside robots load and unload components in automated machining cells.  Satellite stations have various new products under development.  If you think what they make now is cool.  You ain’t seen nothin yet.  www.waltheremc.com .