Tag Archives: Austemper steel

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.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

Since Applied Process is involved in the heat treatment of manufactured goods, our business is a good barometer of US Industrial Production.  When people need more stuff Austempered, US Industrial Production is rising.  When people need less stuff Austempered US Industrial production is usually flat or falling.  In spite of what you hear or read in the news, US Industrial Production is rising (as it has been for 2-1/2 years) and should continue to do so for a while.

In some sectors, production is still rising briskly.  Who would have thought in 2010 that by 2012 US ductile iron casting production would be UP by 50% and Chinese ductile iron production would be DOWN by 50%?  In fact, US manufacturers are facing a shortage of ductile iron castings as US ductile iron foundries are running at near capacity while a glut of Chinese iron foundry capacity is resulting in downsizing, business closures and government bailouts of state-run metal casting enterprises there.

A long awaited recovery in US construction activity is finally emerging which should help shore up overall industrial production as other sectors of industry are peaking in production.  HD Truck production is headed for a +250,000 unit year with HD trailer production at record levels.  AG equipment production may set another record.  US light vehicle sales are inching, once again, towards 16 million units.  Meanwhile the low value of the dollar versus the Euro, the Japanese Yen and the Chinese Yuan make imports more expensive and exported US goods more attractive to foreign buyers.

And…..don’t look now…..but US manufacturing workers remain the most productive on the planet.  According to the United Nations Bureau of Labor statistics, the average value-added for a US manufacturing worker is five times that of a Chinese worker, four times that of a Mexican worker, two times that of a German worker, 1.5 times that of a Korean worker and 1.3 times that of a Japanese worker.  Couple that with our new-found sources of domestic energy and the US is well-positioned to be the number one economy in the world for the foreseeable future.

As this is all going on, US manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce the mass and cost of their products.  Nissan recently reported that of the mpg gains on their 2013 US-produced models, 15% of the gain was attributed to mass reduction coming from material/process substitution.  Ford has indicated the desire to reduce the mass of their class-leading F-150 by 750 lbs. (340kg) by 2025, expecting most of that weight-loss to come from material/process substitutions.  HD truck trailer manufacturers are looking for “every pound” they can get, as every pound reduced in trailer weight is one more pound that their customers can add in paid-for shipped goods.

Applied Process offers an array of high strength-to-weight ratio options for the design community ranging from Austempered Ductile Iron (ADI) conversions from steel or aluminum, to Carbo-Austempered™ steel powertrain parts that can transmit more torque with the same, or less, mass.  Our engineers and technical staff are working with customers daily to develop product designs that are better, faster, cheaper and more sustainable.  It’s one of the most-fun parts of what we do at Applied Process.

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain telling you that US manufacturing is “dead” or being “off-shored”.  Reality is quite the contrary.

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.