Spotlight: On the surface… thermal processing equipment

Materials World magazine
27 Jun 2012

Growing demand for high-performance components is being met with increasingly advanced heat treatment and surface engineering processes in a huge number of industries. The impact of these improvements extends from industry into our everyday lives.

A new vacuum oven, created by Seco Warwick for use by Wallwork Heat Treatment, has increased the capacity of furnaces to treat large components. Products up to 1.5 metres long and 1.5 tonnes in weight can be treated in this new furnace, making it suitable for treating the bulky components needed in aerospace, nuclear and marine applications. The oven’s capacity also allows for the processing of smaller components in bulk batches.

Those working in smaller-scale industries will also benefit from improved heat-treatment processes. Makers of neon tubing, blown vessels and other glass products can enjoy increased freedom with colours and shapes using new crucible technology. Furnaces from specialists, such as Paragon Industries, offer thicker firebricks for longer heat soaks, while extra viewing holes allow for easier observation. This expands the range of products manufacturers are able to produce, leading the way for more elaborate designs and a wider range of colours in glass products.

The electronics industry is also benefiting from this new equipment. Electronic parts can be cured in larger batches as ovens improve in capacity. The Grieve Corporation produces vertical conveyor ovens housing 27 product trays supported by heavy-duty roller chains powered by drive motors. This allows for larger batches to be treated simultaneously, and the two access doors allow workers to load and unload with greater efficiency.

Surface treatments have also improved the durability of thin glass for use in smartphones, touchscreens and televisions. High ion-exchange glass, developed by Abrisa Industrial Glass Inc, is chemically strengthened to enable its use in medical and defence conditions. The material is highly scratch- shock- and impact-resistant and can be given additional coatings for an anti-glare effect.

In this way, surface and heat-treatment processes are providing improved components for products across a range of areas.