Thermal processes heat up

Materials World magazine
1 Sep 2012

Specialist equipment for thermal processing is improving performance in a range of applications.

A huge number of different industries are using thermal processing as a means of improving the quality of a range of components. Equipment suppliers are beginning to create sophisticated machinery to cater to specific requirements.

One example of this is an all-in-one coil joiner from Joining Technologies that allows for a new process of non-contact splicing that incorporates laser cutting and welding within a single instrument. This makes it possible to splice titanium coils with a 15° bias, offering an alternative to perpendicular joints and improving the strength by increasing material at the weld joint, further enhancing the lifecycle of finished components.

Gear manufacture is another industry that has seen heat treatment begin to cater to its manufacturing needs. When creating gears, the precision of tooth profiles is of utmost importance to the quality of the final product. Traditional methods are only suitable for large-scale manufacture, which is particularly unsuitable for the large gears often used in aerospace applications. One solution to this problem comes from Breton’s 5-axis machine tools. These third-generation geometry tools offer the greatest accuracy and reliability using very precise software. This system can be used pre- and post-heat treatment for medium to large gears.

Another innovation comes from Roctool, which has created a hybrid injection process for use with composites and plastics that removes the need for an infrared oven. This combines the advantages of induction heating and plastic injection when creating single parts. High-speed RTM technology removes the need for a post-curing step, and the parts produced are completely free of surface defects. This also makes it possible for composites and plastics to be formed together in the same mould without the need for an infrared oven or pre-consolidated sheets. This should create components with improved properties and streamline the process when working with plastics and composites.

Babcock Wanson TPC600LN thermal fluid heaters are being used by Plastic Omnium to produce parts for the new Range Rover Evoque. The equipment heats the compression moulding press tools to 220°C and this enables the compound to be moulded to the correct shape. The heaters provide optimal distribution of heat while still running with relatively low emissions. Innovations such as this are helping to achieve high-performance components in a range of industries.