One of the key areas of consideration in developing the Heat Treating Industry 2020 Vision in 1999 was Processes/ Materials. The work group examining technology issues established targets of interest including improving energy efficiency, reducing process times and production costs and achieving zero distortion and uniformity in heat treated parts. Among the many technology barriers that could prevent meeting these goals were inability to truly characterize materials well enough for modeling, inability to do predictive modeling, lack of knowledge about process tradeoffs, lack of basic understanding of the processes by all concerned and lack of integrated process models.
Heat treating today still is an experience-based art. On the other hand, these process models would serve as the framework for knowledge-based software programs tailored to the needs of heat treaters and product designers, allowing heat treating to function in a scientific, predictive setting. A significant amount of research is being conducted in the modeling/simulation area, which addresses many of the items mentioned above.
The establishment of the Heat Treating Technology Roadmap spawned the creation of the Center for Heat Treating Excellence at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, an alliance between the industrial sector and university researchers to collaboratively address short-term and long-term needs of the heat-treating industry. CHTE is dedicated to the advancement of heat treating through collaborative research and development in accordance with the Heat Treating Technology Roadmap, the current R&D Plan and the Vision 2020 document.
CHTE is involved with several projects in modeling/simulation including An Integrated Heat Treatment Model for Aluminum Castings, Development of An Analytical Tool for Part Load Design and Temperature Control In Continuous Furnaces, and a Computerized Heat Treatment Planning System for Batch Furnaces (see page 27 in this issue).
Other organizations (just to name a few) involved in modeling/simulation R&D include:
- IIT (FEM-based modeling of heat treatment processes)
- Carnegie Mellon University (mesoscopic models for microstructural evolution)
- Deformation Control Technology Inc. (computer simulation of heat treat processes for steel parts)
- Pennsylvania State University (computational thermodynamics and materials design)
- ESI North America (SYSWELD Heat Treatment Advisor: process simulation software for manufacturing)
- QuesTek (mechanistically based computational microstructural dynamics for process simulations)
- Sandia National Laboratories (modeling and simulation of thermal processes)
- Computherm (computational thermodynamics in industrial applications)
While the considerable number of objectives looks daunting to achieve in the time frame established by the Vision 2020, given sufficient funds and human resources, the technology barriers will be broken down to bring the heat treating industry to a higher level of technological competence, where processes are truly understood and capable of being simulated.