Heat treating is a very important industrial technology, estimated to be a $15-20 billion a year business in the U.S. It is a critical manufacturing technology in nearly every industrial market sector including aerospace, automotive, off highway, rail transportation, chemical and others.

The heat-treating industry is capital intensive because it involves the use of specialized equipment requiring major capital investment, and it also is an energy-intensive industry, which translates to major operating costs. Thermal processing is carried out in a wide variety of heat treating furnaces with their different heating systems and various atmospheres, salt baths, and ovens, each of which has advantages and disadvantages for a particular operation. Heat treating also has a major impact on ancillary industries such as those involving the manufacture of gas, electrical resistance and induction heating systems, process sensors and controllers, furnace atmosphere generation and control, furnace insulation and more.

A brief overview of some of the vast array of heat-treating equipment is presented in this issue together with some of the manufacturers (advertisers in this issue) of specific equipment. The advertising pages of these listed manufacturers carry valuable information on their equipment/technology. In many cases, the first dissemination of new developments in technology can be found in advertisements including developments relating to designs, heating systems and controls, and their potential. They also provide valuable information regarding installations where equipment is performing satisfactorily.

Manufacturing competitiveness and profitability in the global market depend in large part on heat-treating efficiency because it accounts for a major portion of overall production costs of many components. Therefore, there are many technology areas where greater innovations are necessary. Some of these areas are outlined in the Heat Treating Technology Roadmap including:

  • Heat Treating Equipment and Hardware Materials with goals of achieving zero emissions, reducing process times by 50%, reducing production costs by 75%, increasing furnace life tenfold and reducing the price of furnaces by 50%.
  • Energy and Environment with goals of reducing energy consumption by 80%; improving insulation (reducing thickness by half while doubling insulating capability); achieving high heat transfer rate heating and cooling systems, low cost energy recovery and hybrid natural gas/electric heating systems to minimize energy costs.
  • Processes and Heat Treated Materials Technology Needs including reducing process times by 50%, reducing production costs by 75% and achieving zero distortion and maximum uniformity in heat-treated parts.

A significant part of the research necessary to achieve these goals is being addressed in major national research thrusts to advance the thermal processing technology. (Similar goals are being tackled in other initiatives overseas such as in Japan, Sweden and Australia.) Together with these national programs, the companies who advertise not only in this issue of Industrial Heating, but also throughout the year, are working to bring the latest and best technology to the heat treating industry. Paying more attention to these advertisements could offer solutions to your problems.