Solar Manufacturing installed a new, compact vacuum furnace design located at its Solar Atmospheres of Western Pennsylvania heat-treating affiliate company in Hermitage, Pa. This production-scale furnace, named "Mentor," was designed and developed to accommodate the heat treating and brazing of smaller to mid-size furnace loads. This smaller furnace design can also be used to develop and test new heat-treating processes and cycles for the larger production furnaces. The furnace itself has an effective work-zone that measures 12 inches wide x 12 inches high x 18 inches deep and is capable of processing loads up to 250 pounds. It allows for operation up to 2500°F (1370°C) with temperature uniformity of +/- 10°F from 1000-2400°F (540-1315°C).
The hot-zone design utilizes a .060-inch-thick graphite foil hot face backed by four layers of 0.5-inch rayon graphite felt. The vacuum system consists of an Alcatel Model 2033, 33-CFM mechanical pump backed by a Varian Model VHS-6 water-cooled diffusion pump, which allows for vacuum levels down to the 10-6 torr range. An internal 2-bar gas cooling system is incorporated using a 7.5-HP motor and heat exchanger for rapid quenching.