Certified Heat Treating Co. of Peoria, Ill., is what some may call a happy accident. 

While at an auction for a shuttered Caterpillar plant in 1988, Joseph E. O’Brien decided to purchase two large roller-hearth furnaces and a quench system. The plan when he raised the paddle was to simply scrap the equipment. But O’Brien, who started O’Brien Steel Service Co. in 1975 but did not know anything about the heat-treating industry, failed to take into account the cost of moving the furnaces.

After two years of watching the equipment sit in an open-air shed partially exposed to the elements, O’Brien decided to do something. Realizing that the closest commercial heat treater to Peoria was 90 miles away, he sought the advice and guidance of some recently retired Caterpillar heat-treat engineers. Then, in late 1991, Certified Heat Treating (CHT) was incorporated with a $2 million budget.

The company officially opened its doors in early 1993 at its current site in Peoria with a new Surface Combustion internal-quench batch furnace line. Things did not start as well as he had hoped, but O’Brien listened to his customers. In an attempt to meet their needs, CHT built its first external water quench system in 1994. It was comprised of a 500-gallon above-floor tank and two 5-HP impellers. This was the start of a long process that would see CHT eventually – after a $1 million investment – purchase two additional Surface Combustion furnaces and an external water quench system with a 150-HP pump and water temperature control. This gave the company a service that not only provided value to its customers but set it apart from the competition. 

Under the guidance of General Manager Steven Matthew, who went to work in March 1997, CHT grew its direct hardening business, increased its carburizing and carbonitriding volume, and installed its first induction machine. In 2005, Komatsu decided to shut down all in-house heat-treating operations at its Peoria facility, and CHT became the supplier of subcontract heat-treating operations. One year later, CHT underwent a 15,000-square-foot expansion and installed its second Surface Combustion line, which consisted of four Komatsu furnaces, two temper furnaces and a second large external water quench system.

Today, CHT serves the mining, agriculture and heavy-equipment industries. It provides standard neutral hardening, carburizing, carbonitriding, ferritic nitrocarburizing (FNC), annealing, normalizing, selective case hardening, induction hardening and liquid penetrant testing.

Intensive water quenching, however, is vital to CHT’s success. Its high-speed water quench with adjustable baffles provides maximum material performance and can achieve significant improvement in fatigue life of parts. Intensive water quenching minimizes distortion and allows a more predictable life cycle of parts.

CHT also boasts an active material identification program with in-house spectrometer. Knowing the hardenability of a material can make the difference between a quality part, a marginal part or a cracked part. In 2012, the company added a 300-kW induction scanner to satisfy customer demand.

The diversity of services offered by CHT provides customers a one-stop shop, which saves time and transportation costs and reduces handling and tracking. And the company is not done evolving. CHT plans on developing special masking capabilities to add selective hardening to water quench material to further control distortion and minimize post-heat-treat machining operations.