When an opportunity arose, Solar Atmospheres took advantage of it.
In 2001, Solar Atmospheres recognized a dire need within the titanium markets for quality vacuum thermal processing. Determined to fill the void, the company planted a stake in Hermitage, Pa., which is ideally situated in the heart of North American titanium production between western Pennsylvania and northeast Ohio. Also apparent to Solar was the need for larger, more efficient vacuum equipment to better serve these unique customers, since titanium products requiring vacuum thermal processing differ greatly in size and weight compared to traditional components. Thus, less than a year later, Solar founder and CEO Bill Jones designed and built a U.S.-patented 24-foot car-bottom vacuum furnace, the first of its kind.
Upon purchasing an 18,000-square-foot facility located on five acres in Hermitage, Solar Atmospheres of Western PA opened for business. Four expansions and one land acquisition later, the company of 70 employees has over 100,000 square feet under one roof on 13 acres.
Offering high-quality vacuum heat treating and brazing services to the aerospace and medical industries, Solar provides annealing, age hardening of PH-grade stainless steels, hardening and tempering of tool and alloy steels, low-pressure vacuum carburizing, degassing, homogenizing, stress relieving, sintering and diffusion bonding. Other value-added processes include non-destructive testing (NDT) using fluorescent penetrant inspection (FPI), machining and tensile testing of both flat and round specimens, and cryogenics. These ancillary services afford customers the option of one-stop shopping, saving time and money.
All vacuum equipment is built with diffusion pumps and a maximum operating temperature of 2800°F, and all equipment is surveyed per AMS 2750E to within +/-10°F. High-pressure gas cooling can be achieved from 2 bar to 20 bar of pressure using either nitrogen, argon or helium (or mixtures of each).
However, it is the large vacuum furnaces that truly set Solar Atmospheres of Western PA apart from other shops. Six units, ranging from 12 feet long to 48 feet long, allow this MTI member to process parts others simply cannot. Additionally, Solar Atmospheres of Western PA is the only commercial heat treater in the United States to obtain OSHA’s SHARP (Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program) accreditation. By achieving SHARP status, the company joins an elite group of small businesses maintaining exemplary safety and health programs on a daily basis.
Within the past year, the company has installed and commissioned two car-bottom air furnaces (14 feet long and 20 feet long). This provides customers with a lower-cost option over the more expensive vacuum environment when oxidation on the surface of parts during processing is permissible.
Future plans for Solar Atmospheres of Western PA include continued support of Boeing and Airbus by providing critical vacuum heat-treating and brazing services required for aircraft. The company also foresees the continued expansion of value-added ancillary services, such as machining and testing.