Penna Flame Industries owes its existence to the steel industry … and the vision of a foundry sales rep.

Garrett D. Orr Sr. and his wife, Mary Patricia, established the company in 1968 to provide flame hardening services exclusively to the growing steel industry. Garrett set the business up in Zelienople, Pa., because it was centrally located between the steelmaking hotbeds of Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Through his experience as a sales representative for a foundry, Garrett recognized the need for flame hardening in the steel industry. The groundbreaking for Penna Flame Industries (PFI) took place on April 1, 1968. Today, over 50 years later, the company is a recognized leader in flame hardening and a pioneer in robotic hardening.

The company has grown and transitioned over the years. In 1990, James P. Orr was named president, and he has continued his father’s commitment to the industry by adding new technology and innovations in surface hardening and roll manufacturing. In 1995, the company added a roll manufacturing and machining facility to meet the needs of customers that wanted highly polished rolls used in the automotive industry.

In 2008, PFI added the industry’s first robotic cell. It replaced manual scanning and reduced the amount of setup required for tooling, thereby increasing precision and repeatability. PFI has since added three additional robotic cells. In 2017, PFI expanded its facility to incorporate the world’s largest spin flame hardening tank (80 inches in diameter) and added a collaborative robotic cell that induction hardens and allows the operator to work right next to the robot without having safety fences.

PFI, which won MTI’s Commercial Heat Treater of the Year Award in 2018, currently employs 28 and serves the automotive, heavy equipment, military and mining industries. The MTI member provides flame hardening, robotic flame hardening, robotic induction hardening, roll hardening, roll manufacturing, roll straightening, hardness testing, wheel and axle assembly, deep cryogenics, stress relieving and tempering.

Robots, coupled with programmable index tables, provide an automation system that helps decrease production time while maintaining the highest quality in precision surface hardening. These robotic systems provide quick, economical and selective hardening of parts to ensure increased wear resistance, longer life and quick turnaround. They also offer less distortion when compared to furnace treatment.

PFI’s equipment capabilities allow it to spin harden parts with a maximum diameter of 78 inches, maximum height of 24 inches and maximum weight of 20,000 pounds. The company can roll harden parts with a maximum length of 18 feet, maximum diameter of 36 inches and maximum weight of 20,000 pounds. PFI can also stress relieve parts with a maximum width of 10 feet, maximum height of 8 feet and maximum weight of 40,000 pounds.

What does the future hold for PFI? The company plans to hire and train employees so it is poised to continue offering a high level of service to customers. And James, together with his sons Michael (vice president) and Andrew (vice president), are poised to lead PFI into the next generation of products and services.

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