We continue our discussion from part 1.

Vacuum heat treatment is not new. However, vacuum furnace design is improving almost weekly/monthly. There is nothing magical about vacuum heat treatment. It still relies on metallurgical principles because it is still providing heat to the steel being processed, be it low-pressure carburizing, plasma nitriding, tool steel heat treatment, brazing or sintering, etc.

The significant difference is that the process is conducted at below-atmospheric pressures and reduces the risk of surface-oxide formations or surface-oxide interference. Thus, it offers clean surface treament (without oxide discoloration).

The vacuum furnace does require the heat-treat associate to have an understanding of the principles of vacuum furnaces, maintenenace and troubleshooting, and processs temperature uniformity. 

I can go on “ad infinitum” with poor safety occurrences that I have seen. I have seen many bad accidents, as have many of you.

There is a cost to all of this to the associate that is injured, to the equipment for needed repairs and to the company in terms of insurance claims, litigation costs, loss of production, damage to the client’s work and so on. That cost can be astronomical, to the point that it can close down a company and leave it bankrupt.

I believe that both appropriate and repeated training should be initiated if it is not already in place. The safety training should also be in conjunction with a mandatory individual training requirement because (let’s face it) each one of us can become complacent with the work area around us. Lack of safety knowledge can cost us dearly.

Even if the company does not have a formalized training program, one can be developed very quickly and put into place relatively easily. This would be followed by an annual re-evaluation with a sign-off by the associate. This would contribute (hopefully) to a reduction of serious accidents within our industry, an improvement in management and associate relationships, and a better return on assets.

After all, it is our industry.