Risk Management in Heat Treatment

22 August 2019

Not every processing pipeline in a heat treatment facility is mechanically oriented. Away from the vacuum-sealed furnaces and quenching tanks, the alloy hardening work is viewed from a different perspective. Surrounded by computers and process viability statistics, a risk assessment team is hard at work. Somewhat ironically, the engineers who’re caught up in this stress retarding enterprise are probably feeling a bit tense right now, too.

All About Risk Management Stress

That’s the scene in a head engineer’s office. As this person pulls out an order from a new client, he sees how much work has been put into a complex and expensive manufacturing cycle. Some faraway metal fabrication shop has expended massive amounts of hard cash, which has been used to create a range of high-quality forged and machined parts. Having manufactured those quality assured parts, they’re now released into the hands of a heat treatment expert. Of some concern, the furnaces and tempering services that the parts are soon to pass through will use enormous amounts of thermal energy. If the heating energies or cooling fluids aren’t managed correctly, that heat-treated part could suffer. At best, a component will deform. At worst, it’ll crack and be turned into an expensive piece of scrap.

Core Pre-emptive Risk Minimising Measures

Essentially, the goal is to harden a client’s products without causing damage. The hardening service cannot add internalised stress, nor can it negatively impact the mechanical or chemical properties of the subject metal workpiece. All right, with that cautionary note out in the open, let’s check out a few examples of how not to harden a clients’ metal-worked product. For one thing, a workpiece with an intricate dimensional profile could create problems. Its bulkier sections take time to soak up furnace energy, but its thin-walled surfaces rapidly absorb heat. Sudden dimensional transitions and sharp corners create similar issues. Also, what about prior weld flaws? Between weld discontinuities and heat-induced surface scaling, plus the aforementioned dimensional deformations and material fractures, any of these process defects could occur when a product is placed in a furnace or cooled rapidly in a quench tank.

Let’s face it, heat treatment companies don’t stay in business for long when they’re messing up all the time. Risk Management strategies must be implemented in such situations. Moreover, the program needs to be in place before a product crack or profile warp happens. It’s tough out there in the industrial world, and even one bad review could be devastating. Therefore, all potential defects must be documented before a new parts hardening project is launched. Designed to match each material family and heat treatment process, as well as a client-submitted product’s unique dimensional profiles, the pre-emptive measures taken at this early point in the process ensure a hassle-free heat treatment run.

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