How to Reduce Your High Vacuum Heat Treating Batch Production Costs

Heat treatment is a vital component of the production process in all sectors. It affects the manufacture of automobiles and aeronautical components alike. However, this procedure may become expensive since it requires a great deal of energy and specialized equipment. Your business can take steps to lower the cost per batch and cut costs overall.

1. Improve Performance by Cutting Cycle Times

Specific heat treatment procedures have longer cycles than others. There isn't much you can do to cut production time in these cases, but shorter cycle processes can see excellent improvements. The impact of five-minute time savings on a 48-hour production cycle is minimal, while the same five-minute time savings on an hour-long production run can have a significant effect on annual production.

Brazing, which involves joining metals within a furnace using a filler metal, has a reasonably quick cycle time. A faster cycle time implies more manufacturing runs per year, which equals more income and profit.

You can only get so many heat cycles out of your furnace each year, even if it's operating at maximum efficiency, so the time it takes to finish a heat cycle is your biggest expense. The best strategy to lower a batch's cost is to shorten the typical duration of each heat cycle..

2. Lower Your Energy Production

Analyze the most expensive sections of the production process to cut down on batch costs. Consider the usual expenses of heat treaters. One crucial factor is power. Heat treating requires a lot of energy since all vacuum heat-treating furnaces need it to function. Upgrading your equipment is a great way to save power.

Physical constraints mean that changes to the heat treat furnace or its control system would be complicated at best. Vacuum pumps, however, can adjust because of their mechanism design. There has been significant development in vacuum pumps during the last two decades. You can reduce the energy needed to run your roughing pumps in half by switching to a newer model that uses dry screw vacuum pumps.

It is possible to lower production costs per unit by switching out energy-intensive industrial parts with those that use less power.

3. Keep Up with Repair and Maintenance Expenditures

Good maintenance workers are hard to find in the industry, particularly heat treatment. Before automation, machine operators sometimes doubled as maintenance technicians because of their thorough understanding of the machinery they were responsible for operating. Many operators lack maintenance skills now that the machine automates most procedures.

With trained maintenance technicians either retiring or moving on to other sectors, many of our clients discover that they are short-handed on employees who can conduct the maintenance effectively and perfectly. If you don't have enough experienced maintenance workers to keep up with your work and one of your machines breaks down unexpectedly, you won't have the people to get it back up and running, which leads to downtime.

4. Decrease Downtime and Improve Equipment

Downtime is another expensive aspect of manufacturing. As stated before, machine maintenance causes unrecoverable downtime. High-quality replacements for worn-out equipment, such as vacuum pumps, may significantly cut unscheduled maintenance. Selecting more efficient equipment also reduces the long-term time and money spent on repairs.

Upgrade to modern equipment that doesn't fail or that doesn't need intervention, such as an oil-free roughing vacuum pump. It saves time and money compared to changing the oil in a pint (in small rotary vane pumps) or 10-12 gallons (in a large piston pump) once every three months- or as needed.

It is possible to minimize batch costs without compromising product quality. Improving your company's cash flow may be as easy as making minor adjustments, such as replacing equipment and getting professional repair services to minimize maintenance and electricity expenditures.

What Can We Do About the Leaks? Where Are They?

A typical high vacuum system can develop “air-in” leaks over time, due to maintenance, replacing a component, or developing a leak through an O-ring or gasket seal. A heat treating system, is much more likely to develop leaks over time, due to the high temperature during a run, and then cooling back down to ambient temperature. As basic physics tells us, most materials expand when heated, and contract when the same material is cooled. Count how many O-ring or gasket seals that are on your high vacuum heat treating furnace. All elastomer materials expand and contract to a much greater degree than most solid or metallic materials. Given this known aspect of heat vs. cool, these elastomer seals, certain valve seats, and even external wiring can be affected to a negative result.

Most heat treating high vacuum systems typically have acceptable leak rate allowances in their specifications or operating instructions. Here at A-VAC it has been our experience that heat treat owners, management, engineering, or maintenance teams tend to perform the following industry leak test:

1.) Pump down the system until a stable high vacuum pressure is observed for 5 minutes. Note this pressure in your worksheet or notes. (Note: The chamber should be dry and clean. Nothing should be inside of it!)

2.) Close the high vacuum valve and watch the pressure loss over time and take a reading at 30 minutes total time. (This is known as a leak-up test.) Record the final pressure. (At this point some companies will continue the “leak up” test for a full hour. If so, please note this time as well.

3.) Next, if necessary, open the roughing valve and bring the chamber down to a pressure low enough to open the high vacuum valve. With the high vacuum valve still open, allow the empty chamber to pump down to it’s ultimate capable vacuum level. After achieving reasonable stability on your vacuum gauges. Heat the empty chamber at a normal rate. Hold the heat on for a typical run you would perform with actual parts inside of it. Note and record the internal temperature, at the end of temperature run.

4.) Give all of the data to the proper internal team, so they can analyze the data, and determine if that particular system is within company production/quality control parameters.

What if the just tested high vacuum heat treat system fails the required “Leak Up” tests?

When the system has cooled to ambient temperature, obtain a spray bottle of a solvent, such as IPA, acetone, or?? Then while someone monitors the vacuum gauges, another tech will proceed to spray the solvent on all external O-rings and elastomer gaskets. If the pressure gauge will suddenly “spike,” this is an indication of the approximate leak location.

What if you perform the test above with a solvent and nothing is found?

The only and last resort now, is to start-up your Helium Leak Detector or a Residual Gas Analyzer, and attach it to the foreline, between the high vacuum pump and the roughing pump to locate the leak location(s). Most heat treat owners will install an access valve, so helium leak tests can be performed with easy access to the vacuum system. (BUT MAKE SURE THE VOLUME IN YOUR HOSE OR TEST FIXTURING IS ADEQUATELY EVACUATED, BEOFRE OPENING THE ISOLATION VALVE!!) Be certain the technician performing this task is professionally trained and knowledgeable about interpreting any test results.

What if your company does not own a helium leak detector or an RGA?

A-VAC sells them brand new supplied from a few different manufacturers, and we occasionally rent them on a weekly or monthly basis. The only other option is to hire a competent leak testing company to bring all the required equipment and knowledge to your facility.

Let Our Technicians Help You Keep Costs Down

Vacuum pump applications range from agriculture to construction to manufacturing. However, there are several reasons why they could suddenly stop working and cause significant downtime.

You can trust your vacuum pump to Vacuum Pump Repair USA because we've been in business serving the community since 1969. We are committed to the needs of our customers and offer complete and expert services to keep your vacuum pump or vacuum system at peak performance. Contact us for more information!

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