Mr. Dan Reardon
Director of Technical Sales, Abbott Furnace Company
Dan I have been looking forward to speaking with you about Abbott Furnace Company, I just regret that it can’t be in person because of COVID, hopefully in the near future. In these very strange times I want to ask you what is probably the most asked question in the world these days-how is business for you?
Our business is doing okay. We our working on our backlog. We are seeing some uncertainty in some sectors while others continue to be strong. The election has contributed to this along with COVID.
What’s your background Dan?
I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I started working for Rockwell International in the R&D Lab. I was there for 15 years before coming to Abbott. While at Rockwell I continued my Education and obtained a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology.
How did you get involved in the industry and end up at Abbott?
I was ready for a change and since I live in the PM world capital, I decided to get involved in something related to that. Abbott was a growing company with a lot of potential so I joined then in 1993.
What does your typical day entail?
We start everyday with a review of our current projects to make sure we deal with any issues that arise so we can stay on schedule. Since COVID the rest of the day consists of several online meetings with staff and customers. Since our equipment is custom designed we spend considerable time on engineering reviews and discussions.
With your title of Director of Technical Sales I would imagine that at least pre COVID your position involved a lot of travel but I am guessing on that.
You are correct. Pre COVID travel was at least 50% of the time.
When I think of Abbot rightly or wrongly I think of sintering applications, such as mesh belt sintering furnaces. Perhaps this is because you are located in St. Marys, PA the powdered metal capital of the world. Is that impression right or wrong?
This is somewhat correct. Sintering is still a very big part of our business but we were able to build on this to and expand into other markets. Sintering is one of the most complex processes for a furnace design, so it made branching out into other areas much easier. We understand atmosphere control very well which is critical to all processes from heat treating to stainless steel brazing.
Perhaps it would be easiest if you could tell us tell us about Abbott, the history of the company, the products you offer and the size of the company.
Abbott was founded in 1982 as Abbott Control Systems. We built our first furnace in 1986. Since then we have built over 900 furnaces. We purchased Drever in 1986 which allowed us to expand our furnace capabilities.
Over the course of the past year your company has sent us several rather interesting press releases. Going from memory I recall a press release about a new product for Abbott, an Endothermic generator and also a news item about a Roller Hearth Tube annealing installation. Lets start off with the generator-what prompted you to start offering this product line, especially considering that a number of companies in North America also offer generators?
With the acquisition of Drever, we obtained several generator designs. To support our customers, we looked at current generator designs and reviewed with them their likes, dislikes and wish lists. Our engineering team then set out to incorporate as many of the changes as possible. Energy efficiency as well at atmosphere quality and control were two of Abbott’s primary goals. We achieved all of these with the new design.
I also recall the press release about a roller hearth furnace line, can you share some details with us about what this project involved?
Drever had a great reputation for building high quality roller hearth annealing furnaces. Abbott utilized Drever designs and upgraded and modernized them to meet todays process requirements. We were able to make substantial improvements in all areas of the design. This allowed us to meet the customers requirements for a ASTM 2750 accredited furnace with a rapid quench system to meet their stringent metallurgical requirements.
Abbott is offering some new products which include the “Vulcan Delube System”-what is this exactly and where did the name come from?
Vulcan is the Roman god of Metal working/ metallurgy. One of the biggest problems in Powdered Metal is the delubrication of the parts prior to sintering. The Vulcan is a paradigm shift in how this process is performed. We are able to independently control all the variables needed such as time ate temp, atmosphere, and addition of oxidizing component to deal with the lubricant. It works well with light loads or very heavy large parts.
Another new product for your company is the “Nautilus” system for lubricant removal and strengthening the compact for soft magnetic composites. Care to share some details about this system?
The Nautilus furnace was designed to meet the time, temperature and atmosphere requirements necessary to process powder metal parts manufactured for the soft magnetics market. We see this as a growing market with the electrification of vehicles and continuous need for more efficient electric motors.
As I go over these questions one thing which jumps out at me is that Abbott has added several new product lines to your offerings in a fairly short period of time-why? Do you feel that the traditional market for sintering furnaces is becoming saturated or are looking for more solutions for your customers?
We still see growth potential in PM and continue to work to advance this industry as you can see by the development of the Vulcan and Nautilus. We added the roller hearth to compliment our existing base and to allow growth into other markets and it leveraged our Drever IP.
Where are your customers? From past press releases you seem to have a strong presence in Mexico in addition to the US market (and I should add the Canadian market also as I have seen several examples of your products in my home country)-what about outside of North America?
We supply furnaces worldwide including China, Taiwan, South Korea, Germany, and many other EU countries. Our goal is to be able to supply the best equipment available with the lowest cost of ownership to our customers wherever they are located.
This a totally unfair question and one which I shouldn’t be asking but what do you think 2021 is going to be like for Abbott in particular and the furnace industry in general? If it makes it easier I will even go first-I firmly believe that next year will see substantial growth in manufacturing and consequently heat treating-but perhaps I am leading the witness as they say.
I would like to agree with you, but I don’t. I believe there are too many uncertainties for which we don’t know the outcome yet. Getting the pandemic under control would certainly help. We don’t know what is going to happen with a new President taking over. What will happen with the taxes and regulations on business?
Dan I really enjoyed speaking with you and I hope our paths continue to cross for many years. Sincerely, Gord