Transfer of Practical Knowledge to the New Generation of Heat Treater’s

As each day goes by, the older generation of heat treater’s  becomes another day older, and closer to the day when they will want to retire  and live comfortably.  Our age is not a thing that we can hide from.

So the question is asked, will the input (or volume) of the new young generation of heat treater’s keep pace in the numbers of new entrants into the heat tretment of metals world. I do not have any access to the number of new entrants in relation to the those who leave the industry (simply because they don’t like it), or they relocate in relation to the older generation who either retie or pass away).

We have the graduates coming out of college, but (without sounding disrespectful to those people who have been able spend at least 4 years of college studies of metallurgy), many unfortunately lack the practical experience). The only way they will get the experience is by working in the industry (for either captive het tretment shops, or commercial heat treatment shops). Some can be fortunate enough to work alongside a seasoned and experienced mentor.

But let us step back for a moment!! What about the furnace operators? It is the operator heat treater, who literally can ‘make or break’ the product that is being heat treated. It is that person who has to deal with;

  • Distortion
  • Loading the furnace in such a manner so as to reduce the risk of distortion at the quench operation and understanding what can contribute to the occurrence of distortion
  • Understanding the quenching practice
  • Furnace atmosphere control
  • Process temperature setting (not to high and not too low)
  • Pre-heating to reduce thermal shock
  • Ensuring that the initial hardness is as expected for the particular metal being treated
  • Understanding safety in the heat tretment shop
  • When operating salt baths, the ‘do’s and don’ts (I have seen and acted as expert witness in a number of accident’s that out not to have occurred, but did, with very serious results
  • Understanding why the material being treated did not respond as expected(possibly mixed or incorrect material)
  • Understanding the principles of the first line of establish successful heat tretment by the hardness test
  • Having the ability to trouble shoot the non-response of the metl being treated
  • Having a basic understanding of the principle of phase diagrams (for example: the Iron Carbon Equilibrium (or ICE diagram) of the phase diagrams for heat-treatable aluminum  diagrams
  • A basic understanding of the action of alloying elements on the material being treated

Some years ago, I approached Mr Lance Miller (the then Metal Treating Institue President) regarding an idea that I had for the person on the shop floor.It had to be an affordable idea, because the industry  felt it could not justify high priced educational course’s for the heat treater, and later the employee leaved for another position. (A genuine fear) (but it was a fear!!). I proposed low priced on line heat treating courses for the shop floor operator on numerous subject relating to the Heat Treatment of Metals.

I left USA in 20010 for international assignments of teaching and consulting. I worked on numerous projects internationally embracing low pressure carburizing installation   and the training of the operator’s and staff, as well as assisting in the preparation for audits. I worked also in both Central America (Mexico and El Salvador on heat treat training as well as Chile, and Brazil.` I have worked extensively in and around India on heat treatment training and consulting projects. Saudi Arabia on oil and as well drilling (as well as the United States and South Africa), I have also worked on nitriding projects and training in UAE.

I worked also with a large international forging who have the most amazing technical research and development centre.   The centre specializing in gaining an full understanding of a particular metal, it application, forging, machining, thermal processing, to studying the performance of that metal and the product application. Yet they still wanted further education for its graduate and Ph.D. employee’s It is an absolutely amazing facility. A metallurgist and a heat treater’s ‘toy shop to die for!!!

Wootz Steel from India

What a foresight and forward thing company that is!!  I would like to make a visual introduction, that takes a new hire on a walk about in that particular heat treat shop that might specialize in;

  • Steel heat Treatment
  • Surface treatment such as carburizing in IQ furnaces
  • Aluminum heat treatment
  • Brazing technology
  • Induction h eat treatment and its metallurgy
  • Vacuum heat treatment
  • Cryogenic heat treatment and why it is utilized
  • Materials testing and met lab developments

This to show the potential employee/ operator, that they are not simply working on ‘ Fire Breathing Dragons’.

I am often asked why I don’t slow down!! My response is ‘if I slow down I will stop’!! I simply do not want to stop. I have too much to give back to the industry which has been good to me. It is not mine to hold onto!!

Ride a wild horse
against the sky-
hold tight to his wings
before you die
whatever else you leave undone
once ride a wild horse
into the sun.
~ Anonymous

I have numerous Heat Tretment course, that I have developed (too numerous to list here) and tailored for the student the new hire, the graduate person and can be conducted on site with the companies furnace and supportive equipment. I am continuing to write for The Monty on at least a weekly basis. I have gained a great deal of knowledge nd experience over the years of international heat treatment,  and one thing that I am certain of, is that;

  • We need continuing research and development
  • We need heat treat education,(each and every one of us in the industry)
  • We need, (not to be afraid of sharing the basic knowledge) while preserving an keeping confidential of how we do things for each of our customers
  • Each of use (no matter who we are) still need to continue to learn and develop or science
  • We should never be afraid to ask why
  • Ours is a complex industry that has embraced change and gained understanding form simple procedures to the use of IT technology, robotics, plasma, 3D manufacturing, electronics, physics, chemistry, thermal engineering, keeping the furnaces functional and well maintained to bring back the financial return on investment.
  • Not everyone understands how heat treatment affects the very fibre of our lives.
  • Heat treatment has entered the realm of medical metallurgy, the development of enhancing the strength of material and application’s.