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2500 years of metallurgical experience

21st Dec 2009   In Article Archive

Whilst the level of metallurgical knowledge in general engineering appears to be on the decline, the expertise of CHTA members continues, of necessity, to be vast and cutting-edge. TTI Group's Keith Laing comments...

The Iron Age in Britain started around the 7th century BC, following the Bronze Age when our metalworking skills were initiated. Ever since then, we have been using and developing the products of iron and steel making.

Some would say the treatment processes introduced in the early days haven't really changed. However, the reality is that heat and surface treatment of metals has been in perpetual steady development in reaching today's high levels of sophistication.

Within CHTA member companies there are over 2500 years of metallurgical experience spread across every possible metal treatment. Continuous updating of that huge knowledge base is largely a by-product of competition within our sector.

As well as keeping up with the changing demands of industry, contract heat treaters must stay abreast of the latest advances in heat treatment technology and process techniques in order to survive. New equipment is purchased which has all the latest technology to allow for more-efficient cleaner processing, in conformance with ever-changing HS&E guidelines.

Indeed, legislation plays its part in the progress within heat treatment. For example, changes in regulations, resulting in materials and substances becoming more tightly controlled, mean that treatment procedures that have been carried out in the same way for decades have to change. This can be quite an upheaval for some companies.

The current perception is that, outside of companies where heat treatment is the core business, the amount of metallurgical knowledge is slowly eroding through retirement. Graduate metallurgists are becoming harder to come by. Whilst there is a process of continual appropriate training within the contract heat treatment sector, the same cannot be said for all other industries where heat treatment is performed in-house.

The vast experience and awareness of latest techniques, treatments and processes is often now largely confined to contract heat treaters. Designers may not be aware of alternative processes and materials available to them. Contract heat treaters can provide solutions to industry through their broad expertise and use of the latest technology.

Quite apart from the perceived declining knowledge within some in-house heat treatment operations, processes carried out in-house often result in being more expensive due to the ageing equipment and increasing cost of regulatory compliance.

CHTA members have a wealth of knowledge and metallurgical expertise, dating back over millennia but ever abreast of new developments. With the latest process techniques employed to meet latest quality-assurance requirements fully, CHTA's network of commercial heat treaters should be consulted as an exceptional resource.