This past year, SECO/WARWICK recorded a very good year in the sale of vacuum technologies. It is becoming more and more evident that these modern solutions are gradually displacing atmospheric furnaces due to their huge production efficiency, production economy and the ecology associated with vacuum processing. 

The SECO/WARWICK Group has strengthened its position as a vacuum technology leader. The market is increasingly choosing vacuum furnaces: a single-chamber – VectorÒ, and two- and three-chamber furnaces from the CaseMaster Evolution family. They are mainly of interest to the aviation, energy, tooling, and automotive industries as well as to commercial heat treaters. 

The Vector continues to be a leader in vacuum technology

In the wide range of SECO/WARWICK Group products, Vector® is by far the most versatile vacuum furnace and the most popular product in the company’s portfolio.  Vector is a universal, single-chamber vacuum furnace used for annealing, brazing, quenching and tempering, as well as for low-pressure carburizing. It provides heating and cooling precision temperature control, which allows for high quality, as well as economical and efficient furnace operation. Vector furnaces meet all international standards and the requirements of many heat treatment processes. In 2022, producers from dozens of countries took advantage of the wide possibilities offered by Vector technology. The market is also increasingly choosing the Vector furnace with high-pressure gas quenching (HPGQ). 

This solution was used in Europe by tire manufacturer Michelin, which purchased a Vector®compact vacuum furnace. It will be indispensable in the gas quenching process for tools in the premium tire production segment. Alberts Surface Technologies, a top SECO/WARWICK’s customer, decided to cooperate with the Group once again. In 2022, the commercial heat treater placed orders with SECO/WARWICK on two occasions – the Aaalberts Group already has 10 SECO/WARWICK solutions. This year’s contracts were related to the delivery of two vacuum furnaces to the Group’s Spanish branch – Aalberts Surface Technologies TEY, and to the expansion of the Group’s Polish hardening plant with an innovative AFT technology line based on two-chamber atmospheric furnaces.  It is worth noting that Aalberts ordered the largest solution from SECO/WARWICK portfolio, a horizontal retort furnace for high tempering with vacuum purging.

In the USA, the heat treatment of the seventh and the last module of the world’s largest superconducting electromagnet has been successfully completed. A specialized vacuum furnace supplied by the American branch was used to implement the project. General Atomics is responsible for the project, being a part of the international ITER program.

CaseMaster Evolution – two and three chamber innovations

For SECO/WARWICK, 2022 is also a year of dynamic growth for the CaseMaster Evolution two- and three-chamber furnace solutions. Härtewerk Chemnitz GmbH, one of Germany’s largest heat treaters, has purchased the Super IQ model, a double-chamber vacuum furnace combining modern, low-pressure carburizing with traditional oil quenching. The furnace eliminates the need to use a classic carburizing atmosphere and the associated danger resulting from the presence of open fire and carbon monoxide. Instead, the Super IQ allows for clean treatment and can achieve carburizing at a higher temperature to speed up cycles and improve efficiency. Parts are also much cleaner and brighter. The Super IQ is a well-thought-out replacement for traditional IQ gas-heated atmosphere furnaces. Technological progress allows the system to work at higher temperatures for vacuum carburizing and clean quenching without decarburizing effects. 

“Customers choose this technology because it is green, productive and cost-effective. 3E technologies (economy, efficiency, ecology) are definitely the future. We promote the CaseMaster Evolution group of products because it is perfect for heat treatment facilities and can successfully replace obsolete and non-ecological atmospheric equipment with gas carburizing. Super IQ solves the pain points for hardening plants because the system can be switched on and off without additional time and energy expenditure. It is economical because it does not require maintenance at specific temperature parameters during standstill as is the case for traditional atmosphere furnaces. Vacuum treatment also increases the final product quality and process safety. The work takes place in a non-flammable environment,” says Maciej Korecki, Vice President of the Vacuum Segment at SECO/WARWICK.

Vacuum solutions on the American market

The American market is an important recipient of these technologies in the vacuum solution segment.

“During the five years of SECO/VACUUM’s existence, as many as 55 vacuum furnaces have been sold. Ten of them were launched last year. They went to the largest manufacturers from the aviation, automotive and tool industries. The sale and start-up of the innovative UniCase Master furnace in the aviation industry was also a success. This is a system for vacuum heat treatment intended for individual vacuum carburizing and hardening in nitrogen for mechanical transmission components such as gears, shafts, rings and bushings using the single-piece flow method,” said Piotr Zawistowski, SECO/VACUUM Managing Director.

Asia – the dark horse of vacuum technology

The year 2022 was a significant awakening of the Indian market, the potential of which is not to be underestimated.  A leading Asian catalyst manufacturer – Ecocat India, whose mission is to purify the air by bringing innovative catalysts for the automotive sector, has ordered a high-pressure vacuum furnace with gas quenching. Another Vector vacuum furnace has been delivered to Atlas Autos Ltd, (An Atlas Group Company), the largest manufacturer of motorcycle parts in Pakistan. The furnace is designed for hardening and tempering processes, and its design will allow the gas quenching of tool and die components to be used in automotive production. SECO/WARWICK has supplied a Vector vacuum furnace for Sundram Fasteners Limited, an Indian fastener manufacturer. The furnace will be part of the process for high-quality aircraft screw manufacturing. Due to the increased interest in vacuum solutions, SECO/WARWICK started the production of these furnaces in Asia last year, making the first deliveries directly from the region for the Andritz Group. 

“In the future, we would like to develop production in India based on cooperation with local partners. We are analyzing the development of assembly in India, and the expansion of the Chinese company’s business through the local production of vacuum furnaces. Achieving this goal will not require large investment outlays. The strategy will be implemented by  renting halls and finding subcontractors,” summed up SECO/WARWICK Group CEO, Sławomir Woźniak.

S(ECO) future 

SECO/WARWICK intensively supports “green technologies.” A good example of this committent to the environment  is the gas nitriding technology, ZeroFlow®, which allows for a significant cost reduction by reducing the consumption of expensive ammonia several times when compared to traditional nitriding processes. In turn, the use of vacuum carburizing in pit furnaces – Pit-LPC for large-size parts allows for shorter process times coupled with a reduction in energy and gas consumption. This directly decreases production costs, while improving the quality of the results when compared to traditional technology. This solution is most often chosen by heavy industries, the bearing industry and wind power plants. The aforementioned SuperIQ is a solution with low-pressure carburizing technology, thanks to which the consumption of process gases is significantly reduced, and thus, CO₂ emissions into the atmosphere are reduced to an absolute minimum. 

Care for the environment is understood by the Group as sustainable production and ecological innovation built into every project and furnace design. This is part of SECO/WARWICK’s long-term strategy, in which vacuum technologies play a leading role.