1. The CaseMaster Evolution product range has been very popular among customers for many years, but before we tell you why is it so, we will start from the beginning, that is its creation.
Ten years ago, an evolution begun, and that is the CaseMaster Evolution. From this point onward, this range of furnaces has become more and more recognizable with each year.
Because its most important market advantage has been noticed — building a solid business case for the economical effectiveness for its users and our customers.
The implementation of a CaseMaster Evolution system for Hart-Tech commercial hardening plant is an interesting example. In this case, the evolution enabled our customer to achieve a process advantage on the market as well as dynamically develop their business.
Without any false modesty, I can say that SECO/WARWICK is the market leader in the segment of multi-chamber vacuum furnaces, and every year CaseMaster Evolution devices make up a significant part of our product and production portfolio. If we were to use numbers, there are hundreds of implemented solutions, and not just dozens.
2. If we were to describe this product range in 3 words, what would they be?
Answering this question is not as easy as it may seem, but let’s try:
I. Vacuum — as a reference to the vacuum heat treatment technology enabled by CaseMaster Evolution furnaces.
II. Multi-chamber — as a key distinguishing factor of the CaseMaster Evolution furnaces.
III. Versatility — to emphasize the ability of operation in different configurations and with different vacuum heat treatment processes.
3. Why Evolution?
Because this range of furnaces perfectly fits the ongoing process evolution in the heat treatment industry. This refers to the shift from the traditional atmosphere carburizing technologies (CaseMaster) to the modern vacuum technology (Evolution).
The process evolution started in the 1970s and has gained momentum in recent years. There is no doubt that vacuum furnace technology is the future.
The name of the solution itself comes from the original CaseMaster furnace for atmosphere carburizing, since the purpose of the heat treatment, that is case hardening, remains the same, whereas the way of achieving it is new and evolutionary, giving Evolution as the second part of the name, which as a result led to the CaseMaster Evolution (CMe), which is a great solution.
4. Vacuum carburizing and CaseMaster Evolution, let’s elaborate on this issue.
CaseMaster Evolution furnaces are a SECO/WARWICK response to the market need for a multi-chamber vacuum furnace enabling vacuum carburizing. The majority of the devices delivered by us enable this modern process. However, to go further and answer other needs of our customers, we have also developed applications for other common heat treatment processes. That is, this need became the mother of additional applications for this furnace.
5. We are discussing a product range, so let’s make it more familiar to our readers and describe the particular product.
CaseMaster Evolution vacuum furnaces are two- or three-chamber horizontal or vertical devices with the working space dimensions adapted to the customer’s needs. This brings us a wide product portfolio and huge possibilities. Such flexibility in the solution makes this range of furnaces perfect for many conditions: a hardening plant, a company specializing in heat-exchanger production, or an international automotive or aviation corporation.
In each of these applications, the innovative SECO/WARWICK devices bring added value to the customers and help them build their market advantage.
The strength of the CaseMaster product range lies not only with its flexible design, but also with the process versatility it can assure. Depending on their configuration, the CaseMaster furnaces can perform hardening, carburizing, annealing and even vacuum brazing processes. In addition, these are vacuum furnaces intended for mass heat treatment and work perfectly under such conditions. An interesting example is one of the leading global (Tier 1) suppliers in the automotive industry which manufactures steering systems. The company uses six CaseMaster Evolution furnaces at one of their sites. Such a line enables our customer to carburize and harden batches of more than 1500 kilograms per hour.
6. This range offers possibilities and many applications. What segments and industries choose the CaseMaster Evolution most often?
According to our experience so far, the main customers for CaseMaster Evolution furnaces include production companies from the aviation and automotive industries. However, the product has also become appreciated by many commercial hardening plants around the world, companies operating in the machinery industry as well as research and development institutions.
7. What attracts customers to this solution? What value do they appreciate?
For dozens of years on the market, the CaseMaster Evolution range has continuously guaranteed high quality heat treatment and reliable operation. It has also ensured operational savings, since the vacuum technology makes it possible to significantly reduce costs and achieve the highest post-treatment quality. What is more, CaseMaster Evolution furnaces fit into the ECO trend, as they comply with the applicable environmental protection requirements. Vacuum carburizing processes mean not only low consumption of process media, but also the absence of carbon dioxide emissions.
8. The CMe (CaseMaster Evolution) range offers oil quenching and gas quenching. Which is better? What should one consider while selecting the technology?
Oil quenching is a conventional process used in the industry for many years and for a long time had no alternative in many cases. Due to its nature, it requires additional process steps because of the requirement to clean the parts which are oiled after quenching. This in turn results in the need for additional washing equipment and for appropriate and regular disposal of washing and quenching baths. Interestingly, we often hear the opinions that washing after the oil quenching is more difficult than the quenching itself, especially if the geometry of the pieces does not facilitate washing.
On the other hand, gas quenching is first and foremost an environmentally friendly process and after the processing, the parts are perfectly clean. In addition, hardening deformations after gas quenching are much lower than after oil quenching. What is more important is that the recent implementation of SECO/WARWICK furnaces with high-pressure gas quenching (25 bar abs.) clearly shows that this method of part hardening can almost completely substitute for oil quenching. That is why gas quenching is believed to be the technology for the future. We see a growing interest in this method.
9. SECO/WARWICK also builds vertical CMe furnaces. Is it a market requirement, a need or a whim? What is the reason?
Vertical arrangements of the furnace results from market requirements as well as the specific needs of certain customers. When customers presented us with their needs, we wished to satisfy their (for some — non-standard) expectations. Vertical arrangements of the batch handling system work the best for hardening long items such as aircraft undercarriage struts. For example, furnaces of this type are operated by customers from the USA, China and France working in this industry. Installations of vertical CaseMaster Evolution furnaces are astonishing, the total height of the highest furnace built so far is 18 meters! The furnace enables treatment of one batch with the maximum height of more than four meters, a diameter of more than 1.8 meters, and the weight above 3 tons.
10. The range of CaseMaster Evolution products includes the CMe-T model. What is evolutionary about it?
CaseMaster Evolution model T means a three-chamber furnace (T – triple). This furnace is comprised of three separate chambers, that is the 1) loading chamber, 2) process chamber and 3) quenching chamber, from which the batch is also unloaded. This type of furnace (CMe-T) makes it possible to perform mass heat treatment under vacuum in one process line with full automation. In comparison with single- and two-chamber furnaces, a three-chamber furnace guarantees a much higher output. We could it say that this design is the workhorse of the CaseMaster range.
With the additional use of the gas quenching option, we have a modern and highly efficient furnace. It should be mentioned that one of the largest providers of commercial heat treatment services in Europe has been benefiting from a three-chamber CaseMaster Evolution furnace with inert gas quenching up to 25 bar abs. for several months now.
11. I guess not many of our readers know that this line can also be used for steel brazing. Can you tell us more about that application?
Yes, one of our automotive customers was looking for a solution that would guarantee the highest quality heat-exchanger brazing process while ensuring the best productivity. Single-chamber vacuum furnaces guarantee the high quality of the brazing process, but in order to achieve the required output, the customer would have to purchase several devices, which would have no economic justification. The answer to this challenge was to use a three-chamber CaseMaster Evolution furnace for the brazing process. The CMe turned out to be a perfect option and a great answer to the real needs of the customer that has recently purchased another furnace from us.
Vacuum steel brazing is a fast-growing technology, and it is worth taking a closer look at it. We can deliver many proprietary solutions and the three-chamber CaseMaster Evolution furnace is the most interesting one.
12. More and more often different technologies are combined into hybrid solutions. Is this the case for this product range?
Certainly, the advantage of SECO/WARWICK products is their flexibility and modularity. CaseMaster Evolution furnaces offer configuration flexibility both in terms of design solutions and supported heat treatment methods. An interesting solution is the one which integrates oil quenching with high pressure gas quenching (using inert gas) in one furnace. Such a hybrid three-chamber furnace has been successfully operated in one of the Scandinavian facilities of the largest global commercial hardening plant chain for several years now.
13. What are the challenges that vacuum technologies, including CMe products, are facing?
Mostly it is the constant promotion and convincing people that vacuum treatment is the future of global heat treatment. We need to prove and confirm the advantages of vacuum technologies compared with conventional technologies to which some people and companies are still attached. Well, it is quite understandable, because they have been working with conventional atmosphere technologies for many years and are not always willing to change that. However, the evolution in this field is ongoing, gaining momentum each year and becomes unavoidable. We also wish to do everything we can so that our customers are well-prepared for the incoming changes and so that our furnaces help them build economic efficiency in their business.
About the guest
Grzegorz Głuchowski works as a Sales Manager in Vacuum Furnaces Team. He holds an engineering degree in Mechanics and Mechanical Engineering and master degree in Management. Grzegorz has over ten years of combined experience in the heat treatment industry, including eight years in sales positions in SECO/WARWICK organization and over two years of hands-on experience gained during his time at a commercial heat treatment shop in Switzerland.