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Heat Treatment of Large Gears In-House Vs. Outsourcing(2014-03-27)

Many Large Gear Manufacturers keep heat treatment in house if the floor space is available and they have the capital to pull it off. If in-house heat treatment isn’t a viable option, there are commercial partners available for the heat treatment of Large Gears. There are several factors to consider when deciding which route is best for the Large Gear Manufacturer.
If a very high quality is required, it might be easier to achieve this requirement if there is an in-house heat treating facility where the furnaces can be optimized for a certain product. Another major factor is the volume of parts. This means that if a Large Gear company has enough through-put to utilize a heat treatment line, the decision is often to do in-house heat treatment. Additionally, the availability of a commercial heat treater close by—this applies especially to Large Gears where it can be quite expensive to transport them to a commercial heat treater.
In house heat treating requires a large capital outlay for equipment, plant improvements and personnel, including not only heat treat specialists and technicians, but a metallurgist to develop and implement the processes and parameters. As an example, to duplicate the furnace installations at Metlab including a 12' deep pit, overhead crane, furnace and quench tank, would be an investment in excess of $3 million. The second draw back towards such an installation is that for a captive manufacturer, the number of Large Gears for heat treating is somewhat limited, hence payback of the initial investment may not be justified.
Internal vs. external heat treating evaluation is most often reduced to three conditions: delivery time of the service being outsourced, cost of the service, and final part quality. Internal heat treating has the advantage of faster turnaround due to reduced transportation times and routine scheduling issues at commercial heat treaters for furnace time. Total quantity of parts is the biggest driver of both equipment and service costs. If production volumes are low, it virtually never makes sense to bring heat treating inside. Final part quality can be the biggest factor in the decision as internal heat treating processes tend to be specifically designed for a given part. Commercial processors typically have universal equipment to allow for more flexibility with a variety of customers and processes, which may or may not provide the best technical solution.large gear