Heat Treating Propeller Blades for Hydroplane Boats

A modern unlimited hydroplane is the world’s fastest racing boat, capable of speeds greater than 200 mph. These boats represent the product of over 100 years of evolution in race boat design and materials with the most powerful engines, most advanced construction techniques, and the best safety systems available in boat racing today. A typical unlimited hydroplane can weigh a minimum of 6,750 pounds.

All unlimited hydroplanes are a “three-point” design, meaning they are designed only to touch the water at three points when racing – at the rear of the two front sponsons (the projections of the hull in front of the driver cockpit) and the propeller at the rear of the boat. Most of the unlimited class boats are powered by Chinook helicopter Lycoming T55 L7 turboprop engines, generating up to 3,000 HP.

Racing Boat

Racing boats only touch the water at three points when racing: the rear of the two front “sponsons” (the projections of the hull in front of the driver cockpit) and the propeller at the rear of the boat.

Metlab, which is known for offering a wide variety of thermal processing solutions, had the opportunity to heat treat a series of propellers for a hydroplane racing team located in Cinnaminson, NJ.

The propellers must meet strict design criteria imposed by the Union Internationale Motonautique (or “UIM,” headquartered in Europe), not only for propellers but for the entire boat design. The propellers are typically 16″ in diameter and have three blades. Different pitch propellers are chosen for use based on course length, conditions, and starting position. It is not uncommon for a racing propeller to cost more than $15,000.

Propeller

The propeller creates the distinctive “rooster tail” behind the boat, raising literally tons of water into the air for up to 300 feet behind the boat. They are made from several different materials, but the steel of choice is 17-4 PH stainless steel chosen for its mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. The propeller must support a significant portion of the boat’s weight while rotating up to 14,000 RPM.

Three propeller blades were heat treated for the customer to the H-900 condition (900°F/ hours at heat). They were age hardened in a vacuum furnace to ensure parts were free of scale. The high tensile strength (200 KSI) produced by the heat treatment keeps the blades from shearing apart; the excellent ductility associated with the heat-treated material allows the propellers to withstand the RPM and torque conditions without failing. And a hardness of HRC 40 protects the blades from impact with potential debris in the water. 17-4 PH stainless steel properly heat treated also benefits from increasing torsional fatigue strength, a common cause of propeller failure.

Metlab provides heat treating solutions for highly technical parts and components. Consult with a metallurgical specialist at Metlab about your specifications and heat treating requirements.

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Cryogenic Processing at Metlab

Cryogenic processing is a special type of heat-treating process that involves cooling heat-treated steels and other metals to temperatures lower than -300°F. The deep chilling of heat-treated parts allows the metal molecules to be brought to “cryogenic stillness” to improve wear characteristics. When heat-treated steels are cooled to extremely cold temperatures, retained austenite is transformed to martensite, completing the heat treatment process. Retained austenite is brittle, and if not transformed to martensite, can cause chipping or cracking. As a worse case, retained austenite can act as nucleation sites for metal fatigue. Many heat treatment specifications, specifically for critical applications such as carburized gears or bearings, require deep-freezing the parts and a subsequent tempering operation to reduce or eliminate retained austenite and transform it to tempered martensite.

Cryogenic processing is performed by slowly cooling parts in a controlled bath of liquid nitrogen or a freezer, holding the parts until equilibrium is reached with the liquid’s temperature. Nitrogen is a liquid at -320℉. Cryogenically processed parts are generally held for one hour per inch of thickness. They are then gently heated to room temperature. For carburized and hardened steels and alloy steels, a final tempering at 300℉ for one hour per inch of thickness is done; tool and stainless steels are tempered at a higher temperature appropriate for developing required hardness and other properties. After the final temper, the microstructural changes are complete. The resulting part is significantly stronger and tougher than the unprocessed component.

Benefits of cryogenic processing include:
• Increased resistance to abrasive wear
• Improvement of the properties of the core of the part, not just the surface
• Decrease in residual stresses while increasing toughness and dimensional stability
• Parts may be subsequently reground or machined without affecting the results of the cryogenic process.

While the applications for cryogenics at times appear to be unlimited, parts that benefit from the process include:
• Knives including cutlery, hunting, diving, survival, and general blades; also, metal shear blades. Cryogenically processed knives made from tool and stainless steels like A-2, D-2, and 400 series stainless steel hold their sharp edge longer than their untreated counterparts.

Metlab - Operator

Operator removing a batch of cryogenically processed knife blades from a dry freezer prior to final tempering operation,
Blade Magazine, April 2012

• Forging dies – Cryogenic treatment of H-13 tool steel result in microstructural changes like fine martensitic structure, increase in carbide density, and uniform distribution, which improves hardness impact toughness, wear and stress rupture properties as compared to conventional hardened and tempered H-13 resulting in up to 25% longer tool life.

• Metal cutting tools like drills, taps, and dies, end mills, gear hobs, and broaches exhibit up to a five times improvement in tool life. Carbide tools also show enhanced performance believed to be from a shrink in the material filling in micro-voids between the tungsten carbide, titanium carbide, and/or tantalum carbide particles and cobalt binder. Medical and surgical tools and instruments also benefit from the process.

Metlab - Cryogenic Gears

Courtesy, RE Music, September 2019

• Gears and bearings made from 8620, 9310, and 18CrNiMo6-7 are susceptible to premature failure if they are not cryogenically processed to convert retained austenite to tempered martensite.
• Automotive applications including brake rotors, transmissions, clutches, brake parts, rods, crankshafts, camshafts axles, bearings, ring and pinion, heads, valve trains, differentials, springs, nuts, bolts, washers are also beneficiaries of cryogenic processing. Enhanced performance makes cryogenics a staple of NASCAR, Formula 1, Drag Racing teams.
• Rock mining tools, specifically pistons, the key component in a hammer, are made from highly alloyed steels. Their repetitive impact against the drill bit in the tool makes them subject to high wear, chipping, and fatigue failures. Hammer pistons are carburized and hardened and then deep-frozen to improve tool life.

Hammer and Drill Bits

Hammers and drill bits for rock mining. The pistons located in the hammer are subject to repetitive impact against the bit, making them susceptible to failure by chipping or fatigue. Cryogenic processing of the pistons improves tool life.
Courtesy, NUMA Hammers and Bits.

It is important to note that cryogenics is not a substitute for heat treating but an enhancement. It adds a critical finishing touch to the heat-treating process. It has seen limited acceptance and use, mainly due to a lack of understanding of the technology. Except for the conversion of retained austenite to martensite, changes in other microstructural features are not visible with a standard laboratory metallograph. But changes in the lattice structure of the metals cannot be disputed; reduced residual stresses and the performance benefits of the process are well documented.

Metlab has extensive experience with cryogenic treatment for a wide variety of applications and can consult with you to provide the best solution to meet your product specifications.

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Metlab Employee Wins 40 Under 40 Award

Metlab prides itself on hiring and developing great employees. Metlab’s Facility Manager, Shane Parrish, was chosen as one of Heat Treat Today’s “40 Under 40” industry employees and was awarded the Heat Treat Industry Young Leader Certificate.

Shane Cover

Shane Parrish, Facility Manager for Metlab, won the
Heat Treat Today’s 40 Under 40 Young Leader award.

Shane is an invaluable asset to Metlab. While attending engineering classes at night, he runs the maintenance operations in the plant, provides equipment modification ideas, and is a hands-on asset in keeping the plant running. He is an expert welder with creativity and skills and makes sure that the furnaces are safe and functional.
Shane has also demonstrated significant leadership by taking a lead role in plant safety by coordinating the safety committee and ensuring compliance with OSHA safe working practices. Shane’s knowledge of heat treating has grown significantly during his tenure with Metlab.

In high school, Shane developed a passion for designing equipment and projects on the computer using AutoDesk Inventor. Recently, Shane persuaded his company to invest in the program so that he could start designing upgrade projects for the facilities. Metlab also has many custom and old equipment, and their mechanical drawings are either out of date or unreadable. “With their investment in the program, I am reverse engineering the equipment here so that we have readable and usable mechanical drawings of the furnaces and equipment,” completing this work as an additional project to his in-house hours, he says.
Shane Parrish – Heat Treat Today 40 Under 40 award:
https://www.heattreattoday.com/40-under-40-2020/shane-parrish-heat-treat-today-40-under-40/
Heat Treat Today’s Complete 40 Under 40 list:
https://www.heattreattoday.com/40-under-40-2020/

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Metlab Hires Quality Manager

Metlab continues to build a successful business by providing quality heat treating and surface finishing services for its customers. To ensure this legacy, Metlab has recently hired Tom Guilliams as the Quality Manager for the company.

Tom Guilliams

Tom Guilliams – Metlab Heat Treating’s new Quality Manager

Mr. Guilliams started with Metlab in June 2020 and brought with him extensive experience in Quality Control as well as metallurgical testing. He oversees a wide range of processes and procedures, including production planning and material management.
“I manage with understanding and frequent communication,” Guilliams comments. “Engaging everyone in the Quality program requires patience. It is a learning process that I share with others, and it is an essential part of the continuous improvement process.”

Changes have already been implemented to enhance the quality focus throughout the organization:
• The Quality Manual is being reviewed and updated to bring the organization up to the 2015 ISO standard.
• The Calibration Log was updated: “one over one” certification review implemented to ensure accuracy.
• “Going Paperless” by using electronic communications for quality certifications instead of printouts and mailings.

Another area for improvement and change is in the testing lab. “I have a laboratory background and extensive connections in the testing field,” Guilliams notes. “Metlab has testing capabilities; however, we also use third-party labs for testing. I’m able to find the best labs for the most accurate testing, which are faster and less expensive.”

Part of the continual improvement process is training. Guilliams elaborates, “We provide company-wide training so that everyone understands the importance of quality. We have daily conversations about expectations and limitations. My job is to grow people as well as the business. We make sure that the customers are taken care of by having a customer-facing quality program in place throughout the entire organization.”

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Metlab Hires Vice President of Operations

Metlab Heat Treat has a long history of success, providing heat treating services to a wide range of industries. To ensure continued success and to elevate Metlab’s quality and efficiencies, the company recently hired Chris DiMascio as the Vice President of Operations.

Chris DiMascio

“My goal is to strengthen the core business from an operations perspective,” remarks DiMascio. “Processes need to be solidified, and new ones need to be put in place. This includes having the right people working on the right things. To accomplish this, we will be implementing Lean principles throughout the organization. The first year will be the equivalent to “polishing the apple.” As an example, we are already beginning to establish ownership and accountability throughout the organization.”

Mark Podob, Metlab’s President and Owner comments, “His work with us over the past few months has resulted in many major improvements to our operation. We are looking forward to the great experience that he brings to Metlab as we seek to grow our heat-treating operations.”

Mr. DiMascio has over thirty years of broad experience (including plastics, metals, and chemicals) in engineering and operations. He was most recently principal of OpX partners, his consulting firm, and prior to that COO of the Process Technologies Division for Johnson Matthey Inc., a British company with nine facilities worldwide.
He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA in Business Management from Penn State University.

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Metlab – COVID-19 Response

We are continuing to monitor the development of the situation around COVID-19. Our goal is to remain to be the high quality and responsive supplier to our valued customer base. Metlab is following the rules and guidelines established by authorities to ensure the safety of our employees and the community.

While state-wide or local “non-essential” business closure orders are in effect in many areas, our facility remains open. Metlab is a contractor to the United States Government and qualifies as an “essential” business and is therefore exempt from the closure orders issued to date.

As a supplier to many “life-sustaining businesses” and companies, Metlab will continue to remain open to provide heat treating services and support to our customers.

We thank all our employees, suppliers, and customers for your support, flexibility, and patience. We look forward to continuing to serve you in the future.

Sincerely,

Mark Podob
President

 

 

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How Energy Innovation Reaches Every Corner Of Metlab Heat Treating

Ninety-two years: that’s how long Metlab — the heat treatment company based in metropolitan Philadelphia — has been in business. Metlab began operations in 1928 as a manufacturer of struts for WWII-era aircraft. Today they specialize in heat treatment of parts and serve over 7,000 clients, who trust Metlab to treat parts ranging from under 1 pound in weight to over 25 tons.

Metlab runs on great equipment and great people. Their 125,000 square foot facility is home to 30 furnaces, the largest of which is 15 feet in diameter and 12 feet tall — among the largest of its kind in North America. Forty-one employees keep the facility’s operations humming at a brisk pace, and on any given month, Metlab completes work for at least 1,000 clients.

That’s quite a journey given the company’s humble beginnings almost a century ago, and Metlab has been able to improve and grow their business by embracing innovation and smart energy use at every opportunity.

Consuming Responsibly
Perhaps not surprisingly, the powerful furnaces used by Metlab consume substantial amounts of energy, and energy is the company’s single largest expense. All but two of Metlab’s furnaces run on natural gas, and according to President Mark Podob, getting up to 1,850 degrees Fahrenheit — the required temperature for certain treatments — demands a lot of gas.

In fact, natural gas is so critical to Metlab that Podob remembers a cross-town competitor going out of business in the wake of the 2014 polar vortex, which caused gas prices to spike to $125 per dekatherm. Protecting your bottom line from price spikes is all the more critical when your business uses as much energy as Metlab does.

Metlab has trusted Direct Energy Business with all of their energy needs for nearly 10 years, and currently has its natural gas price locked in until 2023. While getting a low price is necessary, budget certainty is paramount to Metlab’s procurement strategy.

“What’s really important is that we know how much our natural gas will cost so we can properly do our pricing and have cost control,” Podob explains. “It is so much better being with Direct Energy Business for all our energy needs. The price we pay is terrific and the service is phenomenal. It’s been a great relationship.”

Additionally, Metlab makes a point of investing in technology to cut down on energy use. Installing recuperators — which recycle exhaust gas back into burner gas, increasing the proportion of gas that is ultimately combusted — on two furnaces cost the company $75,000 per furnace about ten years ago. With help from a Department of Energy grant, Metlab made the investment, forecasting a payback period of roughly three years. This proved an underestimation, as the recuperators actually paid for themselves in a mere six months, significantly reducing the facility’s natural gas consumption and creating long-term cost savings.

Multilayered Motivations
The attitude toward energy use at Metlab includes more than just bottom-line calculations. While there is a clear business case for implementing energy-efficient features, the company sees smart energy use as a key to making Metlab a better place to work.

A recent six-figure investment for efficient light fixtures and LED lighting is forecasted to pay for itself in two years, but Podob argues that another critical benefit is creating a brighter, better-lit workplace. Furthermore, given that many workers at the facility are well-versed in furnace technology and know how much energy it takes to run the equipment, Metlab’s energy-saving investments are a signal to them that the company thinks of itself as a place where people can feel proud to work.

Metlab employees take pride in challenging themselves as craftspeople. In addition to treating parts for military helicopters, naval vessels and aircraft carriers, Metlab operates a six-foot diameter, 16-foot deep furnace where they perform treatments on parts for oil wells and drilling rigs. But they work with small parts, too, and certain projects requiring highly precise treatments have tested the company’s expertise. Hobbyists hoping to restore vintage automobiles and aircraft have approached Metlab with springs and other components in need of careful heat treatment; the company has even applied black oxide treatment to a suit of armor. There’s no project too niche, too complex or too unwieldy for Podob and company. Metlab has the equipment and know-how to heat treat almost any part imaginable.

heat-treatment

A New Generation
Metlab know-how extends to workforce development. The company trains and cultivates employees to become an integral part of the operation, including those without significant experience in the field.

Metlab also hosts educational facility tours and offers internships and full-time opportunities to future engineers. Podob believes hands-on learning helps students connect classroom studies with real-world engineering to discover what it takes to bring products and parts to life.

The company manufactures and heat treats car components, like gears and axles, at no charge for the Society of Automotive Engineering (SAE) students. SAE clubs all over the country look to Metlab for help designing and building their competition vehicles. The company has donated services and engineering consultation to students from Georgia Tech, Rowan University, Drexel, Temple, UPenn, and the U.S. Naval Academy.

Podob says, “We are always open to helping students learn and be a part of the manufacturing process for their projects. We like to do that; we like to give back.”

Beyond Energy
Metlab’s community-oriented philosophy extends to eco-responsibility and thoughtfully considering their entire operation. For example, Metlab previously used city water to cool their furnaces to the tune of about $12,000+ per month. Their new re-circulation system has cut water consumption and costs by more than two-thirds.

For Podob, it’s a matter of “getting the timing right” with respect to innovations and improvements. If ideas like water re-circulation, better lighting or recuperators for the furnaces will reduce Metlab’s environmental impact while also making financial sense, Podob considers it “a no-brainer.”

In addition to the long-term fiscal benefits, energy efficiency and smart procurement create value for the company’s culture. When a company does its part to protect the environment by using resources responsibly, the effect is accumulative; it becomes a better organization to do business with, a better place to work, and sets an example for others. It’s not easy to stay at the forefront of the industry after almost 100 years of business, but with the right attitude and openness to change, Metlab has set themselves up for a bright, productive future.

“I come to work every day and I look forward to being here,” Podob reflects. “Every day is a challenge and every day is different. We can do a job tomorrow and I may not see that again for five years, and then on Monday, a different project will come in that I haven’t seen for five years. As a job shop, we’re always working on something new and fresh.”

Article Source:
Direct Energy Business
https://business.directenergy.com/about-us/customer-stories/metlab?&vendorId=mktgc&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin

 

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Heat Treating Coffee Grinder Equipment Solves Wear Problems

Metlab provides many heat-treating services for a wide variety of parts and industries. A reoccurring project for coffee grinding equipment features nitrocarburizing of the piping and elbows that comprise the transportation system for the coffee beans. In this system, the coffee beans are moved from the roaster to the grinder. Coffee beans are abrasive, and the customer engineered the required heat treatment to solve a wear problem.


Coffee grinding equipment and transportation system with piping and elbows.

The specification requires the process to nitrocarburize the piping and elbows to form a white layer. This white layer is also known as a compound zone, and contains mixed nitrocarbides, with a minimum of 0.0001″ on the I.D. of each bent elbow. The heat treated piping elbows must not be polished or sandblasted to maintain the specification. The typically angled piping and elbows are about 5 5/8″ in diameter x 6′ for each leg and are made with ASTM A53 Type E Steel, Grade A, or B Low Carbon Steel.

The parts comprise of the following:
• Part: 5″ schedule 10 elbows with a 60″ CLR.
• Size: 5.5625″ O.D. x 5.2945″ I.D. x various lengths and angles
• Weight: 25 to 40 pounds each

Nitrocarburizing is a case hardening process that diffuses nitrogen and carbon into ferrous metals at 1050°F. The process temperature is below the tempering temperature of most steels, and the advantage of this process over other case hardening techniques is that there is no distortion or significant size change to the component being processed – the only size change is about 0.0005″ per side, the growth being the result of the diffusion of the hardening elements into the surface of the components. Therefore parts may be finish machined before heat treating. The process is used to improve scuffing resistance, enhance fatigue properties, and provide corrosion resistance.

Metlab processes the piping and elbows in approximately 72 hours, utilizing one of the two large pit furnaces on site. In addition to coffee grinding parts and components, Metlab provides nitrocarburizing for gears, bearings, and other parts that can benefit from improved wear resistance.

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Engineering Students Tour Metlab’s Facility

Metlab has a long history of supporting academia to encourage and educate young engineering students. This past October, students from the Industrial and Systems Engineering program at Temple University accompanied by their professor, Dr. Julie Drzymalski, toured the Metlab heat treating facility. The purpose of the tour was to expose the freshman and sophomore students to manufacturing and also stress the importance of heat treating to the success of engineered metal products. Each Metlab department was featured along the tour route, including vacuum heat treating, metal quenching, induction flame hardening, carburizing, nitriding, black oxide treatment, and several other process areas. The students also visited the quality control department, which is complete with a metallurgical lab.

Students
Industrial and Systems Engineering Program at Temple University
students getting ready to tour Metlab’s Heat Treating Facility.

The students were guided by Mark Podob, Metlab’s Company President. “Providing a “hands-on” opportunity for engineering students gives them an invaluable experience to learn what it takes to bring products and parts to life.” Podob remarks. “We are committed to supporting students and faculty to keep young minds engaged with manufacturing processes, equipment, and employees. In fact, Metlab hires students from Temple and other universities for both internships and full-time employment.” Dr. Drzymalski noted that Metlab uses 5S Lean Manufacturing in its operation, which was just covered one of her recent classes with the students, emphasizing classroom education with real-world engineering.

Metlab collage
Other processes featured during the tour included Annealing, Heat Treat Stress Relieving, Straightening, Carbonitriding, and Cryogenic Treatment.

For questions about Temple University’s Engineering Programs, Dr. Drzymaksi may be contacted at Julie.drzymalski@temple.edu.

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Heat Treating NASA Telescope Parts

Metlab heat treats and processes many parts and components for the United States military, government projects, and NASA. Recently, several telescope and mirror parts made of pure aluminum, copper, and titanium were treated for the new High-Resolution Mid-Infrared Spectrometer (HIRMES), that NASA is developing to expand the boundaries of astronomy research.

HIRMES-1

Cutaway illustration of HIRMES instrument.

A heavily modified Boeing 747SP that carries a 2.5m-diameter infrared telescope flies above ~95% of the Earth’s atmospheric water vapor, allowing astronomers to gain access to wavelengths that are not possible to observe from the ground, even with the most powerful ground-based telescopes.

Nasa jet
Modified Boeing 747SP equipped with an infrared HIRMES telescope

HIRMES’ prime investigation is a detailed study of the processes leading to the formation of planetary systems over a spectral range rich in ionic, atomic, and molecular lines. The HIRMES science program will determine the structure and evolution of protoplanetary disks and will increase our ability to model these systems as they evolve from homogeneous disks to fledgling planetary systems.

At the beginning of their lives, stars significantly interact with their environments, and the HIRMES program will advance our understanding of the ways these interactions regulate star formation.

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