Chihuahua: All You Need for ManufacturingBy Sofía Hanna | Tue, 06/22/2021 - 10:45
Q: How is HT-MX helping Chihuahua become more technologically oriented? How are you contributing to the introduction of advanced solutions to the local aerospace supply chain?
A: The pandemic and the Boeing 737 Max crisis created a shift in global manufacturing, as goods and parts previously manufactured in Asia or Europe are now being manufactured in North America. That puts Mexico in a strategic position to take advantage of these opportunities. Mexico now has a more integrated manufacturing environment and many gaps in the manufacturing chain recently have been filled by emerging companies.
About three years ago, HT-MX started a project to introduce a new technology to Mexico called hot isostatic pressing, or HIPing. We just launched it in March, and we are the first company in Latin America to offer this service. This process is not only a heat treatment, it involves both high pressure and high temperatures. Having this service available in Mexico allows companies to manufacture more complex parts locally. We have also introduced additional services to our NADCAP scope, including carbon steel and stainless-steel processing, aluminum lab services and now the Hiping process.
Q: What opportunities do you see for further collaboration between the automotive and aerospace sectors in terms of technology development and component supply?
A: The aerospace and automotive industries have similarities but their whole approach is fundamentally different. Certain processes are compatible, such as the more high-tech processes like HIPing and other heat treatments. But there is always a difference in the approach. HT-MX’s advantage is in our multi-industry approach, which allows us to serve both the aerospace and automotive industries.
HT-MX focuses more on the aerospace industry and works both with regional and national customers. But there are always some interesting automotive projects with similar requirements to those of the aerospace industry. Those are the ones we are looking for.
Q: How have you innovated in your processes to make them more efficient in terms of resource use and component performance?
A: Some of our projects involve fixed processes where clients specify exactly how the heat treatment must be done. Our opportunities to increase efficiency are in that spectrum. We have been conducting statistic studies of the time required to complete a heat treatment and of the steps before it. We improved efficiency by up to 10 percent this year with some of our largest customers. HT-MX’s approach is statistically oriented.
Q: How have material specifications evolved in the aerospace sector and how has that pushed your technology forward?
A: The alloys that we usually see in the aerospace industry have not really changed. What has changed is our ability to heat treat more exotic alloys. But we have seen that parts manufactured in Mexico are made out of better, higher-quality materials, which makes them more valuable.
Q: With the advances in 3D printing, how attractive has HIPing become in the aerospace industry?
A: The main goal of HIPing is increasing mechanical properties by increasing the density of the materials. With pressure and temperature, the materials are compressed to eliminate any porosity inside them, which makes them safer. Porosity is a characteristic of everything that is 3D printed and every 3D printed part that is subject to mechanical forces must undergo a hot isostatic pressing process. That is where we come in. Part of the goal behind implementing HIPing was to be prepared for the shift toward additive manufacturing. This shift might take a while but by the time a company finishes developing these parts, we will be ready with a proven process that has the certifications required.
Q: Why is HT-MX the most attractive option for investors looking for heat treatments?
A: Heat treatment has been our core business for many years. We have developed and certified our processes according to the strict standards of the aerospace industry. We are also one of the few plants in the world with such a broad range of service. It is uncommon to have a single plant that can heat treat and provide a range of solutions. Our aerospace customers also work with aluminum and stainless steel and we are able to process their parts in the same plant.
Additionally, we have been approved by OEMs and other suppliers.
Q: How has USMCA impacted your operations and what future do you see for the aerospace industry in Chihuahua?
A: We have not seen any direct impact from the USMCA but the changes coming to the manufacturing world will introduce opportunities to the North American region. The US is not going to return to the manufacturing practices it had in the 1950s or the ‘60s because it has elevated its manufacturing requirements. In Mexico, we need to be ready to get those opportunities and start manufacturing those parts. The local industry is certainly more mature but has not fully met the needs of international companies.
There are many opportunities but they are not easy to get; they require a lot of work, investment and patience. Opportunities will be there but Mexican companies need to be willing to take risks and to put in the work required.
Q: How do you collaborate with clusters or other aerospace companies to develop a stronger local supply chain?
A: We work with FEMIA, commerce chambers and Chihuahua’s aerospace cluster. The more aerospace companies that require heat treatments, the more business we get. We help them develop and get to a point where they are cost-effective, at least in secondary processes, so they can compete globally.
We are also always looking for opportunities to co-develop parts. We want to join forces with other industry sectors in Chihuahua to offer a finished product that includes heat treatment, machining and surface finishes. In the end, being part of an industrial community means knowing that for us to grow, others have to grow as well.