Humberto Ramos

Mexican Company Closes Treatment Gap

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 13:50

There are few companies in Mexico capable of performing secondary treatments, which means unfinished products are sent north of the border and back again for final processes. Read between the lines and what appears is an opportunity. HT-MX, a fully Mexican SME Heat Treatment plant, is taking aim at this opportunity, says Humberto Ramos, the company’s CEO.

“HT-MX Heat treatment fills a gap in the supply chain and helps companies produce whatever they want to produce. For the past 15 years, the state of Chihuahua has been unable to provide special treatments, not machining or stamping but secondary manufacturing processes including coating, paints and heat treatments. By closing this gap in the supply chain, we enable the region to add more value to the products it manufactures. Our goal is for Chihuahua to stop relying so much on manual labor and to become more technologically oriented by offering finished products worldwide,” says Ramos.

The company is a relatively new player in the sector. It began operations five years ago when it focused mostly on the automotive industry, where higher volume orders are commonplace, says Ramos. “Once we gained experience in this sector we were able to fine-tune our projects and now we are beginning to contact aerospace companies. So far, the reception has been extremely positive. At this point, we divide our operations equally between automotive and aerospace but we expect our aerospace division to quickly surpass automotive.”

Heat treatments vary widely depending on the part, the alloy the component is made of and its final use. Yet, these treatments are extremely important and controlling the heat treatments that a part undergoes allows manufacturers to determine its hardness and other mechanical properties. HT-MX has a complete metallurgical laboratory that helps customers analyze their products and even design the heat treatment they require. “We began doing mostly stainless- steel work for interiors but now we perform more steel work as we incorporate more customers who manufacture structural parts made of stronger alloys,” Ramos says.

The company’s most popular processes for the aerospace sector are treatment of carbon alloys, including processes such as quenching, carburizing, carbonitriding, nitriding, nitrocarburizing, annealing, normalizing and stress relief. It also performs hardness and microhardness tests among other complementary services and sees a growing demand for controlled atmosphere heat treatments. “At this point, the aerospace sector represents a huge opportunity as it involves processes that are extremely hard to do,” says Ramos. "A successful heat treatment has significant engineering behind it because the process requires precise control of time and temperatures, consideration of the part’s chemical composition and analysis of the atmospheric conditions," he adds. While challenging, the process is also extremely important because it determines the mechanical properties of parts.

While the availability of these service providers is expected to attract more manufacturers, Ramos says there remains a need for more special-processes suppliers. “When companies come to the state to evaluate a potential investment, they analyze the supplier base before making a final decision.”

In aerospace, HT-MX focuses mostly on alloy steels, emphasizing excellent delivery times, quality service and competitive prices. “Our goal for 2017 is to transform HT- MX into an aerospace company. We are installing a new line of furnaces exclusively for the aerospace sector. To fully enter the industry, we are improving our lean manufacturing systems and quality system.”

HT-MX is also investing in more specialized equipment to improve its offer. “We are installing a couple of new aerospace operations including hot isostatic pressing (HIP) and Austempering.” The company will begin introducing additional furnaces and expects that these processes will allow it to continue its growth spurt. “In 2016, we increased our batch capacity by 100 percent. Our sales are expected to grow by 65 percent in comparison with 2016. We currently focus on heat treatments but we are always open to new services and processes.”