Adding Value Through Heat Treating ServicesBy Mirjam Schipper | Thu, 07/07/2022 - 09:24
Q: What factors are boosting the growth of the nitriding market?
A: Heat treating is a changing and growing market. Many shifts are happening in the automotive division, driven largely by global regulations governing EVs and the rapidly changing energy market. There is an opportunity for EVs to use more gas nitriding, the heat treatment process that diffuses nitrogen into a metal’s surface without affecting the base metal. Nitriding is used in a variety of industries, including aerospace, and Mexico has a vibrant and growing aerospace industry. The nitriding process makes it possible to obtain hard, wear-resistant surfaces using fairly low temperatures, which means less distortion of the parts and no need to re-machine them in the hardened state.
Q: In which sectors does Mexico present the most opportunities for the heat-treating market?
A: The automotive industry is crucial to Mexico’s manufacturing basebut there is a strong push in the aerospace sector. Automotive has been the driving force due to the country’s low labor costs and the USMCA provided excellent industrial and labor opportunities. Both industries are growing in Mexico. Our Queretaro facility is strategically located near Mexico's aerospace and automotive industrial clusters to serve all heat-treating needs quickly and efficiently.
Q: How did Nitrex navigate the pandemic?
A: Nitrex, like most companies, felt the effects of the pandemic, which were exacerbated by the automotive and aerospace shutdown, as well as the supply chain disruption. Thanks to our global footprint, industry diversification, and the collaboration of our dedicated employees, we were able to keep our production running and, more importantly, our employees safe and heathy.
During the different lockdowns, the entire company across the world worked to support one another. The Mexico market was no exception. We are glad to have such a strong team in place. While Covid had an impact on the manufacturing landscape, today, all our North Americans, European and Asian heat treat facilities have bounced back and are seeing a continuous increase in the number of orders.
Q: How is the automotive industry gradually shifting toward EVs?
A: The automotive industry is undergoing a revolution rather than a gradual shift. EVs, but also e-mobility, rising gas prices, supply chain disruptions, and stricter emission regulations are driving these ongoing changes. These, however, are also opening new opportunities for the surface treatment industry.
It should be noted that even if government and industries are pledging all-electric, the internal combustion engine (ICE) has not gone bust yet. The EU intends to eliminate the ICE by 2030, but no European country has developed adequate infrastructure to charge electric vehicles. While this revolution is pushed by regulation, it does not mean that the market is ready to scale quickly.
Despite this, Nitrex sees a large push in the coming years for EVs in many markets, including for some recreational vehicles.
Q: How has Nitrex expanded its business to the aerospace industry and what other sectors is the company exploring?
A: Nitrex works with and serves different levels and types of customers in the aerospace industry. We are Nadcap approved in Mexico and the United States, which represents a significant investment and a strong commitment to obtaining the necessary certifications. Aerospace has the highest quality standards of any industry, and we meet them in Mexico.
The next step is to get approved by OEM quality systems. This implies that we will continue increasing our equipment and process offerings, representing more investments in Mexico. Nitrex is committed to quickly penetrate the Mexican OEM industry and establish itself as a valuable partner. . It’s worth noting that Nitrex also makes and sells furnaces and equipment for processing a variety of aerospace parts. Furnaces such as vacuum furnaces, aircraft engine blade coating furnaces, and, of course, nitriding/nitrocarburizing furnaces. Nitrex furnaces are used in the aerospace industry all over the world.
Aside from aerospace, the recreation market is also interesting. Recreational vehicles, such as boats, RVs, jet skis, ATVs, and snowmobiles, are powered by gasoline engines, and there is little electrification in this sector. Rail, oil and gas, additive manufacturing (i.e., 3D printing), and construction are also attractive markets due to the economic outlook, government incentives, and new technologies. This creates new opportunities, which Nitrex is closely monitoring.
Q: What strategies have allowed Nitrex to adapt its operations to the latest technological trends in the market?
A: Nitrex has been committed to the principle of clean, green production since its inception. Nitrex furnaces are electrically heated, and our nitriding and vacuum furnaces are gaining market share in the heat processing industry. New advancements in energy-efficient technologies, hardware, and software have also resulted in cost savings as a result of lower gas consumption, optimized process times, and the elimination of post-finishing operations.
With artificial intelligence on the horizon for Nitrex furnaces, we're looking for new ways to maximize productivity, improve quality, and prevent failures by making smarter use of equipment and process data. Offering the right mix of equipment and technologies will not only allow us to expand further in existing and new markets, but will also make our customers more versatile and quicker to adapt to evolving manufacturing challenges while maintaining their competitive edge.
Q: What differentiators make Nitrex the ideal partner for clients looking for heat treatment products and services?
A: Getting great value from Nitrex equipment is only one part of our long-term strategy for customer service focus that aligns with the customer’s manufacturing and business goals. Nitrex assists customers in considering all angles and possible scenarios when purchasing heat-treating equipment and automation tools. We’re talking about the entire production footprint, setup, automation, key performance indicators, R&D simulation, safety factors, production throughput, prescriptive maintenance, and the ability to grow production and throughput in the present and future. We hook up facilities so that the customer can do the processing in-house, and management has all information at their fingertips. With our new AI platform, it is possible to integrate a whole plant to fully understand the processes, as well as know the exact costs by part, daily load factors, and consumable process inputs, among other data. This software platform will also allow the customer to simulate and create the recipes more quickly, ensure that each recipe is properly run and repeatable for the best part quality, and bring parts to market faster.
Nitrex provides heat treatment solutions and services that consistently set industry benchmarks and define and exceed the most stringent requirements for performance.