Solar Atmospheres Vacuum Furnace Yields Impressive Results

HERMITAGE, Pa. — A vacuum furnace retrofitted for use in a new metal injection molding and additive manufacturing binder removal technology application at Solar Atmospheres of Western PA is yielding impressive results after more than a month of operation, according to a company release.

In 2021, the company began retrofitting the vacuum furnace for the application in an effort to build a vacuum sintering furnace with a new innovative hot zone and pumping technology that would minimize and target the deposit of detrimental binders evaporating out of parts for metal injection molding and additive manufacturing, according to the release.

After repeated 2,400°F sintering cycles, the hot zone of the furnace “remains immaculately clean,” the release states.

“The problematic binders coalesced exactly where they were targeted to consolidate – within a separate heated pumping port while keeping the primary pump and booster uncontaminated,” the company states. “Most importantly, the customer reported that their sintered parts processed in this new furnace never looked better.”

The metal injection molding parts were “extremely bright” and met their critical density and dimensional requirements, according to the release.

Solar Atmospheres expects “considerable” maintenance savings on the dedicated furnace versus processing the work in a traditional vacuum furnace, which it states required a scheduled monthly shutdown. That added labor and material costs, when added to lost production time and degradation on the life of the hot zone, cost the company more than $180,000 per year, according to the release. Projected annual maintenance costs for the new furnace will be $10,000.

“Knowing the effects of what [metal injection molding] and certain [additive manufacturing] processing had done to our equipment in the past, Bill Jones and the engineers at Solar Manufacturing developed an innovative solution for us,” Bob Hill President of Solar Atmospheres of Western PA, said in the release. “Having this newly designed vacuum furnace will be an asset for our future in MIM and AM processing.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.