Originally shared July 6, 2023
This week we would like to explore the importance of atmosphere zoning combined with temperature zoning in powdered metal sintering. A well-known concept now, this idea to significantly improve, quality, efficiency and productivity in a PM sintering furnace was initially developed and promoted by TAT Technologies' president, Harb Nayar, when he worked at Airco in the late 1970s.
While atmosphere zoning has already positively impacted the sintering practice for over 40 years, we believe it is not being implemented to its full potential in practice. We often find that PM plants are content to think of a sintering furnace as a "black box" where parts enter on one end and come out sintered on the other end. As long as part quality is acceptable, they are happy to remain in a stagnant comfort zone and give little thought to what is happening inside the furnace. A lot of valuable productivity and savings in energy and cost per lb. are being lost as a result.
Harb wants to address this with his new approach to PM: LEAN and CLEAN Sintering. The goal is to achieve maximum possible throughput at minimum possible maintenance, atmosphere, energy and overall cost per lb. To do this, it is absolutely necessary to optimize both atmosphere and temperature zoning in a sintering furnace by taking a walk with parts as they travel from one to the other end of the furnace. Harb has decided to share the original paper he wrote on the subject to better educate about the importance of this aspect of PM sintering. Once the concept is fully understood, the "black box" will become a "transparent box" that will allow the sintering process to be improved SIGNIFICANTLY.
The paper, Atmosphere Zoning to Optimize Productivity During Sintering of Steel, was first published by the MPIF and APMI in Progress in Powder Metallurgy - Volume 40, 1984 Annual Powder Metallurgy Conference Proceedings, pages 255 – 266.
This paper's findings prove the importance and benefits of strict atmosphere zoning. We're hoping it will inspire you to take another look at your own production and see if there are areas to be improved. If you don't know where to start, TAT Technologies specializes in PM sintering and we would be happy to assist any PM company through training classes or onsite consultation and optimization. If you feel you could benefit, please contact me for more information about our classes and services related to sintering.