Room Temperature Blackening Process Adds Value For Metal Finisher

Since 1945, Metal Improvement Company (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), a wholly owned subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, has specialized in providing shot peening services to a range of industries including aerospace, automotive, chemical, marine, agricultural, mining and medical.

Case Study From: 5/15/2003 Modern Machine Shop

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Blackening small parts

This operator is blackening small parts in a slowly rotating acid-resistant plastic barrel. An overhead manual hoist moves the barrel from tank to tank through the line.

Since 1945, Metal Improvement Company (Milwaukee, Wisconsin), a wholly owned subsidiary of Curtiss-Wright Corporation, has specialized in providing shot peening services to a range of industries including aerospace, automotive, chemical, marine, agricultural, mining and medical. The process of shot peening improves fatigue properties of metal parts and provides resistance to stress corrosion cracking. Common applications include gears, springs, shafts and other components that are prone to high cycle fatigue.

As a value-added service to its customers, Metal Improvement recently installed an in-house, room temperature blackening system for use on their iron and steel parts. “By bringing the black oxiding and blackening process in-house and not having to send parts out, it’s given us greater convenience, and we’re obviously able to save a lot of time,” says Jeff Olwig, production manager. “We’re also able to maintain greater control over the quality of our parts, which was another important factor for us.”

After researching suppliers of room temperature blackening processes, Metal Improvement selected Electrochemical Products, Inc. (EPI) (New Berlin, Wisconsin) to manufacture and install its system. “Since EPI specializes in both hot and cold blackening processes, we felt comfortable that they could recommend the best method to fit our particular needs,” says Mr. Olwig. “They also provided us with finish sample parts so we could better compare the processes.”

EPI customers have access to technicians, chemists and chemical engineers for technical advice and service—all backed by a new laboratory facility that is said to feature the latest equipment. “We’ve received outstanding technical support from EPI,” adds Mr. Olwig. “When the InstaBlak system was installed, all of our operators received comprehensive training on the process. It’s very user-friendly, and the parameters for their cleaning solution, surface preparation solution and InstaBlak metal blackening solution are easy to control.”

“After comparing processes, we decided to go with a room temperature blackening system rather than the conventional 290º hot black oxide process,” says Mr. Olwig. “The cold process is safer for our employees to operate and offers improved overall productivity.”

With InstaBlak, the entire blackening operation can be completed in 10 to 12 minutes versus 30 to 40 minutes with a conventional hot black oxide process. Energy savings can also be realized with the room temperature process. Also, there is no leaching out when blackening powdered metal or cast iron parts as there typically is with conventional hot black oxide process. Additionally, the InstaBlak process produces essentially no dimensional change in precision-machined surfaces.

“We can blacken cold and hot rolled carbon steels, alloy steels, tool steels, as well as cast iron, forged steels and powdered metals in a single tank of room temperature blackening solution,” adds Mr. Olwig. In fact, Metal Improvement is now able to use its InstaBlak line to bring in outside blackening jobs from other manufacturers.

With the InstaBlak process, Metal Improvement is able to control the blackening solution. With other processes, the company would have had to send samples to an out-of-state lab for testing.

“With EPI, we saved 35 percent on the initial equipment and chemicals to charge the new line,” says Mr. Olwig. And, unlike hot processes, InstaBlak requires no special ventilation. “It’s so safe and convenient to use, we were able to put it right on the production floor.”

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