Nitrex to deliver automated nitriding cell to manufacturer

As part of an automotive company’s third phase of growth, a new Nitrex automated cell will be placed adjacent to the first cell, aiming to expand production capacity to meet increasing market demand. (Courtesy: Nitrex)

Nitrex has secured additional business with one of the biggest automotive manufacturers in China. This is the third order from the customer, and in this phase of development, the company will install a second automated heat-treating cell for nitriding automotive parts.

As part of the company’s third phase of growth, the new Nitrex automated cell, which will be placed adjacent to the first cell, aims to expand production capacity to meet increasing market demand. The investment in capital equipment will allow the customer to bring the production process in-house for greater control, flexibility, and enhanced effectiveness.

The decision to choose Nitrex as the single contractor for the full scope of the project was based on Nitrex’s holistic approach and expertise in plant automation solutions and capabilities as well as the quality and dependability of previous system installations. Additionally, the Nitrex eco-friendly solution met the customer’s requirements for green manufacturing and responsible growth now and into the future.

Nitrex will undertake almost all aspects of the cell for 24/7 lights-out manufacturing: furnaces, charge cars, loading/unloading and magazine tables, and auxiliary equipment (e.g., atmosphere neutralizer, water cooling stations, charge cooling station, etc.). All equipment will be connected to the Protherm 9800 automation platform for automatic handling and processing, which improves workflow efficiency, process reliability, furnace utilization, work order tracking, and real-time performance metrics.

For this latest order, six continuous flow-through nitriding systems, furnace model NXHL-910512, were ordered to create the fully automated cell. Delivery is planned for August 2022, and the cell should start operating in the fall.

Previously, during phase 1, three nitriding furnaces were delivered in August 2021 to create the first automated cell. Satisfied with the development and cooperation with Nitrex and the turnkey systems and Nitreg® technology, the customer ordered three more furnaces for phase 2 to complete the cell. These last three nitriding systems are currently under production and will be delivered in April 2022.

The complexity of this project is what makes it unique and interesting, as the automated cell is responsible for automatic loading/unloading, processing, and transport.

“A cell means that there is a dedicated area in the facility with entry and exit points,” said Marcin Doroszko, engineering manager at Nitrex. “The cell controls the entire operation and smartly organizes the transport of charges between these points and the process stages in between. Upon entry, a trolley/charge car takes the charge to the washer, where the load is automatically cleaned. The charge is then moved to the furnace to be nitrided. With this stage complete, the load exits the cell and is transferred to the warehouse.”

“This chain of events helps increase the plant’s efficiency and productivity: The cell selects the furnaces in which it is possible to place consecutive batches or delivers the batches to several furnaces to process. Since charges are transferred to a cooling station outside the furnace, the furnace can continuously process batches without affecting the workflow and productivity,” said Nikola Dzepina, international account executive. “This is a huge process simplification for the furnace operator and enables an automatic and autonomous operation of the area of the plant that controls surface treatment, allowing to increase productivity but also to maintain the repeatability of results. This deeply integrated and optimized approach is the future of heat treatment.”