Abstract

Low pressure carburizing (LPC) is a proven, robust case hardening process whose potential is only limited by the style and size of vacuum furnace. Today, LPC is typically used in horizontal vacuum furnaces where the opportunity to carburize large parts is limited. In this paper we present a new adaptation of the technology in large pit type vacuum furnaces, capable of opening to air at elevated temperature. This underscores the potential of LPC to carburize larger, more massive parts in a clean, effective and efficient process. The result is quality casehardened parts without the undesirable side effects of atmosphere gas carburizing such as the use of a flammable atmosphere, reduced CO and NOx emissions, no intergranular oxidation, and limited retort life. Another significant advantage is decreased process time. The case study presented here shows that eliminating furnace conditioning and increasing process temperature can significantly reduce cycle durations by nearly three times and cut utility costs in half. Under these conditions, a return on investment (ROI) is in the neighborhood of 1 – 2 years is possible, making LPC in a pit style furnace a cost-effective solution than traditional atmosphere gas carburizing technologies.

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