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It’s been a challenging year for manufacturing (and for people in general) as our sector responds to the new landscape created by the pandemic. We’ve seen volume in some industries decline while others are in higher demand than ever. Some manufacturers have activated their heat treating contingency plans to satisfy demand or shift away from in-house processing. All around, our team’s and our customers’ nimbleness and ingenuity have been thoroughly tested. 
Through the chaos of 2020, we’ve still maintained our focus on datagineering—the combination of people, data, automation, and technology—to advance our ability to serve more customers better. In this article, you’ll see a few highlights of what we’ve learned and improved over the past year. 

Research: Hot Isostatic Pressing, High-Pressure Heat Treating, and Additive Manufacturing

Our hot isostatic press vessel came fully online in our Cleveland division in November 2019, housed in a new 30,000 square foot expansion at that facility. Before and since the launch, our metallurgy team has been conducting an independent study on the mechanical property benefits of high-pressure heat treatment when combined with hot isostatic pressing (HIP) for additively manufactured cobalt chrome (CoCr) components. 
The study examines how combining high-pressure heat treatment and HIP cycles affect the mechanical performance of CoCr parts manufactured using laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), as compared to the same parts treated using the historically accepted two-step HIP and heat treatment process. Our team is evaluating the tensile, fatigue, and toughness performance of the parts under both conditions. Derek Denlinger, our Lead Metallurgical Engineer, is leading the study and will be presenting our findings to the industry in 2021. 

Engineering and Metallurgy

Process Improvements

Our metallurgy and process engineering teams have been busy this year. The metallurgy team took a deep dive into our data, reviewing thousands of cycles, and implemented a significant process improvement in a specific area of tool steel processing. The result has led to quicker turnaround times for customers across the Paulo system through a new process that was validated by third party testing. 
The process engineers took on a complex continuous belt heat treatment job. Reducing handling and automating the final steps reduced the number of touches on the parts while eliminating a FOD risk.  Both projects were cross-functional and required effort from plant operations, corporate engineering, and our fabrication shop. 

Ferritic Nitrocarburizing for Large HPDC Dies

Another new capability for 2020 came with our custom-built, extra-large nitriding furnace that we designed in house. We built this piece of equipment to accommodate high-pressure die casting (HPDC) dies weighing up to 30,000 pounds. These large dies are especially common in the automotive industry, and it can be challenging for manufacturers to find heat treating partners with furnaces large enough to accommodate them. 

Metallurgy Minute Web Series Launch

Our metallurgy team also launched a new video series called the Metallurgy Minute. In these bite-sized videos, Paulo metallurgists answer common questions that manufacturers ask about heat treatment and material science. You can follow us on LinkedIn to see future videos, and find past videos on our website covering topics such as stainless steel, steel-to-steel cutting, and quench cracking.

Approvals and Awards

Here are a few of the awards, approvals, and re-certifications Paulo received in 2020:

  • Our Cleveland and Kansas City divisions earned Bell Textron approval
  • Kyle Moore, Andy Muto, Tee Rassieur, and Will Rassieur were named to Heat Treat Today’s Top 40 Under 40 list
  • Kathy Neumann, Corporate Director of EHS, was selected as Safety Professional of the Year by the Missouri Association of Manufacturers
  • Earl Leach, Safety Champion and Production Manager at Paulo St. Louis, was recognized by the Missouri Association of Manufacturers with this year’s Safety Excellence “Horizon” Award
  • The Cleveland division completed its AS9100 re-certification which added hot isostatic pressing ot the scope
  • Paulo was named Commercial Heat Treater of the Year by Industrial Heating magazine and the Metal Treating Institute

Looking Ahead to 2021

We are grateful to all of our customers and team members for their unwavering support of Paulo as we bring this chaotic year to a close. We are looking forward to continuing our datagineering focus in 2021 with several new strategic initiatives that will help us add more value to our customers’ businesses. We will also be publishing new thermal processing research that aims to advance metallurgical knowledge in our industry. Subscribe to our email newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn to stay updated with new content as we publish it. We’re looking forward to serving you in what we hope will be a safe, healthy, and prosperous new year. 

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