Winter 2005 Issue 3
In This Issue

Metals and Money

When Does Oxy-Fuel Make Sense?

Creating a Competitive Business Together

What's New?

Atmosphere Isn't Just Equipment, It's Experience and Expertise

Ask the Expert

Where to Find Us

Meet This Quarter's Metal Head: Russell Hewertson

Useful Web Links

Contact Us


Quotes and Quips

Every body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it.
— Isaac Newton 1687
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Matematica

Contact Us
You can request more information or any of the documents referenced in this issue by calling us at 800-654-4567 code 204, or sending us an e-mail.


If you are having trouble viewing the graphics, click here to view the newsletter online.

Metals and Money

For accurate forecasting and planning, it helps to understand the movement of key industry indices. The following graphs, compiled by Air Products' economists, illustrate three-year trends for utility and metals pricing as well as industrial production. We'll continue to keep you updated once a quarter.

Industrial Production Indexes Industrial Production Indexes
Source: US Federal Reserve Bank Board of Governors
Click here to view the graph.


Utility Pricing Metrics Utility Pricing Metrics
Source: Inside F.E.R.C., Bureau of Labor Statistics
Click here to view the graph.


Steel Prices Steel Prices
Source: Market Pricing
Click here to view the graph.


Key Metals Prices Key Metals Prices
Source: London Metals Exchange
Click here to view the graph.


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When does oxyfuel make sense?

With today’s high fuel costs, industrial gas suppliers often get asked if oxygen can save their customers money. The economics depend on plant operations and particular business needs, but usually oxygen makes sense when customers want to increase production or reduce emissions of NOx and particulates. For a customer who can take advantage of 20% to 30% more production at 15% to 20% lower cost per pound of product, oxygen technologies are a great fit. These customers often realize paybacks of two to three months with doubled profit margins. However, if the only goal is to reduce fuel costs, oxy-fuel combustion may not be the best approach.

To find out more about how oxy-fuel works, what factors have the greatest effects on the economics, and the different technologies used for different applications, view the entire article (PDF, 16 K).

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Creating a Competitive Business Together

With business growing an average of 17% per year, Solar Atmospheres has become one of the largest commercial vacuum heat treaters in the United States.

Solar operates a large horizontal vacuum furnace, and initial production runs have been impressive, with cycle times for four titanium coils weighing 30,000 pounds cut in half and a power efficiency that exceeds design specs and rated capacity by 50%. But the "big" story coming out of Hermitage, Pennsylvania is a 24-foot vacuum furnace and the unique, rapid gas quenching system developed to cool huge loads in a hurry.

Solar has been able to speed quench rates in its furnaces by 30% by switching from 100% argon to 100% helium, using a highly efficient power supply, and "overspeeding" the fans. "At these quench speeds, I can cool thick sections of 4140 and 4340 stainless steels and bearing steels right in the furnace, where before, they would have been removed and quenched in oil," says William R. (Bill) Jones, Founder and CEO.

Between supplying high purity helium and providing exceptional technical expertise, Air Products has been instrumental in the success of Solar's new vacuum furnaces.

Read the full case study to learn about other helium solutions provided to Solar Atmospheres (PDF, 503 K).

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What's New?

New metals website offers technical information
As part of our effort to promote learning and technological innovations in the metals industry, we have redesigned our metals website to make it easier to navigate and find the information you're looking for. Visit www.airproducts.com/metals for technical papers and literature, Ask the Expert questions and answers, useful safety and gas-related information, and more.

New alliance expands service, technology offerings
Air Products has entered into a marketing agreement with Surface Combustion, Inc., a leading manufacturer of thermal systems equipment used in metals processing and heat treating, to jointly market an integrated portfolio of products and services to the metals processing industry in North America.

In many instances, customers use industrial gas and generated atmospheres for their process due to a combination of metallurgical and economical factors. When taking these factors into account, this relationship allows both companies to offer a unique, one-stop solution. The complementary mix of offerings includes a variety of industrial gases, atmosphere generators, equipment, services, and technologies.

"The bottom line is that a joint marketing approach allows both companies to better serve our mutual customers," explains Meri Lazar, Air Products' metals market manager. "For Air Products, this means we are now in a unique situation to offer a broad range of solutions and technologies to a broader base of metals customers."

Assess Your Operation
Want to know how you can save thousands of dollars and create a safer work environment? The Metals Processing Assessment Center can help. Developed by a team of industry experts from Air Products and ASM International, this 10-minute online assessment will instantly generate a personalized report full of improvement ideas that can:

  • Reduce process variability and operating costs by thousands of dollars
  • Improve asset utilization, part quality, and process monitoring and control
  • Create a safer workplace.
Taking the assessment also enters you in our "Head of the Class" contest for four days of world-class best practice training at ASM's campus in Ohio. This includes tuition for the program, housing, breakfast, and lunch each day, and one group dinner. Log on—you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

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Atmosphere Isn't Just Equipment, It's Experience and Expertise

Choosing the right atmosphere for a process is not simply a matter of elaborate equipment; it requires knowledge of which gases tend to react with the metal, what must be controlled, how close the control must be, and the production patterns.

While many companies have developed their own methods of cost and profitability analysis, many of these models do not consider all of the cost-of-ownership factors that affect the real productivity of the operation. Air Products can help you evaluate your operational costs to determine the most cost-effective atmosphere for your operation.

To learn more, read "The Theory and Economics of Atmosphere Selection," from the January/February issue of Heat Treating Progress (PDF, 376 K).

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Ask the Expert

Thomas Niehoff

Thomas Niehoff
Principal Industry Engineer

Q: How can I optimize melting of contaminated metal scrap??

A: Metal scrap that is contaminated with combustibles like oil, paint, or plastic is difficult to melt with conventional methods. Thermal delacquering systems are often used to pretreat the scrap before it is melted, but these systems increase operational costs. Processing contaminated scrap directly in air-fuel melting furnaces also has many drawbacks. In addition to the high combustion gas volumes, the fumes of the combustible material typically overwhelm the baghouse systems in terms of gas volume load, particles, and temperatures. Also, particle load and contamination of the furnace gases often do not allow operating regenerative burner systems, making energy-efficient melting hard to achieve.

Get the rest of the answer.

View the "Ask the Experts" archive.

Send us your questions. Each quarter, we'll select the most challenging question to win a $100 gift certificate. Congratulations to Dave Brady, last quarter's winner.

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Where to Find Us

Our representatives will be at the following trade shows. We hope to see you there to discuss your metals processing needs.

  • ShipTech 2005, March 1-2, 2005, Biloxi, Mississippi
  • Plant tour at Air Products Air Separation Plant, March 15, 2005, El Segundo, California
  • WESTEC 2005 Exposition & Conference, April 4-7, 2005, Los Angeles, California
  • CastExpo05, booth 5916, April 16-19, 2005, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Metal Powder Industries Federation Conference, June 19-23, 2005, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
  • 23rd Heat Treating Conference and Exposition, September 26-28, 2005 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Meet this quarter's metal head--Russell Hewertson

Russell Hewertson Leave it to an avid soccer fan to understand the value of teamwork. A coach and devotee of "football," as they call the sport in his native Britain, Russell Hewertson's desire to work with others toward a common goal makes him an ideal person to head up Air Products' commerical technology team focusing on combustion.

Russ has nearly 15 years of technical expertise overseeing air separation units, nonferrous and aluminum melting, coil annealing, extrusion, rotary, and reverb furnaces. Most recently, he has been working with steel foundries and other industries to help integrate oxy-fuel systems.

Customer service is a priority for Russ. He often remains on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And he's even resolved problems with issues such as programmable logic controls at 2 a.m. (much to the dismay of his wife). He enjoys the team effort he and his colleagues put in with customers.

"Here, you form long-term friendships," says Russ. "You see lots of different challenges, operations, and personalities. And at the end of the day, you helped someone be more competitive and delivered real value to them. It's extremely satisfying."

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Useful Web Links

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Contact Us

You can request more information or any of the documents referenced in this issue by calling us at 800-654-4567, code 204, or by sending an email to gigmrktg@airproducts.com.

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© Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. 2005