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Driving Customer Success with VacTec Steel

Vacuum carburizing technology’s day has come.

Launched eight years ago, VacTec™ steel is an economical line of alloy steels designed specifically for vacuum carburizing heat treatments. It offers greater performance and more desirable properties at a lower cost than other competing carburizing steel grades.

Gears, bearings, shafts and axles made with VacTec exceed performance expectations and help save customers money through increased process throughput and minimized scrap rates.

In the past, VacTec grades have proved themselves in a number of customer applications, but were hindered in the industry by lack of capital investment in vacuum carburizing furnaces in a depressed economy. Now, vacuum furnace manufacturers are introducing innovative new furnaces that are ideal for VacTec grades.

Using VacTec steel in a vacuum carburizing heat treat process also offers benefits that are friendly for both the environment and the bottom line. For customers performing their own vacuum carburization, the process consumes much less natural gas, allows for shorter cycle times and requires less furnace idling than older carburization methods – reducing both environmental impacts and energy costs. In addition, the vacuum carburizing process provides better conditions for distortion control, which is a critical cost and performance attribute for the customer.

Our VacTec family of steels evolved from traditional carburizing steel grades using a lean alloy approach. They are ideal for critical components that are subjected to high cyclic or impact stresses by being harder on the outside and tougher on the inside. Don’t just take our word for it.

Daniel H. Herring of The Herring Group, Inc., known as "The Heat Treat Doctor,” says there is considerable in interest in vacuum carburizing technology around the world.

“The aerospace industry and more recently the automotive industry are the drivers, but many other industries such as machine tool and light industrial have followed their lead,” said Herring. “Quite a number of companies either have adopted the technology or are planning to rely on its capabilities for the success of their next generation of products.

“There is also great interest in new steels as companies look to transition from legacy steels (1018, 8620) and by companies hoping to achieve similar results using lower gas pressures for better distortion control.”

One of the key characteristics of TimkenSteel’s VacTec is the ability to maintain fine austenite grain structure when heated to high carburizing temperatures, enabling cycle-time reductions and reduced heat treatment costs. Vacuum carburizing technology allows TimkenSteel’s customers to carburize at higher temperatures where traditional carburizing grades may not survive in a fine grained state. VacTec grades are designed to take advantage of this high temperature carburizing capability to fully benefit our customers’ cost reduction requirements.

For more information, download our VacTec brochure in our Steel Resource Library.

Patrick Anderson is Manager of the Advanced Modeling group for TimkenSteel in the Advanced Steel Technology department. He received his BS and MS degrees in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) in 2003 and 2006. Patrick joined TimkenSteel in 2006 and has since worked on projects related to alloy development and advanced computer modeling of metallurgical processes.

Mike Burnett is a technologist at TimkenSteel and has been with the company for more than 30 years. Mike earned a bachelor’s degree in metallurgical engineering at Purdue University and a master’s in metallurgical engineering at Colorado School of Mines. The American Iron and Steel Institute awarded him a 2015 finalist medal for his “Improved Broaching Steel Technology” paper.