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Complete Heat Treating Realizes Substantial Improvements with Polymer Quenchants

One job that took two weeks due to reworks now done in two days, the result of Tenaxol polymer quenchant with anti-foaming agent and greater concentration consistency 

Brothers TJ (left) and Jacob Dohlun operate Complete Heat Treating, companion company to Wisconsin Steel Industries, both in the Milwaukee area. Complete operates open fire furnaces and quench tanks to process large steel castings and forgings, as well as metal fabrications and some aluminum parts.

Brothers TJ (left) and Jacob Dohlun operate Complete Heat Treating, companion company to Wisconsin Steel Industries, both in the Milwaukee area. Complete operates open fire furnaces and quench tanks to process large steel castings and forgings, as well as metal fabrications and some aluminum parts.

TJ and Jacob Dohlun are not easily impressed.  Despite their relatively young ages, 40 and 32 respectively, they have both worked in the family’s dual heat treating businesses in the Milwaukee area, as far back as they can remember.  Their grandfather, Theodore Dohlun, started Wisconsin Steel Industries in 1939 and the family has had involvement in heat treating for three generations.  Their dad Ted continued the tradition until his recent retirement and both of the “boys” have been active a long time.  They began Complete Heat Treating in 2007 as a separate entity and run it with their mother, Chris Dohlun.

Both Wisconsin Steel and Complete Heat Treating run commercial heat treating operations, serving regional manufacturers in the mining, construction, wind energy, rail, government contract, medical, off-road and agricultural equipment industries.  They also serve companies as far away as Brazil, however.  Combined, they employ approximately 50 people at the two facilities, processing materials such as 4140 and 4340 steel in the forms of castings and forgings up to 100,000 pounds, as well as fabrications and some aluminum parts.

Never ones to rest on their laurels, however, TJ and Jake have been making significant improvements in their operations, especially on the technology side.  They use a proprietary software system to operate their furnaces, they’ve incorporated a number of green initiatives into the business operation and, about a year ago, switched their polymer quenchant supplier to the originator of that chemistry, Tenaxol (Elkhorn, Wisconsin).

At Wisconsin Steel and Complete Heat Treating, they run a total of 13 open fire car bottom and feed furnaces with capacities up to 1,000,000 pounds and workspaces up to 52’ long x 20’ wide x 16’ high.  Quench tanks at the facilities range up to 40,000 gallons.

Typically, hardness and mechanical specs are supplied by the customers and the metallurgists and chemists in the labs at these facilities work to determine the optimum processing conditions.  Wisconsin Steel is rated to the GE Nuclear standards, while Complete Heat Treating received its ISO 9001:2008 certification just recently.

Many value-adding secondary services are supplied here, including machining, straightening, roto-blasting and saw cutting, as well as metalcoating.

The quenching operations at Complete were a particular challenge, owing to the large parts processed here, the dwell times in the quench tanks and the recurrent problems of concentration flux and, most notably, foaming and dragout.  As TJ explains, “We were having a lot of problems on one part, a spun metal with thin but substantial surface area and a rimmed edge.  The dragout and the excessive foaming were causing us to rework parts to hit the spec.  There were shipping delays and we were struggling to hold the concentrations in the tanks for any extended period.”

Previous polymer quenchants were causing excessive foaming and were inconsistent in holding concentrations. Both problems were overcome with Tenaxol polymer quenchants, according to the brothers.

Previous polymer quenchants were causing excessive foaming and were inconsistent in holding concentrations. Both problems were overcome with Tenaxol polymer quenchants, according to the brothers.

Jacob adds, “We had been talking to Tenaxol about their anti-foaming products and, despite some cost differences with our then-current supplier, we agreed to testing.  Although we were not a customer, the Tenaxol team really went the extra mile to give us the best results their lab could suggest.”  As a result, Tenaxol Quench 2500 Ultra polymer quenchant with a non-nitrite corrosion inhibitor, defoamer and biocide was purchased from this new supplier and the results have been outstanding, according to the Dohlun brothers.  “We no longer have consistency issues, the percentages stay in line, plus we can vary the temperatures in the tanks without compromising performance.  That opens more opportunities for new business and it’s been working very well.”  Complete Heat Treating is currently on a record sales pace, with more customers and much faster throughput, boasting a 25% increase in sales and working capacity today.  On that spun metal part, for example, TJ notes, “We went from two weeks with a lot of rework to two days on a typical batch.”  Jacob adds, “The savings in staged deliveries alone run to thousands of dollars, each time.”Complete is now able to process a wider range of materials, as a result of using Tenaxol quenchants, according to the brothers, who credit Jim Harrison, CEO at Tenaxol, and his team of chemists and metallurgists with much of the significant improvement in their processing scenario.

TJ Dohlun takes a temperature measurement on a batch of steel parts in quenching.

TJ Dohlun takes a temperature measurement on a batch of steel parts in quenching.

Describing the situation when the previous quenchant vendor was used, “On that spun metal part, for example, our stacker crane would come out of the tank, full of foam.  It looked like a bubble bath,” Jacob joked.  TJ further noted the drain-off of the Tenaxol product allowed the parts to enter the tempering furnace much faster, avoiding excess cooling of the surface area.   The Complete customer for this job, Rich Prescott of Glenn Metalcraft (Princeton, Minnesota), echoes the Dohlun’s, “The turnaround time has been super.  They made great improvement in their deliveries to us over the last year and that’s helped us satisfy our customers faster.”

“This anti-foaming agent in the Tenaxol product has literally changed our shop,” TJ concludes.  Jacob also cited the supplier’s customer service.  “We get help from their lab on a regular basis, including water testing and support documentation, which is necessary for the PPAP requirements of several customers.”  He adds, “Jim (Harrison) and his team did a lot of testing for us, before making their final recommendations and they continue to help us fine tune our operation.”  He further noted Tenaxol’s involvement with MTI was important.  “This supplier supports our industry and that meant a lot to us.”  The supplier also provided a solution to problems Complete was experiencing in their cooling tower water by conducting lab testing, automated equipment and cost-effective chemical treatments, according to Dohlun.

As a result of this initial relationship with Tenaxol, Complete Heat Treating has expanded its purchases of products to include various greases and lubricants from this vendor, which is part of the Chemtool family of companies, a wide-ranging industry supplier of myriad lubricant, cleaning and metalcutting fluid products.

To see a video of heat quenching at Complete Heat Treat, click HERE.

For more information on this story, interested parties should contact:

COMPLETE HEAT TREATING
125 E. Greenfield Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53204-2937
Phone:  414-643-5161
Web: www.CompleteHT.com
Attn: TJ Dohlun or Jacob Dohlun

TENAXOL TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
1001 E. Centralia St. Elkhorn, WI 53121
Phone:  414-476-1400
Web: www.tenaxol.com
Attn: Jim Harrison

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