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13 July, 2021 - 22:45 By Tony Quested

£650k invested in Cambridge heat treatment hub

Surging demand for the heat treatment of new and replacement components in aerospace, automotive, motorsport and other key industries has prompted a fresh £650k investment by the Wallwork Group in a designated facility in Cambridge. 

Plasma nitriding, as it is known, is riding the crest of a new wave as the engineering and manufacturing supply chains emerge from the Covid pandemic.

Wallwork Group, whose major Cambridge base is at Buckingway Business Park, is upping capacity with the addition this year of two further Rübig plasma nitriding furnaces – the first due for August.

Wallwork director, Simeon Collins, explained: “This is a further £650k investment by the group, this time in our Cambridge plasma nitriding centre, increasing the existing capacity to six operational plasma nitriders, providing 24/7 processing.

“We are also adding a new dedicated area for inspection of case depth, structure and other quality aspects of the nitriding process.”

Nitriding is a metal heat treatment process that improves the endurance of wear parts such as gears, camshafts and followers, valve parts, aero-engine and airframe  components, dies, extruder screws and injectors. 

In the Rübig nitrider, molecular nitrogen is cracked in plasma to obtain active nitrogen which then penetrates the component's surface. The process meets differing needs because the depth and properties of the case hardened layer can be finely controlled. 

Wallwork also designs and manufactures the physical masking needed to ensure only the specified surfaces are exposed and hardened.

Collins added: “The process has the major advantage of being relatively cool compared to other heat treatment methods. Importantly, this means the dimensions and characteristics of the base metal are not compromised. 

“Also, it is ideally suited for low temperature plasma nitriding of stainless steels as it minimises potential loss of corrosion resistance in the metal which could compromise its use in harsh environments.”

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