At one time, producing forgings for the valve industry was the greatest part of Queen City Forging’s customer mix. Over the last thirty years, a significant portion of manufacturing of valves and fittings has moved offshore. Operations transferred to Korea, then Taiwan, India and finally mainland China. With the realization that many products were being commoditized and moved offshore.
Queen City Forging recognized its need to develop new markets and new processes if they were to survive. Joining a D.O.E sponsored project with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Queen City Forging pursued a technology that was to play a critical role in future Company growth. Along with the Forging Education and Research Foundation and Infrared Heating Technologies, R&D was undertaken to develop a rapid infrared heating furnace to improve heating aluminum alloys for forging.
The goal was to investigate both the efficiency and metallurgical outcomes from the use of infrared heating for hot forging of aluminum alloys. A conveyorized infrared oven which came from that project was tested at Queen City Forging, producing exceptional results both in efficiency and improved metallurgical properties of forgings produced using the rapid infrared heating process. The success led to new work for the Company producing aluminum forgings requiring physical properties of durability and toughness. Products made from forgings that have been processed with infrared heating have proven to exhibit increased fatigue properties and have extended service life and reduced warranty costs for one major customer.
From the original success, Queen City Forging has proceeded to build additional infrared heating furnaces. The original furnace, built several decades ago, remains in operation along with newer more powerful versions. Queen City Forging’s commitment to innovation in developing the infrared heating process makes it a leader in the industry. While key aspects of the process and improvements to it are held as “trade secrets,” Queen City Forging has met its pledge to share basic concepts and designs with the US Forging Industry. Queen City Forging holds a key patent on infrared heating.
Some of the many benefits of aluminum hot forging that uses infrared heating give aluminum enhanced physical properties, including:
- Improved fatigue life
- Fine grain microstructure
- Faster response to heat treatment
“Queen City Forging is proud to have developed this process and uses infrared heating technology to reduce energy consumption and lower energy costs by 50%.”
There are now other companies that offer infrared heating for aluminum forging. The technology has spread to the rest of the world, but Queen City Forging was there from inception, committed to tenacious innovation.