Like many other high-tech companies in the region, Heat & Surface Treatment has its roots in the Philips legacy. The company has been active since 1950 when it was first founded as a hardening plant for Philips’ machinery production in Eindhoven. “We were working as an in-house hardening shop for the company, but from 1990 on, we have been servicing third parties as well,” says Managing Director Steffen Schneiders, who has been working for Heat & Surface Treatment since 2005.
Following the move to new company premises, the company soon emerged under its new name Heat & Surface Treatment in the market. “In 2002, we were taken over by Aalberts Industries,” states Mr. Schneiders. “Since setting up new production facilities with new machinery in 2011, we have been able to provide state-of-the-art services of the highest level.” Today, Heat & Surface Treatment is the specialist for heat treatment, with a focus on vacuum heat treatment.
In addition, the company offers high temperature brazing as well as CVD (chemical vapor deposition) and PVD (physical vapor deposition) coating. “With regard to heat treatment processes, we concentrate on the STAINIHARD process when it comes to hardening the surface of austenitic and duplex stainless steel. One major advantage of this process is that it has no negative effect on the corrosion resistance of stainless steel.
It even improves the steel’s surface properties,” stresses Mr. Schneiders. Before the process begins, the product is pretreated so that is can be enriched with nitrogen and carbon. Then, it is treated in a carbon and nitrogen emitting atmosphere. At a temperature between 350 and 500 °C, nitrogen and carbon diffuse in the surface of the treated stainless steel product. “As a direct consequence, the surface becomes extremely hard, harder than with other conventional processes such as boration, nitration or coating,” adds Mr. Schneiders.
“The treatment leads to favourable product properties that make the stainless steel a soughtafter material in many industries where abrasion resistance and fatigue strength are essential. In addition, it allows for cold welding that otherwise could not be applied when processing austenitic steel.”
Today, the Stainihard process is applied for stainless steel products that are used in the food industry as well as in the chemical, medical, semiconductor and automotive industries. “Just think of foodstuff that is processed in stainless steel machinery,” points out Mr. Schneiders. “Hygiene of the product and longevity of the machine have top priority. By using the Stainihard process, we provide the food industry with production machinery that is highly resistant to corrosion.”
The Stainihard process is a niche product offered by a company that specializes in niche products. This can make it hard to find specialist staff. “Due to our applied technologies, we have to train new staff on the job. The specific know-how which is required here cannot be acquired in normal training or education,” points out Mr. Schneiders.
Today, the company employs 50 people. About 10% of production is exported, mainly to Belgium and Germany. Its wide range of services in the field of heat treatment has made Heat & Surface Treatment a leader in the market. “We add value to our customers’ products and try to implement our solutions at the beginning of the designing stage in order to find the optimum solution for each individual product,” points out Mr. Schneiders.
In this context, sustainability is an important issue as treated products boast a longer life cycle and do not have to be replaced quickly. The company is optimistic that demand for special heat and surface treatments will continue to grow. In particular, the Stainihard process and the aerospace industry will open new doors, resulting in strong expansion.