Successful start for Aichelin’s pilot press-hardening plant

This innovative step-chain conveyor furnace gives Aichelin the possibility to conduct a variety of customers test series in reality.

Gave the start signal for the test plant in Mödling / Vienna: (from left to right) Ronald Eibler, Iryna Sokolova, Günter Rennhofer and Thomas Dopler.

MÖDLING/BERNDORF (21 Jan 2019) – Aichelin ( has caused a stir with a successful start to operation of its heatXpress pilot plant in Mödling, near Vienna. The technology is an innovative response from the leading international heat treatment specialist, part of the Berndorf Group, to ever more demanding requirements in press hardening for vehicle body parts, a growing segment.

Increasingly, the automotive industry is turning to press-hardened steels that offer a whole range of advantages for modern vehicle production. Due to their lower weight and the modified properties they give to parts, they enable greater vehicle safety at the same time as reducing fuel consumption. Because light-weight construction continues to gain importance in automotive manufacturing regardless of engine technology and drive train type, these systems represent a wide-ranging future growth market for the Aichelin Group.

Ten-metre pilot line
The approximately ten-metre long, direct process pilot line heated its first high-strength steel blank on 23 November 2018, and has been in continuous use since. Its commissioning means that Aichelin has the resources at its headquarters to pursue R&D projects and conduct customer testing for today’s fastest-growing furnace market. The innovative step-chain conveyor furnace presents numerous advantages over a conventional roller hearth furnace, and opens up the possibilities for Aichelin to trial a variety of customer test series.

Offering the highest availability and precision, the modular pilot plant can process both aluminised and zinc-coated steel in any form (flat sheets, profiles, tubes, etc.) at 950°C with a cycle time of 8-10 seconds. The new heatXpress plant can also simulate mixed operation – with the step-chain conveyor furnace processing a mixture of aluminised and galvanised blanks – and test solutions for parts with tailored properties, as well as concepts for centring units and spreading.

Leading heat treatment group Aichelin has constructed successful step-chain conveyor furnaces for indirect press hardening for a number of years. The experience gained in this time, and expertise from 150 years of furnace production, have enabled Aichelin to develop this optimised solution for the direct press-hardening process. The furnace can be adapted for the desired purpose in line with the customer’s requirements, and its modular construction means that it can be expanded if necessary at any time after delivery.