Upgrade for metallurgical test lab

Paul Boughton

Keighley Laboratories, a UK technology leader in the analysis, testing and heat treatment of metals, has invested around £100k in upgrading its laboratory test house, in line with ever more exacting customer requirements. This is part of a wholesale site modernisation process, which will also see the development of new buildings and facilities over the coming months, with a view to positioning the company at the cutting edge of sub-contract heat treatment and metallurgical solutions.

The core of this initial investment phase has seen the installation of new high tech equipment that enables manual to semi-automated metallographic sample preparation, for handling the latest generation of superalloys, and powerful metallurgical microscopes for examining the microstructure of specimens, as well as digital image capture and analysis. This laboratory resource will enable the specialised evaluation of the effect of the latest drilling and machining techniques on high grade components, such as advanced turbine blades used in power plants and jet engines. Other capital investments include a new CNC lathe for manufacturing sample pieces, an X-ray fluorescence analyser, a non-destructive digital ferrite meter, and complete refurbishment of the test house.

Originally established in 1920 and this year celebrating its 90th anniversary, West Yorkshire-based Keighley Laboratories specialises in the sub-contract heat treatment of metals, including induction hardening, carburising, nitrocarburising, tempering and stress relieving, and metallurgical testing services, covering such disciplines as non-destructive testing, chemical analysis, metallography and problem & failure investigation. It has built successful client partnerships across a broad cross-section of manufacturing industry, such as aerospace, energy, transmission engineering, hydraulics, marine, mining and transportation, and has technical accreditations and approvals to meet the requirements of insurance and inspectorate bodies, industrial primes, including aerospace, and major companies at home and overseas.

“Working for today’s technically-demanding industry sectors, we have to deliver excellence and innovation across all of our metallurgical services,” says Keighley Labs MD, Debbie Mellor. “That’s why we have invested in state-of-the-art test house equipment and, in due course, will be redeveloping our South Street site, paving the way for more advanced surface engineering technologies. This will strengthen our overall capabilities and help cement our relationships with customers across all sectors.”

Its metallography service enables examination of the microstructure of metals and alloys, so as to determine characteristics such as grain structure, inclusions, cleanliness and weld quality. With aggressive non-traditional machining techniques now being used on superalloys, such as electrolytic STEM drilling, electrical discharge (EDM), electro-chemical (ECM) and laser machining, Keighley Labs’ latest equipment allows observations of re-melt layers, heat-affected zones, intergranular attack, re-hardened layers and other possible irregularities, as part of FAI (first article inspection) and other routine QA checks.

Meticulous surface preparation of samples is essential for revealing details of the microstructure and new, precision cutting, grinding and polishing equipment will ensure exactly that, while automatic mounting presses enable optimum edge retention of specimens. A linear precision machine, with built-in micrometer, will cut virtually any material without sample deformation, allowing the laboratory to isolate a cross-section of a single STEM-drilled hole. A new hot compression, automatic mounting press or vacuum-assisted cold press then embeds samples in phenolic resin, before they are finished down to 0.1µm on a series of electric grinder-polishers, fitted with diamond planing discs or polishing media.

Macro examination to 40x magnification and micro examination to 1000x can then be carried out using advanced Meiji Techno metallurgical microscopes. A new zoom stereo microscope is used for viewing and comparing specimens in three dimensions, as an aid to visual examination; while an inverted metallurgical microscope offers crisp, high resolution images up to 1000x, with a built-in photo port providing for image capture and downloading to a PC. Finally, proprietary software facilitates live measurement functions and online image analysis for reporting purposes.

This state-of-the-art metallographic sample preparation and analysis facility allows Keighley Laboratories to work to the exacting requirements of leading aviation, gas turbine and other companies, its location on the edge of the North West Aerospace Alliance cluster positioning it well to serve the allied industries.

For more information, visit www.keighleylabs.co.uk



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