Watlow's Batavia, Illinois facility is the company's thermal solutions supplier specialising in design and manufacturing of thermal assemblies based on cast aluminum, precision machined and Interference Fit Construction (IFC) techniques.
Watlow's thermal assemblies are used in some of the most challenging industrial applications. The facility offers many advantages including precision manufacturing equipment and processes, clean room assembly and a strong support structure while working with its customers to minimise product development cycles.
"I think we are Watlow's best kept secret - but we'd rather be well-recognised for what we have to offer," said Chris Baichoo, general manager of Watlow Batavia.
"So many of our customers and distributors think we just supply cast-in heaters. In truth, we've grown and developed to offer a much wider range of products, as well as top-notch service and technical assistance."
Today, Watlow Batavia is at the forefront of heated part technology and production. Heated parts are designed to meet the customer's mechanical and temperature specifications.
For lower temperature applications, the thermal assembly will typically utilise a formed cable or tubular heater, cast into aluminium or flexible heater mounted into a precision assembly.
For high temperature applications, Batavia also offers IFC designed parts, using proprietary processes to uniformly assemble heater elements and cool tubes into stainless steel or other heated parts.
Heated parts offer numerous advantages, including durability, long life and custom design. But the main advantage is the machining tolerance for flatness, perpendicularity and superb temperature uniformity, which is due to an optimised heater layout and precision mold design.
Expertise beyond heated parts
"Our message to customers is that we do it all," said Baichoo. "Yes, if you want cast-in heaters or heated parts, no one does it better. But our expertise in heated parts is just one example of our ability to custom manufacture a heater to meet a customer's specific requirements."
Baichoo points out that Batavia engineers and production staff also have tremendous metallurgical expertise in foundry practices as well as machining technology.
"Perhaps the best way to think about Batavia is that we have the most modern equipment and a first-rate staff to put it to use. Many companies too readily use the term 'one stop shopping,' but that's really the best way to explain how we make our resources available to customers," explained Baichoo.
Such resources include state-of-the-art CNC machines, which guarantee precision machining and repeatable results and lapping machines for extremely flat and smooth surfaces. Batavia is also very proud of its high tech lab, which conducts ongoing product and process research as well as temperature uniformity testing and validation, heating and cooling ramp rates, structural characteristics and coating performance.
Batavia utilises these and other resources to work to offer:
* CAD/CAM design and solid modeling
* Application of E-beam welding to manufacture sandwich heated assemblies
* Application of vacuum brazing to create three-dimensional heated parts
* The application of special coatings such as Teflon(r), anodising and electroless nickel plating
* X-ray techniques to check for porosity-free castings and validation of heater positioning
* Services such as FEA (finite element analysis)
* Additional treatment of heated parts, such as chemical cleaning and packaging for clean room acceptance
* Class 10,000 clean room
* Specially-designed packaging
However, Baichoo is quick to admit that expertise and ability, without service and value, isn't enough to attract and retain customers. He says Batavia puts as much focus on support, service and price issues, as they do on the technology they employ and the products they produce.
For example, Batavia uses Lean manufacturing activities and principles to take costs out of its products - ensuring a good price-to-value ratio. New heated part designs that eliminate waste combined with Lean manufacturing principles and new high throughput equipment have enabled Batavia to successfully compete on a global basis in price competitive markets.
But for Batavia, price is just one element of a larger equation.
"Our greatest strength is how we take a product through the entire development cycle - through concept, prototyping, production and delivery. We have very strong support teams and resources at every stage to make sure we offer the shortest development cycle, while still providing the best product at a fair price," said Baichoo.
Baichoo adds that Watlow's skill and speed at developing prototypes is often the difference customers need to gain a competitive advantage in their market.
"In the semiconductor industry, for example, it's often the main factor that determines a product's ultimate value."
Watlow Batavia has evolved into a modern facility that offers customers a complete line of thermal products and engineering services. Baichoo says his short-term goal is that more customers take full advantage of Batavia's services - he's constantly saying 'we can do that'.