Karlis Zivtins, a Metallurgical Services Engineer at Pyrotek’s research and development center in Milton Keynes, U.K., was drawn to service with Pyrotek’s Metallurgical Services Group (MSG) because he saw he would be working in a modern, advanced and dynamic facility that serves customer globally, providing critical metallurgical and materials analysis.
“From the start, the description made clear that the work would be varied and valuable to a successful, multi-faceted company,” Zivtins says.
Q & A
What was your background before joining Pyrotek?
Zivtins: Prior to Pyrotek I was a laboratory technician with the global testing company, Intertek, working as an embedded contractor at the Rolls-Royce aerospace facilities in Bristol and the Isle of Wight. My work involved the analysis of jet engine components comprised of a several different materials; nickel super-alloys, titanium, and carbon-fiber. I was also involved in the testing of ceramics that were used in the manufacture of components, and the assessment of thermal barrier coatings, specified to withstand temperatures of up to 1525°Celsius (2,777 °Fahrenheit).
As a Metallurgical Services Engineer, what does a regular day look like for you as part of Pyrotek’s Metallurgical Services Group?
Zivtins: Days in the Metallurgical Services Group usually start with a short meeting with my colleagues, detailing which reports or tasks will be worked on and what objectives we each hope to achieve. These short meetings are an opportunity to pool ideas and share thoughts on how best to approach tasks and reports. Each day can be a varied mix of preparing and analyzing samples, collating data ready for reporting, and reviewing each other’s reports, ready for delivery.
What is it about the Metallurgical Services Group that drives you daily in the lab?
Zivtins: The desire to make clear and concise reports, that enable sales engineers to deliver the answers they need to help solve issues and questions for their customers, driving sales and achieving targets.
What types of projects regularly come through the lab? What have you been working on recently?
Zivtins: With the varied requirements and specifications of customers around the world, it is very rare that any two projects are exactly the same; though often similar strategies can be employed when analyzing or assessing samples or components supplied. Documentation and photography are key through the analysis of any task; ensuring traceability and clear evidence, not just for the report, but if data needs to be revisited in the future. Provided samples usually need to be sectioned into smaller pieces and materialographically prepared, to allow them to fit under the optical microscope, or in the scanning electron microscope (SEM), for high-magnification imaging and elemental analysis. I have recently been involved in reports concerning metal cleanliness through PoDFA analyses; validating the effectiveness of Pyrotek ceramic foam filters (CFFs), and SNIF degassers. Other reports I have been involved with included the analysis of undesirable non-metallic inclusions in both metallic and ceramic components, identifying their composition, so as to direct an investigation to their origin.
Pyrotek has hundreds of sales engineers around the world who work closely with customers to increase metal quality and improve their processes. How have Pyrotek customers seen or benefited from the work of our Metallurgical Services Group?
Zivtins: The MSG specializes in metal cleanliness assessment, samples taken and analyzed by PoDFA before or after certain steps in a customer’s processes can give a clear indication of the effectiveness of Pyrotek’s products: CFFs, SNIFs etc. Metal cleanliness data can show not just the level of inclusions (in mm2/kg), but their composition too, potentially indicating whether refractory components earlier in the process might be corroding away, molten metal being held at too high temperatures is generating spinels, or an excess of grain refiner being added; all of which may cause undesirable inclusions in finished products. Analysis and identification of inclusions found in finished components is also a service that we can provide, something as small as 2 millimetres can mar the appearance of a cast aluminium wheel from 2 metres away. Being able to characterize the elemental composition of such inclusions is the first step towards identifying their potential source, and rectifying it with a customer, whether it’s from corroding refractories or contaminated raw materials. My colleagues have also undertaken extensive root-cause-analysis investigations, delving more in-depth into the potential causes of early component failure in service, across a variety of materials and industries, making recommendations for material and mechanical improvements.
What are some of your long-term goals at Pyrotek?
Zivtins: My key long term goal at Pyrotek over the next year is to complete a research project working towards my postgraduate qualification, working closely with the R&D facility to investigate novel methods of joining dissimilar ceramics, to maximize relevant properties in the right areas of a larger component. Further in the future, I hope to write papers for internal distribution, detailing some of the investigations we have carried out, and the solutions we have found with sales engineers around the world.
What sets Pyrotek’s services apart from others from other companies?
Zivtins: Having worked at and seen several labs and facilities in different industries, I can safely say that Pyrotek’s facilities and equipment at the R&D center in Milton Keynes are really world class. The sample preparation and analysis equipment were carefully chosen in consultation with my colleagues and I; based on our combined experiences and perceived value to performance, and not just based on the cheapest available. The brand new preparation and analysis equipment, acquired around the time I started at Pyrotek a couple of years ago, has enabled a high degree of automation to our processes, with the potential of reducing turnaround times for requests. Given that we are a dedicated lab for the use by Pyrotek, and for the benefit of its customers, ensures that we can dedicate as much time as necessary to researching tasks that come to us, and finding the most effective answers.
How can customers gain access to the services you provide?
Zivtins: Requests for analysis can be raised by sales engineers via a link on the SharePoint homepage (soon to be implemented I believe), or the MSG team can be emailed to discuss what facilities for testing are available, or what the best course of action for an investigation might be; for example what size, shape, and quantity of samples should be provided.