Most of us have heard of cryogenic treatment of metal parts. One of our readers, Doug Batzel of Alpine Cryogenics (see his address and phone number below) has written an excellent article explaining the process and benefits. The fact that the article is also a shameless plug for his company is fine by us.
Frankly, this is one of the best written articles on cryogenics we have ever seen. It should be of interest to all motorcyclists.
From time to time, something comes along that changes our lives, significantly. First, there was fire; and then sliced bread. Now, there’s Cryogenics.
What is cryogenics and who cares anyway? First we don’t do bodies; that’s cryonics.
Cryogenics is the science of thermal cycling between -300 degrees F. and +300 degrees F. to dramatically increase the wear resistance of steels and carbides. And it works well! So, who cares? Well, you should. This process has been applied to motorcycle parts such as brake rotors. The results have been astonishing! Just ask Butch at the parts counter at Electric City Harley Davidson/, Buell, Scranton, PA. He said and I quote, “I just got my new 2001 brake rotor back from my cryogenic treater. They charged me $25.00+ tax and shipping. I put it on Friday night and rode all weekend, about 500 hard miles in a lot of twistys. The new rotor had no fade or spotting. The first rotor spotted within 100 miles and I would get some fade from heat when I was hard on the brakes. This is the best $25 bucks I spent in a while. They said that they do cylinders, etc”.
How did the cryogenics treatment help the brake rotors? IT’S MAGIC! No, not really. First, it’s not a coating. The rotor is treated throughout, and here’s how it’s done. The parts are placed in a stainless steel, vacuum insulated cryogenic chamber. The chamber is closed and the process starts. Liquid nitrogen, at -325 degrees F, is pumped into a heat exchanger which cools the air which is mixed in the chamber by a fan. The air cools your parts. Liquid nitrogen never touches your brake rotors. Our temperature changes are very slow and monitored by a computer, which checks the temperature of the chamber every 10 seconds and makes the necessary adjustments. It takes about 2 days to treat a rotor. This is a s-l-o-w process, but it’s worth the wait!
Two things happen during the cryogenic process. First, as the temperature approaches -300F, the molecules in the items being treated slow their vibration allowing stresses that were built up during the manufacturing process to be relaxed. It is the stress in the brake rotor that causes warping which gives the vibration during braking. Cryogenics will significantly reduce warping.
The second thing that happens is that while a hardened part is being treated at -300F, fine carbide particles, that are always present in a heat treated part, come to the surface, providing a smoother, more wear resistant surface, while reducing brittleness.
This process is being applied to cylinder jugs, heads, valves, bearings-wherever warping or wear is present. We have a customer that has an entire racecar engine treated. Knives and cutters keep their edge longer and produce better results when cryogenically treated.
Cryogenic treatment, properly performed, is perfectly safe for any part. Light bulbs have been treated with no damage to them. I know of no part that was damaged by cryogenic treatment, properly performed. This is a gentle process.
After the thermal cycling is completed, the chart recorder, which has monitored the entire process for days, is checked and marked so that the treater has a record of what was in the chamber and what was happening in there. The treated parts are then marked so the customer knows the part was treated. Treatment lasts the life of the part. There is no need to repeat treatment to a part.
I want to add a note about quality. Cryogenics can’t fix a warped rotor. If it’s warped when it arrives at the treater, it’ll probably still be warped after treatment. Also, we suggest you use top quality rotors. If you treat a cheap rotor, you will get a cheap, cryogenically treated rotor. It’s not worth it.
When choosing a cryogenic treater, it’s important to use someone with experience in metals and machining. Choices need to be made as to the proper time/temperature profiles needed to properly treat your parts. Also, the type of equipment is important. As cryogenic treatment has become more popular, low priced equipment is being offered to treat parts. A treating unit that doesn’t have the proper insulation will give inconsistent results and you will be disappointed with the results.
Properly applied, cryogenic treatment is safe and dependable. You won’t be disappointed!
Doug Batzel is the CEO of Alpine Cryogenics, Inc of Moscow, Pa 18444
He can be reached at 1-800-549-1390 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site is alpinecryo.com.