ECHT 2020 focuses on carbon in steel

ECHT 2020 took place at the beginning of December. Due to the corona crisis, the conference was held online and not in Antwerp, as originally planned. The three-day conference mainly dealt with topics related to the carbon element in steel, such as carburising, carbonitriding, but also surface layers such as DLC.

ECHT 2020 (European Conference on Heat Treatment) was organised by the Belgian-Dutch Association for Heat Treatment Technology (VWT), in cooperation with the French association A3TS.


More than 125 participants discovered and followed the novelties and evolutions of carburising from their offices or at home. Despite the fact that carburising has existed for quite some time, there are new developments in this field that are important for industry. During the conference, various developments were discussed in the thematic sessions. In the keynotes, Matthias Steinbachter of IWT Bremen and Prof. M. Somers highlighted the metallurgical principles of carburising and the trends within this group of treatments including Carbo-Austempering, multi-boost carburising, carbonisation of stainless steel and carbo-oxidising of titanium. The last keynote dealt with Artificial Intelligence applied to thermal treatments, more specifically controlling carburising for mass production in an Industry 4.0 environment at Bosch. During this conference, one could also become acquainted with Sirris Testlabs by means of a virtual booth.

Thematic sessions

Below is a brief overview of the most important publications that were covered:

  • Eva Troell of RISE IVF proposed an extensive study in which optimal material selection was linked to treatments such as core hardening, plasma nitriding, shot peening and carburising, with the aim of increasing the fatigue resistance of lightweight drive components.
  • Sven Curé of STC highlighted the metallurgical advantages of low-pressure carburising (LPC) at STC.
  • Arnold Horsch, specialist in hardness testing, showed that results can sometimes produce large spreads due to various lab-related influences.
  • In the section on simulation, the French companies Transvalor and the German IWT showed interesting examples of how the carburising process for complex parts such as helicoidal gears can be mimicked and controlled.
  • The Jean Lamour Institute in turn discussed internal stress measurements on carburised and carbonitrided samples.
  • The Bosch company thoroughly investigated the influence factors of distortion on drive shafts.
  • 'Laser Induced Breakdown Spectrometry' is a little-known analysis technique, which according to TU Wien can also be used in heat treatment, more specifically for measuring carbon concentrations in coalesced layers.
  • Failure analysis of carburised parts was expertly presented by Dr. Sommer Werkstofftechnik, known for the software packages for simulation of heat treatment.
  • In the section on Industry 4.0, the Leibniz Institute investigated whether carbonitriding is ready for this new industrial revolution. In this context, the use of shot peening of gears was also by Sentenso.
  • Vacuheat and ALD were responsible for the carburising of powder metallurgical parts.
  • Polish furnace builder Seco-Warwick presented its unique single-piece flow-carburing line.
  • Safran gave a fascinating presentation about the high demands placed on carburised parts for helicopters.
  • ECAM Lyon discussed the possibility of treating martensitic steel bearings with LPC.
  • CAMECA Instruments showed the impressive results of a fundamental research into dispersions of TiN and TiC in stainless steel by means of an 'Atomic Force Probe'.
  • Chromin from Maastricht discussed its unique Cr-diffusion technique, as well as a new diffusion technique based on niobium.

The conference concluded with a panel discussion on the provision of training on heat treatment in the EU Member States.


Despite the fact that most carbon-based treatments have been around for a long time, a lot of research is now being done on process optimisation, process control and furnace atmospheres. The importance of carburising is certainly not to be underestimated, given almost all gears in cars, machines, etc. undergo this treatment. In addition, post-carburising deformation is still a hot topic and this theme will be further addressed in the next conference, REAL 2021, organised by the German AWT in April 2021.   

Most publications of the 2020 edition are available and can be obtained from us on request.

Sirris' participation in this conference was possible within the framework of the CORNET project DCT4Cut, subsidised by VLAIO.