Vol. 5
May Issue
Year 2004


in Vol. 5 - May Issue - Year 2004
More Than Just Shot!

Alessandro Pasetti, President of Pometon Italy

From left to right: Marino Pasqualato, Customer Service Manager, Alessandro Pasetti, President, Giovanni Bellin, Chief Operating Officer, Eliseo Santello, Production Director

Interview with Alessandro Pasetti, President of Pometon Italy

A conversation with the CEO of one of the oldest steel shot manufacturers in the business, during which we gain some insight into a company celebrating its 64th birthday, with no sign of ageing!

(?) MFN: How and when did the company get started?

(!) A.P.: Our firm started up in 1940, when the political and social climate was rather bleak. Dark clouds were forming on the horizon and European countries were preparing for the storm soon to come. Our first article was magnesium powder, a very versatile product with many civilian and some military applications.

(?) MFN: And then what happened?

(!) A.P.: Reconstruction after the war was a priority everywhere and there was great demand for just about any type of industrial article. Factories, roads, bridges, railways and cities had to be rebuilt and we adapted by offering more and more of the products required.

(?) MFN: What exactly does Pometon manufacture?

(!) A.P.: Metal powders and granules for a wide range of industrial applications.

(?) MFN: Please elaborate.

(!) A.P.: We make ferrous and nonferrous products and within this rather broad definition there are several families. For the sake of convenience and because of the different production methods involved, we usually refer to ferrous, nonferrous and light metal products, although it’s true that light metals are also nonferrous. Our ferrous products include steel shot and grit, stainless steel shot, iron powders and iron granules. Our nonferrous products are powders or granules made with copper, bronze, brass, tin, zinc, magnesium, aluminium and several other types of metals and alloys. Obviously I’m looking at these products from the manufacturer’s point of view, while our clients would simply refer to their fields of application.

(?) MFN: Perhaps you could do this for our readers.

(!) A.P.: Gladly. Let’s say that shot peening, blast cleaning and surface finishing are done either with steel, stainless steel or other types of shot, while surface roughening, some blast cleaning and stone cutting are done with steel grit…

(?) MFN: Stone cutting?

(!) A.P.: That’s right. Not many people know that those beautiful slabs of granite which adorn the walls of many office and residential buildings are cut on gangsaws using steel grit. In fact, Pometon pioneered the use of steel grit for granite sawing in the early 1970’s. Before that time, cast iron granules were being used. Once we had found the right chemical composition and the right hardness range, we knew we had a valid product on our hands, especially when we saw that steel grit had a life span twice as long as that of cast iron.

(?) MFN: It sounds rather simple.

(!) A.P.: It does now that steel grit for granite sawing is widely used and manufactured by everyone, including our competitors, but in those years we also had to overcome another problem. Until then, heat treatment was done in batches, but this method was suitable for relatively small quantities. It couldn’t keep up with the volumes of molten steel which bigger and bigger furnaces were producing. The problem was solved with the development of continuous heat treatment ovens.

(?) MFN: What about blast cleaning and surface finishing?

 (!) A.P.: In addition to our standard range of high carbon shot and grit according to SAE specifications, we offer our exclusive family of medium carbon shot. Contrary to the low carbon shot which we manufactured in the past, medium carbon shot can be heat treated, which means that the microstructure is more uniform and the hardness range can be determined more precisely. At the same time, this product offers a longer life span thanks to its lower carbon content compared to high carbon material. Obviously, these products are suitable for cleaning iron or steel castings, whereas aluminium or stainless steel parts would be cleaned either with chrome/nickel or chrome stainless steel shot.

We’ve also turned our attention to the increasing variety of components made with various ferrous and nonferrous metals and their alloys which are being developed in many industrial sectors. I’m talking about the surface finishing of magnesium/aluminium or stainless steel alloy parts, for which we have developed various types of aluminium, zinc, brass and stainless steel shot and shot mixtures.

(?) MFN: And shot peening?

(!) A.P.: Shot peening is certainly the most sophisticated application for steel shot. If you compare media specifications you’ll notice that the aerospace industry has much more stringent requirements than any other industry using steel shot. For other industries doing a more mass production type of shot peening, such as spring and suspension system manufacturers, we have developed our own product specifications based on experience.

(?) MFN: Let’s examine some other applications.

(!) A.P.: Well, another important field is syntherization, also called powder metallurgy. Components for the automobile and industrial vehicle industries, self-lubricating bearings and fine mechanical parts for household appliances, furniture, doors, windows, gardening and hobby equipment are all made by syntherizing iron, copper, bronze, brass, zinc and other powders. For this industry we also manufacture ready-to-use premixes and diffusion-bonded powders with varying percentages of iron, nickel, copper and molybdenum powders.

(?) MFN: Is this a complicated process?

(!) A.P.: Yes and no. For sure even a slight change in the working conditions of the machinery or in the powders will cause an entire production batch to be defective. In the past, many syntherizing formulae were closely-guarded secrets and our clients would demand a product with the right characteristics without giving us enough details concerning the application. Then if something went wrong, they immediately blamed the powders! Nowadays there is a full and open exchange of information between our clients and our Research and Development Department.

(?) MFN: Are you the largest manufacturer for these types of products?

(!) A.P.: No, we’re not. In fact, we are not the largest manufacturer in any of our product lines, however we are among the two or three largest groups in each sector and certainly the only ones who encompass both ferrous and nonferrous products.

(?) MFN: What do you mean by “group”?

(!) A.P.: Our company has affiliates in the UK, Germany and Spain, just to mention the most important ones. A local presence in the hands of people who know their markets better than we ever could attempt to know from our headquarters.

(?) MFN: Any other type of application you would care to mention?
 (!) A.P.: Pharmaceutical and chemical intermediates made with magnesium turnings, pigments and chemical reactions with iron granules and powders, welding electrodes, friction material, carbon brushes and diamond tool disks made with iron, copper, zinc and tin powders. Oh, yes, I was almost forgetting, we have three dedicated production lines for carrier powders. This material goes to a well-known producer of photocopiers.

(?) MFN: Earlier you mentioned different production methods.

(!) A.P.: Correct. Steel shot, iron and nonferrous powders are made by atomization, one family of copper powders by electrolysis, light metal powders and granules by tooling, grinding or milling. Light metals are definitely the trickiest to handle, since they are easily flammable and can react rather violently with water. In order to accommodate these different production methods, our company now has four plants located in north eastern Italy, just a short drive away from Venice.

(?) MFN: How do you see the market situation for your products in the near future?

(!) A.P.: Good question! I think that nobody was expecting the current slowdown in the world economy to last so long. Although some sectors are showing signs of recovery, we don’t yet see a strong increase in overall demand. Our company is in the fortunate position of offering a very wide range of products and this means that a drop in demand in one sector is often compensated by an increase in another sector, however we are still far away from the market situation that we, as well as our competitors, had up to the first part of 2001.

One area, which is causing some worry is among the big volume users of steel shot for blast cleaning, such as foun-dries and steel mills. The problem here is that some of these industries in Europe are either closing down or moving their operations to countries with cheaper labor and lower operating costs. In particular, they face very strong competition from Asian producers who manage to sell many of their traditional items in Europe at prices which the Europeans cannot match. We see that this is a problem not only for European firms, but also for many producers in the so-called industrialized countries all over the world.

(?) MFN: What family of products has the greatest growth potential in the near future?

(!) A.P.: I would say that any one of the more sophisticated applications, with a greater content of technology and know-how, will continue to grow and to produce greater demand for products. In practical terms, we expect further growth in the fields of shot peening, syntherization, especially for diffusion-bonded powders and premixes, and surface finishing, especially for aluminium, zinc and brass granules.

(?) MFN: In closing, can you mention any unusual application for your products?

(!) A.P.: Certainly! I would say that seed selection is, how shall I say, a rather small but very peculiar niche market.

(?) MFN: Seed selection?

(!) A.P.: Right! Seeds are very sensitive to humidity and many of them go bad during transportation. If you’re a wholesaler and you’re standing in front of a mountain of seeds, how do you separate the good seeds from the rotten ones?

We at MFN would like to thank Alessandro Pasetti for this interview.

For Information:
Alessandro Pasetti
Pometon S.p.A.
Via Circonvallazione 62
30030 Maerne (Venezia) Italy
Tel. +39.041.290 3611
Fax: +39.041.641 624
E-mail: sales@pometon.com
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