VOL. 6 March ISSUE YEAR 2005
in Vol. 6 - March Issue - Year 2005
Creating The Future!
Jean-Michel Duchazeaubeneix, Managing Director of Sonats
The mobile StressVoyager
Interview with Jean-Michel Duchazeaubeneix, Managing Director of the French company Sonats.
MFN continues its interview series, this time with Jean-Michel Duchazeaubeneix, who has been Managing Director of Sonats since its foundation in 1992. We had the opportunity to talk with Jean-Michel about the technology, new projects and his business strategy.
(?) MFN: Can you tell us about the history of Sonats?
(!) JM. D.: First I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed by your magazine.
Sonats was founded in 1992 by Patrick Cheppe and I , in Nantes, on the west cost of France. We started the company in the field of stress characterization wanting to offer expertise to optimize process manufacturing and parts behavior by taking into account the residual stress levels. To do so we started using X-ray portable units (American Stress Technology models). In addition we engineered a specific portable hole-drilling unit.
During these studies, we proposed solutions to increase the fatigue life of the components and optimize the shot peening process. But we were quite frustrated with the results and therefore started to develop a new innovative ultrasonic process, which we named Stressonic®.
The target was, and is now, to offer a complete peening "package", which starts by understanding the parts behavior and provides a solution by suggesting a particular process. At this point we are developing our technology for the global market.
(?) MFN: Ok, but what in particular are you offering to your customer?
(!) JM. D.: Depending on the application, Sonats proposes to evaluate the best possible process to be applied to a particular part a propos cost reduction and life enhancement of the work piece. Then, after these validations by our engineers, we are able to design and manufacture a specific Stressonic® piece of equipment or to propose a workshop or field job.
(?) MFN: The Stressonic® technology is quite different compared to the air peening technology. Can you please tell us more about Stressonic®.
(!) JM. D.: The target is always to introduce compressive residual stresses for fatigue life enhancement or to be able to reduce the distortion after process manufacturing like machining, laser welding, etc..
The Stressonic® process is a surface treatment in which one throws small balls onto a metal surface. The balls are put into movement by metallic elements forming an "acoustic block" vibrating with an ultrasonic frequency. This technology avoids losing any balls during the treatment. So we can use high quality bearing balls instead off conventional media. This means that the process is very repeatable because there are only 3 parameters to be controlled: The mass of balls, time and the vibration amplitude of the sonotrode. This last parameter is controlled continuously throughout the treatment.
The technology can also be used with WC bearing balls (tungsten carbide). They are very expensive but they work out cheap for our process because we use only a few grams for each batch. The benefits of using WC balls can be seen especially with titanium parts as it avoids the decontamination needed after peening using steel beads. Also, by using WC balls, which have twice the density of steel, it is possible to increase the surface compressive residual stress as well as the fatigue life.
This previous concept is used for shot peening and peen forming. However, to reduce the distortion after manufacturing, it is necessary to have a portable unit, which is powerful and doesn’t risk losing media during the treatment.
So, we developed a specific head with projectiles named Spherils®. They look like pins or needles that stay inside the chamber. They have a mass between 10 and 50 times the 3 mm bearing balls. Then, we designed a portable piece of equipment named StressVoyager® which can be used manually for this repair. It comes with high power, is quickly put into place and works without any loss of media.
(?) MFN: Thanks for that technical explanation. Can you let us know more about the organization within your company.
(!) JM. D.: Sonats is a company with 25 employees based in Nantes, France. Since we successfully developed a peening package combined with the Stressonic® technology, we want to expand our business globally. As you might know, to qualify as a new surface technology takes a long time and needs a lot of effort. Because our core business is in the aerospace and energy industry we had to develop our presence first in the "industrialized" countries. Presently we are focusing on Western and Northern Europe, Japan and North America. This is because we needed to obtain qualification from the big manufacturers in the aerospace and energy industry. But we also had to establish a network to those companies, which work for the mentioned manufacturers. So, our presence has expanded into Southern Europe, China, Brazil and Israel. Today, Sonats is globally active in technical development, sales and technical assistance.
This global activity was initiated 5 years ago in Japan and other countries followed later.
The year 2005 will be a year of international consolidation and development for Sonats. I am very optimistic, because today we do have excellent partners. With those partners we have agreements concerning sales and technical support. However, at some point some subsidiaries or joint-ventures will probably be necessary especially in North America, Japan and Germany. A good example is the business relationship Sonats enjoys with Toyo Seiko in Japan. For years we have been working well together with Dr. Yoshihiro Watanabe, the president of Toyo Seiko and his team.
(?) MFN: During our last conversation in the UK you said that you have some subsidiaries and a holding company. Can you explain that?
(!) JM. D.: Sonats target is to develop high tech competencies for the surface treatment enhancement from engineering to manufacturing. Sonats is a research - technology and application center with expertise such as: material analysis, Stressonic® development and manufacturing as well as new surface technologies.
We want to introduce high added value products for the aerospace and energy industry that require Sonats competencies. This is our expertise in residual stresses and material behavior. That requires a surface treatment like Stressonic®.
This is the reason why we created the company Europe Technologies 5 years ago. In doing so we bought 3 companies in France which are operating in the mechanical industry. We created a design department, and now we are starting to develop products for the aerospace and energy industry, such as the riveting process and portable automatic drilling unit. Firstly we want to introduce the components and products for the French market and then distribute these products through Sonats International.
(?) MFN: Jean-Michel, what are your main business applications for Stressonic® today?
(!) JM. D.: We have a very suitable technology for aerospace and energy industry applications. For example, the nuclear industry wants to increase the life span of nuclear power plants. This means mastering the behavior of their components. At nuclear power plants, there is a lot of stress crack corrosion and thermal cracks. Stressonic® is the only technology, besides laser peening, to be able to shot peen inside the contaminated area inside pipes at the same time guaranteeing no loss of media. The same applies to gas energy, wind energy and so forth.
For the aerospace industry, we can have a compact, automatic on-line machine, especially for blades and blisk, if we are to consider aero engine manufacturers. This technology avoids the masking and unmasking of parts. Furthermore there will be no decontamination, a reduction of the surface roughness will take place and there is no need for polishing.
(?) MFN: Jean-Michel, how do you see the future of your company?
(!) JM. D.: If the question is for Stressonic® and Sonats: I think we have been successful in introducing our technology to an international market. Considering that we just started to do so in 2004, our accomplishments are significant. The hardest work is over, but we must continue to develop additional technologies to enlarge our range of products.
If the question is for Europe Technologies: I think that we must keep an open mind and spirit to be able to imagine new processes that reduce the components cost and lead to new products which increase the life quality of the public.
We at MFN would like to thank Mr. Jean-Michel Duchazeaubeneix for taking time out of his busy schedule for this interview.