Investing In Ceramics: Trent Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Since 1927, Trent Inc. has manufactured electrically heated process equipment.

Trent’s products are designed for use in industries such as electronics, chemicals, plastics, glass, aerospace parts, nuclear fuels, synthetic fibers and equipment manufacturing.
When Trent Inc. was founded 75 years ago in Philadelphia, Pa., Harold E. Trent said, “If we are innovative and build equipment our customers can rely on day in and day out, year after year, at a fair price, our reputation for manufacturing quality products and quality services will grow and endure.” With those words, Trent, with his electrical heating knowledge and engineering talent, along with a handful of hard-working craftsmen, began developing and manufacturing electrical heating equipment for industrial heating applications.

Early products included Folded & Formed® (F&F®) ribbon-type heating elements and racks; box and laboratory furnaces; forced air and convection ovens; trough furnaces for lead and salt; kettles for glues, compounds and waxes; melting pots for solder, babbitt, lead and tin; industrial hot plates; calibration tanks for thermometer and instrument calibration; and strip and cartridge heaters. With the success of these products, many of which were awarded patents, the company grew and moved three times until it settled in 1942 into its current 40,000-square-foot facility. The workforce expanded to nearly 100 employees and included many women who helped in the World War II effort and other government projects. Trent sold the business in 1941 to the Theodore H. Wickwire Jr. family, who continued the company’s tradition of service innovation and craftsmanship, developing additional patents for tubular heaters, space heaters and refractory blocks.

In the early ’80s, President and CEO of the company, L.J. Silverthorn, along with three other entrepreneurial women, acquired ownership of Trent. This team of women, under Silverthorn’s leadership, clearly defined Trent’s philosophy. Employee incentives, clear values and beliefs, and a bias for action drive Trent’s focus on quality, productivity and overall efficiency. The introduction of computer-aided design tools, streamlined fabrication processes, thorough quality control and testing procedures, and an apprentice culture have all contributed to the company’s success.

Adaptable Line of Equipment

Today, Trent’s products are designed for use in industries such as electronics, chemicals, plastics, glass, aerospace parts, nuclear fuels, synthetic fibers and equipment manufacturing. The company’s product line covers all aspects of electrically heated processes, including ovens, furnaces, heating element racks, plug heaters, kettles, jackets, melters, cartridge heaters, tubular heaters immersion heaters and fintube heaters.

The company’s Folded and Formed heating element design, first patented in 1933, is still the backbone of Trent’s success. The element consists of exposed ribbon type element with a greater cross section mass than conventional coiled wire element. “Our Folded and Formed heating element remains exclusive because of our fabrication process,” said Charles Hierdahl, director of sales and marketing. “The unique forming operation gives the self-supporting element a structural rigidity to prevent sag while operation at optimal high temperatures and is more efficient with a larger area of the element exposed and directed at the work chamber.”

A testimonial to the quality of Trent workmanship is the fact that 70% of the company’s orders come from repeat customers for either new equipment or for replacement parts for equipment sold to them as long as 40 years ago. “We’ve gotten 20 years of satisfaction from our first Trent oven,” says a representative from a custom glass manufacturer. “That’s why we have eight more.”

Custom Design Services

In addition to standard catalog products, Trent’s engineering department fills an important niche for both large and small manufacturers by providing custom design services. Trent works closely with customers to help accomplish goals and accommodate preferences. With experience in understanding thermodynamics and temperature control, Trent’s engineering department can adapt any of its designs through the use of computer aided design software to meet the specific needs of customers.

“We provide solutions for our customers,” said Silverthorn. “Our goal is to produce the best electrically heated process equipment in the world to satisfy our customers’ needs. Equally important, we want to provide and maintain a work environment where employees feel challenged and motivated.”

For More Information

For more information on Trent and its products, contact Charles Hierdahl at 201 Leverington Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19127; (215) 482-5000; fax (215) 482-9389; or visit

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