Deltech Celebrates its Golden Anniversary
Deltech Furnaces continues today much as it did back in the early days—not with standard offerings, but through bespoke solutions for specific needs.
Deltech Furnaces, Inc. traces its history back to 1968, when it was founded by Cal Stevenson and Don Drinkwater as a mining consulting company. When the mining industry began to decline, Stevenson’s previous contacts and experience led to an opportunity to build a furnace for Coors Porcelain (now CoorsTek, Inc.).
Work for Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories followed, as well as a project from NASA to build vertical tube furnaces to test (or melt) moon rocks. Soon enough, the pair found themselves thriving in the furnace business.
Continuing the Mission
Mary Stevenson, president of Deltech, joined the company part time in 1984 while she was still in graduate school. She says the business continues today much as it did back in the early days—not with standard offerings, but through bespoke solutions for specific needs. “Product development is the same as we’ve always done throughout our history—in response to customer requests,” she says. “A customer will tell us they’d like to have a furnace to do ‘this,’ and we figure out how to do it. We’ve never had a furnace model that didn’t come out of conversations with a customer or potential customer.”
For example, the company’s current glass melt furnaces are a direct result of the work generated for Sandia’s glass lab in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And Deltech’s top-hat furnaces originated with a request from optical components manufacturer LightPath. “They were making gradient glasses, and they needed a stable load platform,” explains Stevenson. “They couldn’t deal with a bottom-load furnace that raises and lowers the actual load platform because it would disturb their glasses. They loved the idea of a top-hat design.”
Plus, in the last decade or so, Deltech has begun building rotary furnaces for companies in the fracking industry and positive-pressure furnaces for those working with indium tin oxide (ITO). “We started making what we call ‘big batch’ glass melt furnaces, because they’re not production size,” says Stevenson. “They are larger than our standard benchtop size, maybe with a workspace of 18 in. in diameter by 24 in. high, which provides considerably more space.”
Providing customers with what they need extends beyond furnaces. For example, Deltech has also developed sophisticated data acquisition and automation for its furnaces and control systems in order to provide ease of operation. In addition, the company can provide the gas mixing equipment for use with its gas mixing furnaces.
No matter the end-use industry, the company focuses on creating the best system for each application. “We don’t have anything off the shelf; it’s all built to order and to suit,” says Stevenson. “That really is what drives our business.”
Focus on Safety and Quality
According to Stevenson, safety has become increasingly important to Deltech’s customers, particularly large production facilities and government laboratories. To address those concerns, Deltech sought and received a UL listing for its control systems a little under five years ago.
“The control systems are certified by Intertek to be UL508A compliant, which has become very popular with some of our customers,” explains Stevenson. “In fact, we’ve had a couple of government lab customers tell us that they aren’t allowed to buy anything that isn’t UL listed these days.”
In March, Deltech received ISO:90012015 certification for its quality management system. “We’re really excited about that, because it speaks to quality and consistency,” she says. “The customer may be in Bangkok and we may be in Denver—but ISO certification lets people around the world know that we are a good company, and they can rely on us to make a good product.”
Looking to the Future
In 2003, Deltech moved from its original location to a larger facility that specifically features higher ceilings. “We were building these big production-scale furnaces in a facility that had 12-14-ft-high ceilings,” laughs Stevenson. “There just wasn’t enough space.”
The company continues to grow, particularly as it further branches out to produce furnaces for the nuclear industry, and another move is not far off. “We’re kind of stretching at the seams here,” she says. “We hope to find a facility and about double our production space.”
Despite this growth, Deltech currently has a staff of just 10 people. Cal’s son J.J. joined Deltech full time in 2005 after completing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and his grandson Ryan (also a mechanical engineer) is also part of the team.
“We continue to be small,” says Stevenson. “Sometimes customers will come in for a site visit and are kind of astounded to find out that we’re building these furnaces with a staff of 10 people. It always makes us feel good to hear that.”
For more information, visit www.deltechfurnaces.com.