HERMITAGE, Pa. (WKBN) – Owners of the Solar Atmospheres metal processing plant in Hermitage see their business as a sort of a modern-day blacksmith. Metals are heated to extreme temperatures, giving off lots of flame and smoke but that makes it a challenge to get insurance.

President Bob Hill said when an insurer sees flame or smoke, they’re not going to write the policy, they created a new, safer and greener technology.

Executives Wednesday showed off their new $2 million vacuum oil quench furnace, which can heat metal forms to 1,600 degrees and then cool them quickly to harden them, all with zero emissions.

“This enables us to grow and the key is– diversify,” Hill said.

The company has been in Hermitage for nearly a quarter of a century and does a lot of business with the titanium industry, especially involving aerospace. But the pandemic put a crimp on aircraft manufacturing.

Hill said pre-COVID, the company was posting sales of more than $20 million per year, treating parts for 19 Boeing 787 aircraft a month.

“And then COVID hit. We went down. We’re now at two aircraft a month,” Hill said.

That’s when executives decided to make a change and invest.

“We did this all during the pandemic. We were not sitting idle during the pandemic. We were moving and shaking,” Hill said.

Hill believes the new furnace will help the company attract new customers and eventually add more employees.