Marc Chasserot, ATMOsphere (left), and Mauri Kontu, Vahterus.
Marc Chasserot, ATMOsphere (left), and Mauri Kontu, Vahterus.

Finnish Manufacturer Vahterus Expands Production to Meet Rising Demand for Heat Pumps

The company is seeing particular interest in industrial steam generation applications.

In response to surging demand for heat pumps, especially in steam generation applications, Finnish manufacturer Vahterus is set to expand its production capacity by 20%. Founder and CEO Mauri Kontu revealed this development in a recent interview with NaturalRefrigerants.com.

Headquartered in Kalanti, Finland, Vahterus plans to augment its existing 30,000m² (322,917 ft²) production space with a new 6,000m² (64,583 ft²) manufacturing hall. This expansion follows a record-breaking year in 2023 and is aimed at sustaining the companys growth trajectory, particularly within the heat pump market. Kontu emphasized the increasing demand for steam generation in industrial settings.

“[Our] next generation [of products] is for steam generation because many customers have steam generators with oil boilers, and now [they] want to change to heat pumps,” he told Marc Chasserot, Founder and CEO of ATMOsphere, publisher of NaturalRefrigerants.com, during the interview. “We have very good heat exchangers for that, and we have many years of experience with steam generators.”

In addition to its Finnish facility, Vahterus operates a manufacturing plant in Jiangsu, China, and is seeking a new, larger site to replace its former Pennsylvania, U.S., location.

With a growing interest in heat pumps, Vahterus hosted a Heat Pump Forum in Turku, Finland, on May 22–23. The event brought together more than 180 participants from around the world to discuss the latest developments in industrial applications.

Customization and innovation

During the interview, Kontu highlighted Vahterus’s extensive range of heat exchangers, which are customized to meet diverse customer needs. Thanks to its sophisticated customization software, the company offers seven billion variations of its heat exchangers, tailored in terms of materials, diameters, and thicknesses. Most of these exchangers feature stainless steel plates, while titanium versions are designed for seawater applications. Each unit can contain thousands of plates, typically 1.5–1.7mm (0.06–0.07in) thick.

Annually, Vahterus manufactures around 5,000 heat exchangers for 100 international clients. Their products serve a variety of sectors, including industrial, refrigeration and heat pump applications, such as district heating and food processing.

While ammonia (R717)-based systems account for about 50% of Vahterus’s business, there is growing interest in other natural refrigerants like CO2 (R744) and propane (R290).

Kontu noted the historic limitations of traditional plate heat exchangers, which used rectangular plates with four holes and rubber gaskets. Vahterus, however, has pioneered a fully-welded plate and shell heat exchanger design with only two holes, enhancing pressure and temperature capabilities and offering higher thermal efficiency. This innovative design ensures durability, with an operational lifespan of up to 30 years.

However, Vahterus has developed a fully-welded plate and shell heat exchanger that includes only two holes, enhancing pressure and temperature capabilities and offering higher thermal efficiency. This design ensures durability, with an operational lifespan of up to 30 years, according to the manufacturer.

“Innovation in heat transfer is very low, [but] we have found something new to the market,” he added.

Building a skilled workforce

Vahterus’s expansion isn’t limited to its facilities. The company is also committed to developing a robust workforce. It sponsors a heat transfer professorship and actively recruits students from the nearby University of Turku. Additionally, to address a shortage of welders in Finland, Vahterus has implemented programs to attract skilled workers from countries such as the Philippines and Nigeria.

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