The Almen Strip Czar of Shot Peening Steps Down
If you attended a shot peening conference over the past 15 years, odds are you took a class taught by Jeff Derda, a man who knows a lot about shot peening—and everything about Almen strips.
Jeff Derda is enjoying his retirement. He has just finished cutting his lawn and is sitting on his porch overlooking the Morse Reservoir, about 25 miles north of Indianapolis. This is Jeff’s first year as the volunteer president of the board for the nonprofit Morse Waterway Association, which promotes safety on the reservoir and helps preserve it. But from 2005 to 2019, Jeff was the reigning Almen Strip Czar of the shot peening industry—and many in the business would say he still is. In 2019, Jeff retired from Electronics Inc. (EI), which he was instrumental in transforming into the world’s premier manufacturer of Almen strips, an extremely effective diagnostic tool for the shot peening process.
What Is an Almen Strip?
“A basic explanation of an Almen strip,” Jeff says to me by phone from his porch, “is that it is a thin strip of 1070 steel, about 3 inches by 3/4 of an inch, used to measure how hard shot is hitting the surface of a part being shot peened. And for those who aren’t clear on what shot peening is,” Jeff continues like a professor of peening (Jeff taught shot peening and Almen strip courses at trade conferences and in private business classes for nearly 15 years), “shot peening is a blasting process in which media—primarily steel, ceramic, or glass—is propelled against a metal surface, causing indentations that result in compressive stresses that significantly increase the fatigue life of a part. In other words, it makes the parts last longer.”
Jeff goes on to explain the many nuances and variations of different shot peening applications … but then he returns to Almen strips: “Almen strips measure shot peening intensity, which is how hard media is impacting a surface, so that people can verify that their shot peening machines are delivering consistent, repeatable results that meet a customer’s specifications—that’s the key.”
How Jeff Became “The Czar”
In 2005, Jeff was EI’s engineering and operations manager. EI was and still is the leading manufacturer of valves and controllers for shot peening and shot blasting equipment. It also, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted an annual “Shot Peening and Blast Cleaning Workshop” where Jeff routinely taught.
That year, one of Jeff’s primary duties was to develop a large-scale process for manufacturing more accurate, reliable Almen strips—which he accomplished along with the help of others at EI and a great team of suppliers. Jeff and his team then went on to develop a program that for more than 12 years tested and recorded the performance of these Almen strips under various conditions, parameters, and intensities. They also created a procedure to performance test the lots of material used to manufacture the Almen strips. These performance tests were a major step for ensuring the accuracy and reliability of EI’s Almen strips.
Over the years, Jeff freely shared this research data with anyone who asked. “The phone calls were constant,” he recalls. “We catalogued over 3,000 pages of data on Almen strips based on all of the tests, and we shared specifics with anyone who called. And that’s how I earned the moniker: The Almen Strip Czar.”
Nothing Beats Retirement!
Befitting royalty, Jeff is a huge fan of the races—the Indianapolis 500, that is. In fact, over the years he’s put almost as much energy into becoming an Indy 500 historian as he has into researching Almen strips. He now has time to speak about the history of the race, as opposed to Almen strips, at nearby Rotary and Kiwanis clubs. In addition, he annually speaks about the race at the Indiana high school were his son is a history teacher.
“The years that I spent at EI were the best years of my career,” Jeff recalls, “thanks to the incredible people with whom I worked. We had a lot of fun. We believe that we have the best product in the world. But I have to say . . . nothing beats retirement!”