Have you taken a closer look at your metal heat treating furnace? More specifically, to the atmosphere inside the furnace? If not, consider this: A closer examination of the furnace atmosphere may deliver more control and efficiency resulting in saving time and money.
The existing heat treatment operations in the industry today are focused on pre-set flow control of furnace atmosphere hydrogen, nitrogen and argon following which you wait to see if destructive testing or visual inspections unearth any issues. After the testing is done, you make the necessary flow changes.
One problem with this approach is that there are already parts in the furnace that have been exposed to the problematic atmosphere and need to be reworked or scrapped. This means you’ll need to run the process and test again to ensure quality. The downside - you are producing batches of contaminated products and burning time and money.
The good news- The standard is changing for the better!
Thanks to a process technology called active atmosphere control, it is now possible to know more about what’s happening with a furnace’s atmosphere in real time. As consumer quality standards become more stringent and the market more competitive, active atmosphere control is also gaining in its appeal.
One reason for this is its relative simplicity. By utilizing oxygen probes and active sample analysis of dew point, content and other important parameters, companies can modify and control furnace atmospheres.This results not only in saving time and money but also reduces rejects and enhances yield. The idea is to automatically adjust atmosphere gases flow levels based on active sampling of the atmosphere which needs to be done appropriately and in a timely manner.
The end result: Operators get nearly instant control over their furnace atmosphere.
There’s an app for that too!
Remote monitoring technologies now allow operators to monitor furnace atmosphere in real time on their smart phones and laptops, thereby enabling faster responses to issues.
Examples of applications
In advanced atmosphere control during carburizing, neutral hardening and annealing in continuous furnaces, the right system can provide full control over the carbon potential in up to four zones per furnace – while optimizing the heat treatment cycle. Companies are also finding these tools indispensable for quality assurance work.
The benefits of this process in carburizing, neutral hardening and annealing include:
- Optimization of the heat treatment cycle
- Productivity increases of up to 15 percent
- Reduced costs
- Enhanced process control
- Easy operation with a PC-based HM-interface
- Precise control of the surface carbon content
Potentially higher surface quality in terms of brightness and freedom from carbon deposits
- Enhanced quality assurance through advanced process control with recipes for different parts, dimensions and types
- Increased safety thanks to minimization of flammable gases at the furnace inlet and exit and a nitrogen-based safety purge function.
(Looking for more information on safety systems for your heat treat process? Click here ).
In stainless steel annealing, active atmosphere control systems monitor the atmosphere in continuous and batch furnaces and control the amounts of gases introduced into the furnace (hydrogen and nitrogen). This allows for an exact adjustment of the furnace atmosphere for different steel grades and ensures very good reproducibility.
Benefits and features of the technology in stainless steel annealing include:
- Active control of process parameters
- Homogeneous heating and optimal cooling
- Flexible N2/H2 ratio
- No precipitate formation
- Automatic safety purging
- Process alarms for safer operation
- Ability to use process recipes
The name of the game in heat treatment is control!
The more control over the process, the better the quality. Thankfully, technology is advancing and the industry now can realize additional control to better serve customers while saving time and money.
For more information on how to get control over your heat treatment processes, click on the image below.