It’s a point of pride that I have every issue of Process Heating ever published cataloged in a small library in my home office. Admittedly, it’s not as tidy as you might find at your local library. I tend to stack issues that I “check out” on the floor in front of the library until it’s time to clean my office. And, while my lazy filing means a career as a bibliophilic cataloger is doubtful, it also provides opportunities for rediscovery.
Such was the case as I paged through the September 2014 issue and came across my own column, “Life Lessons from Process Heating.” Though you can read the complete column online, one life lesson that bears repeating is, “Innovation is essential to manufacturing success. Keeping your products in line with and even ahead of your competitors’ — and more importantly, your customers’ wants and needs — is a challenge, and not one that can be ignored.”
Certainly, some principal concepts — heat transfer fluids should be tested at least annually, or product loading within an oven must influence airflow design if you hope to achieve effective and consistent product heating, for instance — are virtually truisms, typically because they reflect immutable laws of physics, chemistry and heat transfer. Those same immutable laws also can drive innovation and ingenuity. As Larry Stoma notes in his article, while the drilled-hole deck in fluid-bed dryers has been used as the conveying surface for decades, innovations in deck design may improve heat transfer and temperature uniformity. The wedge-wire deck design Stoma describes also addresses other limitations of the drilled-hole design such as clogging, hot spots and dead spaces. Stoma will be joining me for a Process Heating podcast in April, so visit www.process-heating.com/podcasts to hear more about fluid-bed drying.
Innovation and ingenuity are also the drivers behind a burner with a mixed-air combustion zone that serves as the focus of an article from Tom Korb, Chad Carroll and Jose Córcega of John Zink Hamworthy Combustion. The article looks at factors that can lead to sub-stoichiometric combustion in fired heaters, and how burner-level insights allow the operator to optimize heater operation without sacrificing safety.
Additive manufacturing in the form of diffusion bonding, a solid-state welding technique used to join similar and dissimilar metals with heat and pressure, is a modern innovation that is being exploited to make new technologies for process heating and cooling. Conformal cooling channels can be formed directly into the bonded materials, allowing the heat transfer paths to closely follow the dimensions and contours of items such as plastic injection molds. The diffusion bonding process also is suitable for joining refractory and other high strength alloyed materials together without brazing, says the engineering team at PVA TePla America. It’s certainly a technology that bears watching.
Temperature-sensing technologies have evolved from simple two-wire thermocouples to wireless protocol based remote-sensing devices. One article in this issue highlights how innovation can augment existing solutions to create a seamless networked solution. Stephen Drake, Ph.D., of heat tracing system maker Thermon, and Ted Johnson of measurement and control devices manufacturer SOR Controls Group, teamed up to offer insights on wireless RTDs and the modernization of industrial process temperature measurement. As Drake and Johnson note, wireless RTDs are not a new concept. For legacy plants and systems, however, their adoption likely depends on when controls upgrades are planned or when a spot-specific solution is required.
How have your process heating technologies evolved?