Many industries utilize heat for manufacturing processes. Whether the application involves removing residual moisture on the surface of a part, drying a coating on cable assemblies or the preheating of metals during a forming process, heating is one of the driving components. End users must decide what they intend to get out of their process when choosing heating technology. Knowing how to choose which technology is appropriate for the process can be a daunting task.
Before component ordering can take place, manufacturing process requirements must be identified. This helps ensure the proper heating equipment is selected for the application. Items such as maintenance, safety and repeatable controls all must be taken into consideration when selecting heating equipment.
One of the most common industrial heating technologies is the electric heater. This heater provides a flexible option and can easily be integrated into many industrial applications.
Electric Heaters: A Popular Choice
Electric heaters are a popular choice in industrial heating applications because they provide benefits that can improve overall equipment life, help ensure safe operation and ease system integration.
Ease of Maintenance. Electric heaters allow for ease of maintenance within industrial equipment. To add hot air into a process, electric heaters do not require a special monitoring system or valving (unlike fuel-fired combustion-heated equipment).
One of the most common industrial heating technologies is the electric heater, which is a flexible option that can easily be integrated to many applications.
Typical maintenance required for electric process heaters includes a routine check for adequate airflow and proper voltage. Taking these two steps regularly can help minimize unplanned downtime.
With electric heaters relying on an element to produce heat, maintenance and spare parts inventory is minimized. In addition to minimized maintenance, hot air reduces the amount of residual debris on the surface of the material, which allows for a clean process. Because electric heaters produce a minimal amount of residue from the process, in general, it is not necessary to perform a cleaning processes after the initial introduction of heat.
Ensure Safe Operation. Safety is always a concern when applying heat within an industrial process. With technologies such as gas combustion, operators are exposed to certain operating elements. If not handled properly, operators can potentially damage the equipment they are working on and ultimately be injured in the process.
Electric heaters allow users to control how much heat is applied and how long the heat is introduced. The controllability of electric heaters also means operation can easily remove energy to prevent excessive heating to the material being processed. This minimizes thermal exposure of the machine operators.
Ease System Integration. Electric heaters can be integrated easily into an industrial application in order to achieve maximum processing capability. Whether the heater is operated in either an open-loop or closed-loop control scheme, they can be controlled with a simple potentiometer, from a temperature controller or using an industrial control system such as a programmable logic controller (PLC).
With control flexibility, end users gain repeatability within their process. This means they can provide heat to a focused surface area in an efficient manner. Because the process can be controlled with a regimented program, this allows for a higher quality process, minimizing material waste and production errors.
Double-flange air heaters are designed to be used in hot-air recirculation mode. Depending on the air inlet and air outlet temperature, a large amount of energy can be saved by recycling hot air.
Electric Heater Industrial Application Examples
One example of an electric heater in an industrial setting is in the aluminum processing industry. Processors in this industry are looking for different ways to preheat their molten aluminum molds. Hot air provides a highly flexible method of preheating a mold so that the next batch of material will not be poured in a cold mold, which can cause stress on the material and slow down batch times. The preheat temperature and dwell times vary from one vendor to the next.
To preheat the mold, electric heaters are mounted in a variety of ways that allow the hot air to be routed via a duct system or directly into the mold. Once in place, the heaters can be precisely monitored and controlled via a remote system to the desired temperature by selecting process parameters such as the heating power and desired airflow. With the ability to modify control parameters, the end user can tailor the program to a specific process. Electric heaters are a good solution for achieving the necessary temperatures for the necessary duration of time, which helps ensure a safe and reliable process.
Another example is an electric oven, which can be used to preheat or dry parts. Various lubricants such as oils and greases are frequently used in metal processing applications and these residual lubricants must be removed before the parts can undergo other processes such applying a special coating. In certain cases, oils can be removed by using hot air or through a secondary process after the washing step. The residual water can be removed efficiently by blowing off the components and drying them with an electric heater.
With heat being introduced into the process in a number of ways, end users are always looking for opportunities to reduce energy consumption and manufacturing costs. One application that is often explored is the recirculation of hot air. The introduction of heat within an oven is provided at certain intervals of the control program, and the amount of heat and dwell time varies from one application to the next. After the heat has been introduced into the oven, there can be heat losses due to part transfer or equipment inefficiencies. In order to avoid such losses, heat recirculation allows the hot air to be redirected back to the blower, through the heater and into a dryer or oven to begin the cycle again with hot air, rather than energy being lost through dissipation.
Heat recirculation allows the hot air to be redirected back to the blower, through the heater, and into a dryer or oven. From there, it begins the hot-air cycle again rather than energy being lost through dissipation.
In summary, industrial applications are diverse. When considering using an electric heater, the end user should take into account the specific application along with design considerations. Factors such as control flexibility, maintenance and safety should be taken evaluated when selecting the appropriate electric heater for the application.
End users can feel overwhelmed when it comes to electric heater selection. In addition to system specifications, conducting preliminary tests using sample parts or material may help identify the feasibility and selection of a proper electric heater for the application.
In order to navigate the requirements of the heating application, end users can always consult with companies that specialize in electric heater technology. A heater manufacturer’s experience can be invaluable in helping to develop a solution that is beneficial from a process perspective and also safe for equipment operators. Having a complete understanding of requirements will help provide an electric heating system that is able to deliver an efficient, safe and repeatable process.