industrial heating

Infrared for Industrial Heating

Infrared technology is used in many industrial heating (IR) applications across several different industries. The article below written by Reed Miller and posted on industrialheating.com discusses the different applications IR technology is used in, the advantages compared to other heating techniques, and different types including high temperature, use in preheating, and other applications.

“Infrared energy causes the surface electrons of an object to excite and oscillate, creating heat. Several factors determine the temperature, not the least of which being the wavelength of the electromagnetic radiation generated by the infrared heating source. The equipment used for the above applications utilizes medium and long wavelength IR and is typically capable of less than 800°F (427°C). Since the wavelength is inversely proportional to the temperature, the wavelength shortens as the temperature goes up [2].

The high temperature infrared processing discussed here primarily utilizes short wavelength T-3 tungsten-halogen lamp-based systems with unique designs to enable the systems to operate at higher temperatures in industrial environments. Infrared heating has many advantages over other heating techniques. It provides

  • An inherently clean non-contact heating method
  • Rapid response energy fluxes capable of heating rates in excess of 50°C/s (material and mass dependent
  • Excellent spatial and tempered control allowing sample-only heating uni-directionally over large areas
  • Rapid power level changes due to low thermal mass (halogen lamps)
  • Rapid cooling rates due to the “cold wall” nature of IR
  • Controllable temperature gradient processing up to flux densities of 50 W/cm2

Thus, infrared provides a versatile and flexible answer to heat transfer problems throughout the industrial spectrum [3].

High Temperature Infrared

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has been investigating infrared-based processing for high temperature applications [above 800 °F (427 °C)] for more than a decade. During this time, many unique applications have been developed, and several of these will be highlighted. Most of the experimental research at ORNL was conducted in two in-house fabricated infrared systems. These use tungsten halogen-based heating elements, water-cooled bodies, ceramic reflectors, and fuzzy logic controls. Figure 1 shows a 33 kW four-inch diameter cylindrical vacuum and an 88 kW – 24″ °- 24″ flat bed system at ORNL.

These systems are utilized in various programs to develop the “Process Science” of targeted applications. Infrared, like other heating technologies, has its niche and each potential application has to be investigated to assess the feasibility. Typically, systems need to be designed for the given application based on the data produced. Several applications, which have seen some success, are discussed and shown below. These applications/designs utilize a hybrid rapid infrared (RI) furnace with a two-zone heating approach. Zone one uses the high power densities available by the T-3 lamps to bring the load/parts near the targeted process temperature, and zone two acts more like a convection furnace to bring the load uniformly to the targeted temperature. The term “hybrid” is derived from this unique combination of heating modes [4].

Preheating for the Forging Industry

Insert Die Heater

The forging community in the United States presently either does not preheat their forging dies or preheats them inadequately due to the 3-4 hour length of time required. If preheating of the dies is not performed or is performed improperly, premature failure occurs due to thermal shock and improper deposition of die lubricant. A set of these dies typically costs tens of thousands of dollars and die rebuilds, thousands of dollars.

To combat these problems, an infrared insert heater was designed to simultaneously heat the upper and lower dies in a hammer forge. This system can simply plug into a standard welding outlet and be ready to preheat in seconds. Initial testing of this heater in an ORNL forge revealed that it could preheat 10-inch platens to 400°F in approximately 10-15 minutes (Fig. 2). The system converts electrical into radiant energy with efficiencies in excess of 90% and goes from cold to full power in less than one second. The technology has been successfully implemented in the preheating of die castings as well.

Aluminum Billets

Basic research at ORNL has shown that through rapid preheating of aluminum billets prior to forging, fatigue properties can be greatly enhanced. Typical preheating times can be as long as four hours in traditional shop setups, while utilizing a hybrid infrared approach can reduce this time to less than 20 minutes. The hybrid infrared system used for preheating aluminum billets prior to forging is shown on the title page of this article (p. 42). The benefit of the shorter heating time is a finer grain size on 2019 Al (Fig. 3). It is this grain refinement that results in the improved fatigue properties [4].

Other Promising Applications

  • Rapid preheating of aluminum and inter-metallic sheets prior to hot rolling for reduced process cycle times. Figure 4 shows an infrared system performing in-line preheating of aluminum metal matrix composites.
  • In-line stress annealing of steel springs prior to coating
  • Preferential tempering in steel tooling
  • Presetting of shape memory alloys for medical applications”

For the full article and references, click here.

Contact Heatrex today, and speak with one of our experienced representatives regarding your industrial heating needs. Call us at (814) 724-1800, or find out more information about our products by visiting our website www.heatrex.com.

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