Buying vacuum or atmosphere heat-treating equipment is much like purchasing a new car or a home – a lot of thought, research and careful consideration should go into the decision. However, unlike buying a car or home, it might be difficult to know all of the key items you should consider before making a purchase.
Our Ipsen experts have compiled a list of essential questions every buyer should ask themselves before committing to a furnace, as well as a few key considerations for reducing downtime and extending the lifespan of the furnace.
Buying a Furnace
- What is your budget? Make sure to do some research and acquaint yourself with the general cost of different furnaces, as well as the cost of optional features, auxiliary equipment, transportation and installation. Then decide on a budget that will best meet your needs.
- Will your parts be processed in vacuum or atmosphere?
- What types of processes will you run in the furnace?
- How many parts do you want to process per month? This number will help determine the furnace size that best meets your needs.
- What type of parts are you putting into the furnace? Specifically, what is the size and material of the parts being processed?
- Are you new to heat treatment? If the answer is yes, you might have to do a little research to find out how your product will need to be heat treated.
- What specifications are you trying to comply with? This can influence a range of furnace options, including the type and number of thermocouples, the construction of the hot zone and more.
- How much space do you have for a furnace? This factor could influence the type/size of furnace you can actually get, as well as the flow of materials within your building.
- Vacuum: Do you have a recirculating water system? If so, what type, and how much cooling water is currently being used by existing furnace systems compared to the total capacity of your recirculating water system? This will help determine whether or not your current water system has enough cooling water available to accommodate a new furnace.
- Atmosphere: Do you have an endothermic generator? Can you buy gases, such as ammonia and nitrogen, either locally or without difficulty?
- Atmosphere: Do you require additional equipment for processing parts, such as tempers, washers, loaders and/or storage tables?
While the spare parts you should have on-hand to reduce downtime often depends on the situation and type of furnace you have, there are a few key items every furnace buyer should consistently have in stock:
- Radiant tubes
- Ocygen sensors
- Elements and element hardware
- Additional hot zone replacement parts
- Seals and consumables
Extending the Furnace’s Lifespan
An essential part of extending the lifespan of your furnace is performing regular preventive maintenance, replacing parts, ensuring it is leak free, performing regular cleanup cycles, etc. By doing so, you are helping prevent any potential issues that might cause downtime, while also increasing the furnace’s lifespan.
Another key part of extending the equipment’s lifespan is being proactive about maintaining the hot zone and chamber, as well as getting necessary upgrades and/or retrofits. The hard part, though, is knowing when it’s the right time to do so. Below are some key questions you should occasionally ask yourself about your furnace:
- Is the furnace performing at an acceptable level?
- Are the parts coming out at the desired quality levels?
- Does the furnace have good temperature uniformity?
- Is the data acquisition acceptable?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, then it might be time to start thinking about what a new hot zone/rebricking, upgrade and/or retrofit could do for you and your furnace.