Industrial gas furnaces: operation and applications

In industry, there are many procedures that require elevated temperatures — operations that are impossible at room temperature. Industrial furnaces are key in these processes, either of the gas or electric variety. They increase the temperature of the material in question to make it possible to impart its final characteristics quicly and effectively.

What is an industrial furnace?

Each industry needs specific macninery to perform certain processes to the quality standards required. One of these appliances is the industrial furnace, which could be compared to a very high-powered domestic oven.

Furnaces are mainly used in industry, as they allow for perfect optimization of working temperatures. Their large size allows them to treat a large quantity of material at the same time and be used continuously for long periods of time, thus reducing lead times.

A few notable features of furnaces are:

  • They are made of stainless steel.
  • They have shielded resistors.
  • The doors are usually made of glass so that you can observe the material inside and what state it is in.
  • They have separate compartments to make the best use of space. (As a side note, the increase in size of the first forging furnaces took place in the 14th century.)

There are many models of furnaces with different applications and purposes. The energy used to power them can be either gas or electric.

Industrial furnace applications

The temperature that industrial furnaces can reach varies according to their intended use and the effects they need to produce. Some are used to produce physical effects and others to trigger chemical effects.
For example, they are used to fuse coatings of various kinds (paint, enamel, glass…) to parts, melt or soften materials, burn off or eliminate residues, incinerate, treat materials to achieve different properties, produce chemical reactions in the material, and so forth.

Another important example is in steelmaking. There, a furnace’s heat is used to make metals softer and allow them to be worked and shaped: bending, stamping, etc. Furnaces are also used for rolling, melting, forging or extruding, hardening, preparing alloys, reducing the minerals in iron, …. The heat even helps eliminate impurities in the annealing process.

Meanwhile, in the automotive and transportation industry, heat treatment, metal melting and drying furnaces are used to manufacture cars, tractors, trucks and even bicycles.

In the glass and ceramics industry, furnaces are used to fix pigments, vitrify, glaze, enamel and melt materials.

Industrial gas furnaces

Industrial gas furnaces have an advantage over electric ones in that they can be used even if there are power outages.

Their disadvantages with respect to their electric counterparts are that their power source is not environmentally friendly, they tend to be a little less resistant and safe, and the equipment must be inspected from time to time, just as is the case with a the gas boiler you might have at home.

However, gas furnaces are easier to use and they slightly reduce the energy bill. Otherwise, they are practically the same: they consist of compartments whose strategically placed burners allow heat to spread evenly in different directions.

How does a gas furnace work?

In an industrial furnace, the most important part is the combustion chamber, where the burner is located. The burner is divided into two phases.

Outside the chamber is the chimney, which extracts the combustion gases and exchanges the air inside for optimal heating.

Applications for gas furnaces

There are two main applications of gas furnaces: to accelerate processes and to foster certain chemical reactions.

Accelerate processes. Gas-fired industrial furnaces make it possible, for example, to speed up drying processes that would take longer if they took place at room temperature. One example is in the automotive industry: when a vehicle has been painted, it is baked for about 20 minutes at 70 degrees Celsius.  On the one hand, this serves to evaporate a

  • large part of the solvents that are present in the paint. On the other hand, it speeds up a process that would otherwise take hours. In this way, the productivity of the factory increases. These furnaces are also used to make adhesives act faster or liquids change their properties.
  • Triggering chemical processes. Gas furnaces are also used to bring about chemical reactions that are essential for certain processes. An example is electrostatic powder coating: it needs heat to adhere to the surface and bring out all the final characteristics. The process bonds the coating to the part.

At ULMA Forged Solutions we have more than 60 years of experience in the industry. We know how important it is to have the best equipment to get the maximum potential out of forging. That is why our facilities include different types of industrial furnaces, such as heating furnaces and high temperature isothermal forging furnaces. These allow us to manufacture all the different pieces and parts that our customers need to create their projects.