Brett Daly, Marketing Specialist at Ambrell, an Ameritherm Company, talks to AZoM about the function and practical applications of precision Induction heating.
Please can you provide me with a background to Ambrell?
Ambrell was founded in 1986 in Scottsville, NY, a suburb of Rochester. Ambrell’s early focus was on lower power, high frequency systems, but over time our product line has grown, and we now offer systems ranging from 1 kW to 1.2 MW.
Responsiveness has always been a focal point at Ambrell. It starts with the free laboratory service we offer to prospective clients to test their applications and prove their processes, and it continues after the sale with our service.
We manufacture our systems at our Scottsville headquarters, but sell to over 50 countries and have offices and resellers around the globe, including a new, expanded office and applications laboratory in the Netherlands.
What are the key products that have occupied the expansion of this company?
The EASYHEAT and EKOHEAT induction heating systems are our two primary product lines. The EASYHEAT systems are available with power ranging from 1.2-10 kW and frequency ranging from 150-400 kHz.
EKOHEAT's range from 10-1,200 kW and frequency goes as low as 0.75 kHz. Increased demand for our EASYHEAT systems and the expansion of our EKOHEAT product line has enabled Ambrell’s growth.
There are additional products that have broadened our market appeal, including eVIEW induction heating software which monitors and logs key operating parameters such as temperature, and our EASYCOIL, which is a flexible coil that is great for large, oddly shaped parts.
In fact, temperature monitoring with eVIEW has been used by a number of our aerospace fastener customers to help them meet a particular specification from a large aerospace manufacturer.
In the end, our solutions are what set us apart. Thanks to our experience and laboratory expertise, we deliver customers peace of mind and a solution that will meet their objectives.
How do induction heating systems work?
Induction heating systems typically consist of a power supply, workhead with a coil, and a cooling unit such as a chiller. Conductive materials are heated with induction, or a susceptor can be used to heat non-conductive materials.
Here’s how induction works: the alternating current in the coil generates an electromagnetic field which sets up a circulating current in the workpiece. This circulating current in the workpiece flows against the resistivity of the material which generates heat.
What are the main advantages of using induction heating for the end-user?
There are several advantages to induction heating. It is a very precise, targeted method of heating. It is also a very rapid method of heating.
Safety is another benefit when compared to methods of heating that involve an open flame, plus it introduces less heat into the work environment. Finally, it is very efficient due to its speed and the fact it can be turned on and off instantly, which can result in considerable energy savings.
These advantages help clients increase production, enhance part quality and reduce energy expenses.
How does this induction system compare to other heating methods currently being utilised in the present market sector?
When compared to torch heating, induction is fast and highly repeatable, plus it introduces less heat into the work environment and uses comparatively less energy. When comparing induction with ovens, it is a more targeted method of heating since it only heats the portion of the part that requires it, which can enhance part quality and save energy.
Additionally, speed and the smaller amount of required floor space are additional advantages of induction over an oven.
What are the main areas/industries of application for induction heating?
Induction is leveraged in a wide array of industries. It can be used for brazing and soldering applications in an wealth of industry segments, curing coatings on brake rotors and oil industry pipes, melting materials in crucibles, hot heading or forging the heads of fasteners, crystal growing in the semiconductor industry, solar cell stringing and tabbing, cap sealing for consumer products such as toothpaste, and even nanoparticle heating.
It’s difficult to round it down to just a few industry segments, as our segment coverage is pretty broad – if heat is needed in a manufacturing process, induction may be able to help.
Is there a case study to demonstrate the key challenges for this system?
We certainly have a number of case studies and application notes that illustrate how clients have been successful with induction heating.
Most clients come to us because they want to heat a part more quickly in order to increase productivity, have quality issues or have a new heating project. So those are the issues or challenges we typically address.
In terms of challenges of using an induction system, you need to be heating a conductive material (unless you are using a susceptor). Oddly shaped parts can present challenges, but they can be addressed via coil design.
What are the main applications you work with?
The neat thing about induction is we encounter exciting new applications every day. Our application lab sees a great variety of applications, so no day is ever alike. However, there are certainly common applications.
Brazing is our most common one. Induction’s efficiency, precision and flameless heating make it a great choice. Preheating prior to forging, curing, melting, metal-to-plastic insertion, annealing, shrink fitting and of course heat treating are additional common applications.
Are there any major developments in place for your induction system?
Our engineering team has over 25 patents, so there’s a steady stream of innovations. The addition of modular systems to our EKOHEAT line-up is a significant recent development.
This enables customers to buy, as an example, a 250 kW system. But, if a year later the customer realizes they need more power, they can buy another 250 kW system giving them 500 kW of power.
While not a new development, versatility is certainly a theme with our systems, as multiple capacitor and tap transformer configurations provide considerable flexibility. The systems also offer efficient power conversion which minimizes energy expenses. Agile frequency tuning enables accurate repeatable heating.
It’s also worth noting that a lot of innovation comes from process design. The right system and coil will result in a dramatically more effective induction heating system.
That’s another strength of ours. Our application engineers have a wealth of experience, and will propose a system for a client and work with the client on their process before the sale.
How do you see this industry developing over the next decade and how do you plan to adapt to these changes?
As new technologies come along, our base of applications changes and broadens. While induction is hardly a new technology, we regularly find ways to implement it into new processes. Pin sealing in cathode ray tubes (CRTs) used to be a huge application for Ambrell.
Now we’re involved in nanoparticle heating and crystal growing for LED manufacturing. As time progresses, I’m sure we’ll be involved in whatever new technologies come along. As industries change, our applications change.
Our emphasis over the next decade and beyond will be on delivering customers great solutions via superior service and innovation. By doing that, our systems and solutions will be as versatile and efficient as possible and ready to adapt to an ever-changing market.
About Brett Daly
Brett has been with Ambrell for over two years, managing the company’s public relations, marketing programs, social media and tradeshow programs.
He previously worked as a Marketing Manager for a software company. He earned a BS in Marketing and an MBA with a concentration in Technology Management from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
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