Friday, 30 April 2010

Rapid Heat Rises and Their Effects on Firings

Based on a communication from Phil Hoppes

A word of caution. Never use 9999 for a ramp up. Note: 9999 just means on an up ramp the elements are full on, no cycling. On the down ramp the power is completely off until the desired temperature is reached. Your kiln will rise in temperature limited by 2 things - the type of insulation and the number of elements. This can be anywhere from 300 – 450C/hr. to as high as 1600C/hr.)

If the time it takes to go from your lower temp to your upper temp is less than 40 minutes, your controller will be unable to accurately control the top temperature. For example, if you want to ramp from room temperature (20C) to 300C and for your kiln 9999 on an up ramp is 850C/hr., the temperature rise you are looking to accomplish is 280C and your kiln will reach 300C in just under 20 minutes. The problem is that most controllers need around 40 minutes in any ramp cycle to "learn" how the kiln is responding to the inputs that are given to it by the controller. Slower ramps need less “learning” time, faster ramps need more time.

What will happen if you programme a ramp shorter than your controller will respond to is that the temperature in your kiln will not stop nicely at the programmed 300C. The controller has not learned how to stop your kiln from rising in temperature yet and the temperature will rise much higher than your programmed value.

Depending on your kiln and your controller this can be quite significant. Most controllers have a peak shut off value, somewhere between 55C and 85C above your programmed amount. Some controllers allow you to program this value also. If the temperature in your kiln overshoots the value it was programmed to stop and the amount of overshoot exceeds the programmed shutoff temp your controller will shut down. This is a safety feature and the controller is doing what it is suppose to do. If you have something in your kiln however and this happens it will not be annealed properly and you will have to very carefully re-fire to remove the stress or it will break into pieces.

It is a good idea to know just what your kiln will do. You can do this by taking an empty kiln, program 9999 in an up ramp from room temp to 815C. This is the typical peak you would use in a full fuse. See how long it takes for your kiln to reach this temp. This will give you the maximum up ramp rate of your kiln. You can use this rate to calculate if you violate the “learning” margin of the controller. 

It is advisable not to exceed 350C/hr up ramp unless overshooting the top temperature does not matter.

The 9999 ramp in almost all cases will be used to go from the top temperature to the start of the annealing cycle.