Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Annealing Point and Range

A question has been asked about whether the statement that “annealing longer never hurts” is true.

To understand why this statement is not always true, you need to be aware that annealing is not just the soak at the stated annealing point.

The annealing point has a mathematical description, but in lay terms it is the temperature at which the stresses in the glass are most quickly relieved.  Annealing at this point is only possible in large industrial processes.  It is reported that float glass manufacturers can anneal glass in 15 minutes because of excellent temperature control in their lehrs.  For those of us who do batch annealing such speed and accuracy is not achievable.

As we cannot achieve such accuracy with our kilns, annealing for kiln formers consists of a temperature equalisation soak at the annealing point and then slow cooling through the lower strain point.  That is the point where the glass becomes so stiff that no further annealing is possible. 

Most kilns have relatively cool areas.  They mainly are in the corners and at the front of top hat or front-loading kilns.  You should know where these cool spots are.  They can be checked for by a simple test as described in Bullseye Technote 1.   This will enable you to know if and where any cool spots may be.  In smaller pieces, you can just avoid those areas in the placing of your pieces.

Annealing of large pieces, parts of which must be in the cool areas, is possible.  But not with excessively long anneal soaks.  If the kiln has temperature differentials, a long soak will impose those variations in temperature upon the glass. This means that the glass will begin its annealing cool with variations in temperature across the piece.

During the anneal cooling, research at Bullseye Glass Company has shown that to achieve as stress free a piece of glass as possible, the temperature variation across and through the piece should not vary more than 5°C. This is relatively difficult to achieve if you have cool areas in your kiln.  But it is possible.

To alleviate the possible difficulties of temperature variations in the kiln, the anneal soak should not be extended beyond that recommended by its thickness.  What should be extended is the anneal cool. The rate of cooling should be slowed to the rate for a piece at least twice the thickness of the current piece.

If it is a tack fused piece, this reduction should be for a piece four times the thickness of the thickest piece you are annealing.

The conclusion is that it is possible to anneal too long, if the piece is large and the heat in the kiln is not uniform. If you are concerned, remember that the soak at annealing point is to equalise the temperature throughout the substance of the piece. The annealing cool - the first 110 degrees Celsius - is very important. If you are concerned, it is best slow that rate of decrease dramatically. This provides a safer option for an adequate annealing of large pieces.