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News

Innovative heating element designed for multi-atmosphere furnaces

Sandvik Coromant UK : 18 June, 2006  (New Product)
Ongoing process and product development of the Kanthal Super ER heating element is providing opportunities in the powder metallurgy industry for designing heating systems capable of meeting the process demands of multi-atmosphere furnaces. This means that it is now possible, in one furnace, to operate firing cycles where the atmosphere condition can be altered during the cycle between oxidizing, inert, endogas and reducing atmospheres.
Ongoing process and product development of the Kanthal Super ER heating element is providing opportunities in the powder metallurgy industry for designing heating systems capable of meeting the process demands of multi-atmosphere furnaces.

This means that it is now possible, in one furnace, to operate firing cycles where the atmosphere condition can be altered during the cycle between oxidizing, inert, endogas and reducing atmospheres.

Kanthal Super ER elements are particularly suited to most types of sintering process in dry hydrogen and nitrogen/hydrogen mixtures, and furnaces with alternating oxidizing and reducing atmospheres at temperatures up to 1400C. They are equally suited to continuous furnaces with hydrogen containing atmospheres for sintering ferrites and other electro-ceramics. Key powder metallurgy applications have been identified in the automotive and electronics industries.

Kanthal Super ER is a unique concept for heating elements, combining the high temperature properties of molybdenum/silicon (MoSi2) material with the excellent stability given by the Al2O3 layer of iron/chromium/aluminium (FeCrAl) material. Super ER is an intermetal/ceramic composite material based on molybdenum/ silicon/aluminium (Mo(SiAl)2). The material can withstand 1580C element temperatures and forms a stable protective aluminium oxide (Al2O3) layer on the surface when heated. The element is equally suitable for low temperature oxidizing processes.

Other operating benefits over molybdenum or graphite elements, for example, are that Kanthal Super ER elements can be replaced whilst the furnace is hot, thus minimising downtime. Furthermore, in cases of carbon build-up in the chamber, which may occur in carburizing or endothermic atmospheres, furnaces can be recovered by firing in air to burn out carbon deposits. Also, as the elements work directly in the furnace atmosphere, there is no need for muffle protection from the atmosphere. Furnace design is, therefore, made simpler with lower build and reduced maintenance costs.

Alternative heating elements for sintering applications have process limitations. Molybdenum elements are often used but cannot operate in air or oxidizing atmospheres due to the detrimental effects of oxidation. The so-called 'silica forming' elements have a protective silicon oxide layer which enables extended use at high temperatures in oxidizing atmospheres. However, their use is limited at high temperatures in reducing atmospheres due to evaporation at low dew points and low partial pressures of oxygen (inert or vacuum).

Traditional iron/chromium/aluminium (FeCrAl) heaters are normally used in air, oxidizing and atmosphere furnaces. Alumina scales, which are formed on the element surface, are more stable than silica formers but there is a maximum high temperature limitation, and lifetimes can be shortened when operating close to melting point.

The Kanthal Super ER elements overcome these difficulties. They are supplied as 2 and 4 shank elements up to 9 mm heating zones and can be mounted either horizontally on Al2O3 brick supports or vertically.
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