Tips on How to Avoid Vacuum Heat Furnace Downtime

30 January 2018

The successful utilization of a vacuum heat furnace hangs on several important factors, most importantly of which would be the integrity of this vacant space. Contingent on the purity of the vacuum, the efficacy of the equipment seal, and the condition of the integrated quenching tank, furnace downtime is a manageable productivity obstacle. With that said, let’s sound out the quenching section. Is that a crack?

Quench Tank Micro-Fractures 

Heavy heat loads torture this fluid station. Oil or water, that liquid absorbs thermal energy. The metal assembly containing the quench medium then acts as a heat sink. It distributes this energy, but material conduction effects are combining with the circulating hotness in the quench pool. The result is component expansion, plus a parts-fatiguing contraction effect. Micro-fractures form in the vacuum heat furnace. They propagate, then water seeps into the cracks, widening them. Seal continuity fails as component corrosion impacts the area.

Seal Continuity Defects 

This complex piece of equipment operates most effectively when its vacuum is fully intact. There are no unpredictable air currents disturbing the heat treatment cycle, so the treated workpiece is processed as a distortion-free, contaminant-less product, one that satisfies the most stringent processing guidelines. However, seal flaws allow air and moisture into the void. Hot spots form, the operation does not yield a high-quality resolution, and the equipment pumps fail to pump down. If the leak continues, the vacuum won’t form, so the pumping stage operates continually. Like falling dominoes, that one near invisible leak undermines the void, allows water into the heat treatment enclosure, and causes the pumps to age then fail. Furnace downtime is an inevitability when a damaged seal fails. Check that seal with a helium leak detector.

Weighing Extraneous Causative Factors 

Depending on unique design influences, certain vacuum heat furnaces can incur undesirable periods of system downtime when a subsystem component fails. For example, jacketed cooling systems are often employed in these equipment stations. They add an element of augmented thermal control to the intricate architecture of a vacuum heat treatment furnace. That cooling jacket must be maintained. If it’s compromised, perhaps by dirt or corrosion, the process is jeopardized. Gasket damage, thermocouple failure, instrumentation miscalibration, any one of these peripheral system flaws can and will incur equipment downtime.

It’s a fast-paced site, this vacuum-enabled heat treatment facility. Downtime is the one event that simply cannot be allowed here, not when workpiece integrity is the most important attribute invested by the vacuum heat furnace. Helium leak detectors are all very efficient, but this test must be conducted cold, which means more lost processing time. Check for seal nicks and gasket tears before they leak, and avoid that expensive work suspension period.

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