5 things to consider when purchasing a new heat treat furnace

August 9, 2020


Buying a new furnace can be both exciting and daunting. It can give your facility the capability to go after business you can’t pursue with your older equipment. If you are looking at a new furnace simply because you need more production, you should first consider whether you can get enough added production out of your old furnaces. If you can get a 10% boost in production from your existing 10 furnaces by shortening your cycle time with faster pump down, you can create the same output that an extra furnace would have provided.

Don’t buy a new furnace

The electrical burden of each new furnace installed is starting to create challenges for heat treat companies all over the world. Strategies like storing electrical power for use in peak demand hours is a new example of the lengths to which some heat treaters are going in order to keep the lights on. Such measures might work, but they are outside the knowledge domain of most heat treat facilities and should be considered only as a last resort.

An alternative solution is to use less power on existing furnaces, and a great way to accomplish that is to use more power efficient diffusion pumps and roughing pumps. Smart diffusion and roughing pumps can be put in standby condition when not in use. They also use 30% to 50% less power during steady state processing. You could save as much as 10KW per furnace just by upgrading your vacuum system. A new furnace will use a great deal more power, so consider carefully before you add another. On the other hand, more production using less power is a win-win situation.

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Furnace footprint

A new furnace will require you either to remove an old furnace or expand your production footprint. If you have plenty of expansion room, this is not a problem. If space is limited and more production is required, demolishing an old furnace could negatively impact your top line and bottom line for quite some time. This is another reason to try to upgrade your current furnaces before purchasing new ones.

Read part 2 of this blog series and get tips on streamlining operations to attract high-value customers to your heat-treating business.

Inert gases

The argon and nitrogen you use at your facility are expensive. These gases require very high pressure and low temperatures to produce, which means they require great quantities of electrical power. Over time, as power prices rise, these gases will get even more expensive. Adding more furnaces will not only increase your power requirements, it will raise your inert gas requirements as well. Generating more production from existing equipment means you are able to keep your inert gas cost stable, reducing your costs per batch.

Process vs. general maintenance

It seems every heat treat facility we visit is shorthanded. Good maintenance and operations workers are harder than ever to find. Old and outdated vacuum equipment is expensive, time consuming and takes a certain level of finesse to maintain. Upgrading those vacuum systems removes a great deal of the maintenance burden, freeing up people within your facility to operate and optimize existing equipment. Modern vacuum equipment will radically reduce your maintenance requirements, make your whole factory much quieter and cleaner, and entice your best workers to stick around. 

We know upgrading is easier said than done when you're managing budget constraints into the bargain. Contact the Leybold team by clicking the button below.

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