Investing in Ceramics - Orton
The Orton Ceramic Foundation was founded in 1896 by Edward Orton Jr. to produce pyrometric cones for the ceramic industry. These cones quickly became the standard by which furnaces were monitored and controlled. Edward Orton Jr. also established the first ceramic engineering program at The Ohio State University in 1894 and founded the American Ceramic Society in 1899.
Because of his interest in and commitment to advancing the ceramic arts and industries, and his desire to always have high quality pyrometric cones available for the monitoring of firings, Orton left his company as a non-profit trust when he died in 1932. Income from the sale of products and services is used to develop and disseminate products and information to help solve firing and other processing problems.
Today, technical assistance on customer-specific firing problems, as well as publications, technical notes and other related information, is provided through Orton’s Center for Firing. Research to understand processing and firing is supported at The Ohio State University.
Kiln MonitoringThrough the years, Orton’s kiln monitoring products have expanded to meet the changing needs of the ceramic community. Today, Orton ships 28 million pyrometric products to more than 70 countries annually.
Pyrometric cones are made from carefully controlled compositions. Each cone bends over a relatively small temperature range (less than 30°C), and the final bending position (between 8 and 90 angular degrees) is a measure of the heat absorbed. The bending angle of pyrometric cones can then be converted into a cone equivalent temperature. Cones can give accurate and repeatable results to within ±2°C. Orton has developed mathematical expressions describing cone behavior as determined by cone bending angle, firing temperature, heating rate and hold time. These will soon be available in a Windows™ program, which can be used to determine temperature differences in the firing zone, the change in firing temperature needed when the firing schedule changes, or to compare cones that are bent different amounts.
When cones are not suitable for use, shrinkage products are an alternative. Orton provides both TempCheks and temperature control rings made by Degussa. The measured shrinkage of these products is easily converted into temperatures using supplied tables.
For more extensive mapping of temperatures throughout the firing, Orton offers electronic datalogging and real-time monitoring systems under the trade name Pyrographics®. These systems collect temperatures from thermocouples located within the product load. Later this year, Orton will also offer an oxygen sensor that can be placed next to thermocouples to monitor oxygen levels within the kiln.
Materials TestingOrton operates the largest independent testing laboratory in the United States for refractory, ceramic and glass materials, supporting the needs of more than 200 companies each year.
The testing business was expanded 10 years ago when the company integrated equipment from the Refractory Research Center at The Ohio State University. The test equipment business has further expanded over the years and recently moved into a 4,500-square-foot facility. New equipment for thermal analysis, thermal conductivity and creep testing is currently being added.
Laboratory InstrumentsMore than 35 years ago, Orton developed an automatic recording dilatometer (the first sold in the U.S.) to measure the thermal expansion or contraction of materials. Other specialized instruments were added over the years, and with the addition of modern electronics and computers, the ease of use and accuracy of these instruments have markedly improved.
In December 1999, Orton further expanded its laboratory instrument division through the acquisition of the instrument business at Harrop Industries, Inc. of Columbus, Ohio. This has broadened the products available and expanded Orton’s offering of laboratory instruments.
In addition to the company’s dilatometers, DTA, TGA and crystalline silica analyzer, Orton now offers glass-testing equipment to measure the softening point, viscosity, strain and annealing temperatures. Laboratory testing furnaces are also available to make firings under controlled temperature and atmosphere conditions. This includes a thermal gradient furnace for screening processed bodies and measuring liquidus temperature. Video furnace monitoring equipment is also available, and the company has expanded its capabilities for designing custom test equipment to measure material properties.
The TOTALAB system allows multiple laboratory instrument modules to be used with common digital furnace control, data acquisition and data analysis software modules. This approach provides easy to use, dependable operation designed for years of accurate, trouble-free service.
Orton is expanding the space available for design, manufacture and testing of its laboratory instruments by 2,500 square feet. Additionally, the company recently added product and mechanical design specialists to its electronic products group to support the instrument acquisition. Industrial and international sales managers have also been added to work with industry in providing information about the company’s new products and services.