Across the board, the ceramic industry has benefitted from three significant pieces of technology introduced to us over the last 45 years: high-velocity combustion, low-mass kiln cars, and digital control technology. First came high-velocity combustion, which gave us high rates of convective heat transfer. It delivered improved temperature uniformity, faster cycles, fuel savings and increases in “A” grade recovery, as well as many other documented secondary benefits.
Next came low-mass kiln cars, which involve the elegant marriage of silicon carbide furniture and alumina silica refractory fiber. Segments of our industry went from firing mostly kiln cars (2,500 lbs of support structure for 350 lbs of product) to firing mostly product. Car refractory mass was converted into products fired faster, for less fuel and at higher rates of “A” grade recovery. The ugly heat sink had disappeared, and firing temperature differentials were significantly reduced. Product-to-car superstructure ratios went from 1:7 unfavorable to 4:1 favorable.