INVESTING IN CERAMICS: Mason Upgrades its Firing Operation

March 1, 2004
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Mason Color Works, Inc. recently completed installation of a new periodic kiln, as well as an upgrade to an existing kiln, at its East Liverpool, Ohio, facility. As part of the company's plant addition two years ago, a new periodic kiln was purchased to increase firing capabilities and improve firing technology (for additional details, see "Continuing a Colorful Family Tradition," CI May 2002, pp. 16-18, or view the article online at www.ceramicindustry.com). The new kiln was so successful that a decision was made to remove the existing tunnel kiln, which had become too expensive to operate, and replace it with another new periodic kiln.

At the same time, Mason decided to refurbish another older periodic kiln to bring all three kilns to identical firing patterns. The older periodic was a bottom-fired up-draft kiln that created hot spots at the bottom and cold spots at the top of the firing chamber. Engineers from DIS Kilns of Cobridge, Stoke-on-Trent, UK, designed changes to the kiln, to be implemented along with the installation of the new periodic.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2003, the tunnel kiln was demolished and removed, and the site was prepared for the new kiln. The old periodic was then refurbished, and the new periodic kiln was installed. Mason technicians and DIS engineers together commissioned the two kilns, bringing them technologically in line with the first DIS periodic. All changes to firing technology had previously been fully tested using the first DIS kiln, so the changeover proceeded smoothly and efficiently.

Mason's new periodic kiln operates at a maximum temperature of 2500°F, which allows for the manufacture of new high-temperature pigments.

Enjoying the Benefits

The new kiln was designed to achieve 2500°F versus the 2350°F maximum temperature of the old kiln; the higher temperature allows for the manufacture of new high-temperature pigments that could not be made previously. The total manufacturing capacity has increased, processing control is improved, efficiency has increased and the amount of floor space has been reduced by 30%. The redesigned periodic kiln yielded a 40% increase in available volume, in addition to a top temperature firing differential of only 5°F.

All three kilns now use the "opposite corner, horizontally spaced burner" system. The DIS kilns offer simple, easy-to-use programs that allow for a variety of firing cycles-slow or fast-with long soak ability and extremely tight temperature variation while being very economic in terms of fuel use. Low or high oxygen control throughout the cycle; over-temperature "policeman" thermocouples; constant-pressure, high-velocity, down-draft style operation; and automatic dampers are incorporated into the system. Saggar temperature penetration has been improved, which is important due to the solid-loading nature of the process, resulting in a marked improvement in fuel consumption. All kiln loading/unloading functions can now be completed in one shift, and the actual firings are done at night. Firing charts are automatically printed and available for laboratory study if necessary.

In addition to the kiln project, other new equipment has been added, including a large V-blender to handle twice the previous volume of material and to help ensure more accurate, efficient blending both before and after firing. New crushers have been purchased, and some new laboratory equipment has also been added to give the maximum amount of control to the finished color process.

For more information, contact the company at (330) 385-4400, fax (330) 385-4488, e-mail mcwinc@valuenet.com or visit http://www.masoncolor.com .

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