Ceramic Industry

Inside CI: Hot Tools

September 1, 2005
Editor Kristi Grahl's monthly roundup.

Energy and labor costs are only going in one direction these days-up. Manufacturers that are struggling to balance their profit-and-loss statements would do well to evaluate these two areas for possible improvements. Fortunately, a number of new technologies for heat processing operations are helping plants reduce energy consumption and increase productivity.

For example, infrared (IR) imaging has long been touted for its ability to minimize downtime by predicting maintenance requirements before they turn into disasters. In the glass industry, some plants have used IR systems to measure glass temperatures at the surface of the melt or just below for process control applications; however, such systems have typically been expensive and limited to the long-wave application range (rather than the more ideal mid-wave range for glass). Recent advances in detector resolution, image filtration, and software are helping to lower the cost and increase the performance of today's IR imaging systems, thereby making them more practical for glass process control and plant predictive maintenance applications-including identifying furnace leaks and other areas of wasted energy.

For companies that manufacture advanced ceramics, the binder burnout and sintering operations have typically required two separate pieces of heat processing equipment, as well as additional handling steps. A new technology with a dual heating system allows binder burnout and sintering to occur in the same furnace, thereby helping manufacturers improve both their product quality and productivity.

Thermoanalytical instruments can help manufacturers further optimize binder burnout and sintering operations by providing detailed insights into the reactions that occur in the furnace. By understanding these processes, operators can make any necessary changes to the sintering profile to ensure complete binder burnout and efficient sintering.

Of course, thermal processing isn't the only manufacturing stage where inefficiencies-and lost profits-occur. According to John Mautner, founder of Advanced Profit Technologies and the Cycle of Success Institute, costly mistakes and bottlenecks in a variety of areas often hold many companies back from reaching their full profit potential. "Effectively improving operations management can turn a company into a high-performance, upper-quartile organization," he says. And there's a tool for this as well-Advanced Profit Technologies has partnered with Ceramic Industry to offer one ceramic or glass manufacturing company the opportunity to participate in the 12-month Cycle of Success Institute program for free. Simply fill out the form on p. 16 and return it by October 10 for your chance to win.

Energy efficiency, productivity and continuous improvement are vital to remaining successful in today's economy. Having the right tools can make all the difference.