What Are the Different Steps Involved in Design and Testing of Industrial Heating Systems?

What Are the Different Steps Involved in Design and Testing of Industrial Heating Systems?

Thermal heating systems are an integral part of several industrial applications, where increasing or decreasing the temperature of the process or an object becomes important. Some industries utilizing these thermal heating systems include semiconductor, alternative energy, petrochemical, biopharmaceutical, life sciences, and so on. The success or failure of several processes across these industries depend on these thermal systems. Thus, intense care is taken during the design and testing of these systems by OEMs. Are you intrigued to know about the different steps involved in these phases? This post introduces you to the intricacies of thermal heating system design and testing.

Basic Structure of Thermal Heating Systems

Thermal heating or temperature control system is made of four components— a heating source, a spreader to ensure uniform heating, a controller, and a temperature sensor. At times, a thermal heater is also utilized as a sensor. In these cases, the integrated sensor acts as the controller’s part.

Know About Different Types of Thermal Heating Systems

There are different types of thermal heating systems used today. They are differentiated based on their designs. The following are a few popular ones:

  • Pedestal Heaters: These heaters are mainly designed for use in the semiconductor industry. Widely used for semiconductor wafer processing, these heaters feature standard designs and possess a hard-anodized surface, with lift pinholes and vacuum channels.
  • MI Cable Heaters: They are heaters with mineral insulated (MI) heating cables. MI cable heaters feature a solid series resistor element, which is embedded in compacted mineral insulation. These heaters are designed to withstand high wattage and high temperatures.
  • Cartridge Heaters: These are tube-shaped heaters, which are frequently used to heat metal parts. Cartridge heaters find applications in food production, semiconductor wafer processing, immersion tank heating, and plastic welding, and so on.
  • Flexible Heaters: As the name suggests, these heaters assure immense flexibility. They can easily conform to the shape of the surface to be heated. This flexibility enables optimum heat transfer and excellent contact. They can be wrapped around any irregular-shaped surface.
  • Tubular Heaters: These heaters are used to heat gases, liquids, and air by conduction, radiant heat or convection. Tubular heaters can be designed in a variety of path shapes and cross-sections to optimize their heating capabilities.

In addition to these, the following thermal heating systems are also used:
  • Strip heaters
  • Immersion heaters
  • Ring heaters
  • Duct heaters
  • Rope and band heaters
  • Drum heaters

Understanding Different Steps Involved in Thermal Heating System Design

The thermal heating system design comprises several steps. These steps may slightly vary with different manufacturers. However, there are a few steps common to all. They are as described below:

  • Requirement Analysis: The thermal heating requirements largely vary across industries. For instance, the heat requirements during the semiconductor wafer processing is different from that of a chemical processing equipment used in biopharmaceutical industries. Thus, the manufacturers offering thermal heating systems in custom specifications will review your requirements, and provide you the best solution.
  • Selection of Heater Assemblies: This is the most important phase in the thermal heating system design. Any mistake made during the selection may lead to disastrous results.
    • The selection of a heater plate is the first step in this process. The heater plates can be availed in shapes such as round, square, rectangular, or coiled. The choice of the plate would depend on the heating requirements of your application. Along with the choice of the right plate, their specifications such as length, thickness, and diameter are also important.
    • Different heating and sensing elements contribute to the functioning of thermal heating systems. So, their selection is an important task. The OEM will guide you to choose from different types of tubular heaters, flexible mineral insulated cables, and RTD or thermocouples to be embedded into the heater. Their suggestions would be based on your requirements such as wattage, number of heating elements or zone, number of sensing elements required, operating voltage required, temperature requirements, and so on.
    • As heater assemblies are designed for different industrial environments, they need to withstand the specific working environments existing there. Most manufacturers will allow you to choose from materials such as copper, aluminum, SST, dissimilar metal, and so on, followed by the special surface treatment required.
    • Next comes the choice of termination styles. These termination styles make their integration in devices easy. Some common styles include polyimide or Teflon lead wire, riser, Torr tube for vacuum seal, and so on.
  • Software Simulation: The design phase follows post the selection of components and accessories. Simulation is performed using advanced software such as Autodesk Nastran and COMSOL Multiphysics®, which help understand the mechanical and thermal behavior of the heater.
  • Manufacturing: Heater manufacturing is performed using a furnace and several multi-axes CNC machines. These machines help achieve complex geometries, and accelerate time-to-market capabilities.
  • Validation and Testing: How are thermal heating systems tested? There are several techniques for validation and testing. They include thermal imaging, optical sensing, performance testing, thermocouple welding, Hi-pot at temperature, and so on.

The performance of industrial heating systems will depend on the success of these individual steps. If you are planning to invest in quality industrial heating systems, ensure you source them from an industry-leading manufacturer like Therm-X. The company specializes in heater manufacturing and also offers advanced validation and testing services. The test chambers are used to enable the validation and performance of heaters. Various process variables, gases, and environments are used for the simulation.

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