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What is Induction Heating?

Induction heating is a process which is used to bond, harden or soften metals or other conductive materials. For many modern manufacturing processes, induction heating offers an attractive combination of speed, consistency and control. The basic principles of induction heating have been understood and applied to manufacturing since the 1920s. During World War II, the technology developed rapidly to meet urgent wartime requirements for a fast, reliable process to harden metal engine parts. More recently, the focus on lean manufacturing techniques and emphasis on improved quality control have led to a rediscovery of induction technology, along with the development of precisely controlled, all solid state induction power supplies. What makes this heating method so unique? In the most common heating methods, a torch or open flame is directly applied to the metal part. But with induction heating, heat is actually "induced" within the part itself by circulating electrical currents. Induction heating relies on the unique characteristics of radio frequency (RF) energy - that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum below infrared and microwave energy. Since heat is transferred to the product via electromagnetic waves, the part never comes into direct contact with any flame, the inductor itself does not get hot (watch video at upper right), and there is no product contamination. When properly set up, the process becomes very repeatable and controllable.

How Induction Heating Works

How exactly does induction heating work? It helps to have a basic understanding of the principles of electricity. When an alternating electrical current is applied to the primary of a transformer, an alternating magnetic field is created. According to Faraday's Law, if the secondaryof the transformer is located within the magnetic field, an electric current will be induced. In a basic induction heating setup shown at right, a solid state RF power supply sends an AC current through an inductor (often a copper coil),and the part to be heated (the workpiece) is placed inside the inductor. The inductor serves as the transformer primary and the part to be heated becomes a short circuit secondary. When a metal part is placed within the inductor and enters the magnetic field, circulating eddy currents are induced within the part. As shown in the second diagram, these eddy currents flow against the electrical resistivity of the metal, generating precise and localized heat without any direct contact between the part and the inductor. This heating occurs with both magnetic and non-magnetic parts, and is often referred to as the "Joule effect", referring to Joule's first law a scientific formula expressing the relationship between heat produced by electrical current passed through a conductor. Secondarily, additional heat is produced within magnetic parts throughhysteresis internal friction that is created when magnetic parts pass through the inductor. Magnetic materials naturally offer electrical resistance to the rapidly changing magnetic fields within the inductor. This resistance produces internal friction which in turn produces heat. In the process of heating the material, there is therefore no contact between the inductor and the part, and neither are there any combustion gases. The material to be heated can be located in a setting isolated from the power supply; submerged in a liquid, covered by isolated substances, in gaseous atmospheres or even in a vacuum.

Important Factors to Consider

The efficiency of an induction heating system for a specific application depends on several factors: the characteristics of the part itself, the design of the inductor, the capacity of the power supply, and the amount of temperature change required for the application.

The Characteristics of the Part

METAL OR PLASTIC First, induction heating works directly only with conductive materials, normally metals. Plastics and other nonconductive materials can often be heated indirectly by first heating a conductive metal susceptor which transfers heat to the non-conductive material. MAGNETIC OR NON-MAGNETIC It is easier to heat magnetic materials. In addition to the heat induced by eddy currents, magnetic materials also produce heat through what is called the hysteresis effect (described above). This effect ceases to occur at temperatures above the "Curie" point - the temperature at which a magnetic material loses its magnetic properties. The relative resistance of magnetic materials is rated on a permeability scale of 100 to 500; while non-magnetics have a permeability of 1, magnetic materials can have a permeability as high as 500. THICK OR THIN With conductive materials, about 85% of the heating effect occurs on the surface or "skin" of the part; the heating intensity diminishes as the distance from the surface increases. So small or thin parts generally heat more quickly than large thick parts, especially if the larger parts need to be heated all the way through. Research has shown a relationship between the frequency of the alternating current and the heating depth of penetration: the higher the frequency, the shallower the heating in the part. Frequencies of 100 to 400 kHz produce relatively high-energy heat, ideal for quickly heating small parts or the surface/skin of larger parts. For deep, penetrating heat, longer heating cycles at lower frequencies of 5 to 30 kHz have been shown to be most effective. RESISTIVITY If you use the exact same induction process to heat two same size pieces of steel and copper, the results will be quite different. Why? Steel along with carbon, tin and tungsten has high electrical resistivity. Because these metals strongly resist the current flow, heat builds up quickly. Low resistivity metals such as copper, brass and aluminum take longer to heat. Resistivity increases with temperature, so a very hot piece of steel will be more receptive to induction heating than a cold piece.

Inductor Design
It is within the inductor that the varying magnetic field required for induction heating is developed through the flow of alternating current. So inductor design is one of the most important aspects of the overall system. A well-designed inductor provides the proper heating pattern for your part and maximizes the efficiency of the induction heating power supply, while still allowing easy insertion and removal of the part.

Power Supply Capacity

The size of the induction power supply required for heating a particular part can be easily calculated. First, one must determine how much energy needs to be transferred to the work-piece. This depends on the mass of the material being heated, the specific heat of the material, and the rise in temperature required. Heat losses from conduction, convection and radiationshould also be considered.

Degree of Temperature Change Required

Finally, the efficiency of induction heating for specific application depends on the amount of temperature change required. A wide range of temperature changes can be accomodated; as a rule of thumb, more induction heating power is generally utilized to increase the degree of temperature change.

induction furnace and transformers has the same principle. A high-frequency current is passed via water-cooled coil acting as primary coil of the transformer. AC current is passed through the primary coil leading to the generation of magnetic flux cutting the secondary coil. Electromagnetic induction is the main principle using which induction furnace works. This is basically metallic charge which induces the electromotive force. When the temperature is made to increment above the melting point of the metallic charge then the changes take place to liquid phase.

How Does an Induction Furnace Work By: Gene Rodriguez, III No, it's not magic, but how does an induction furnace work? Michael Faraday first discovered the process of electromagnetic induction in 1831, but it wasn't until almost one hundred years later that the first induction furnace was put into production. How Does An Induction Furnace Work? Michael Faraday discovered that when a metal object is placed in an electromagnetic field, an electrical field is generated in the metal object-even if the object is not in direct contact with the machinery that generates the magnetic field. The natural resistance in them metal object creates heat within the object. Generating enough electrical current will increase the resistance (and thus heat), melting the object. An induction furnace is powered by an electrical source designed to deliver high frequency alternating current (AC) at the proper frequency required to create the electromagnetic field. The AC power is conducted through a coil of copper tubing to generate the magnetic field. Water is typically pumped through the coil to help keep it cool. Metal to be melted in put inside a crucible of high melting point material (graphite is often used) designed to fit inside the coil. Advantages Of An Induction Furnace There are several advantages to induction furnaces that are now widely used in metal fabrication and the semiconductor industry. Some of the advantages of the induction furnace are: Energy use - Induction furnaces tend to use less energy than comparably sized traditional furnaces. Inherent mixing - The electrical field that circulates through the molten metal creates a stirring action that is useful in the production of metal alloys. Clean process - Because induction furnaces generate no emissions and don't actually contact the material, they can be used in vacuum environments used to work with metals that oxidize on contact with the atmosphere.

An induction furnace is an electrically run furnace used for melting metals. It produces heat by the use of an alternating current solenoid coil, otherwise known as electromagnetic induction. They are most often found in the scrap metal industry. The induction furnace was first invented in 1877 in Italy. The first use of the furnace was in 1927 in Britain. It wasn't until World War II, when the need for aluminum casting grew significantly, that the induction furnace went into wider usage. Electromagnetic induction is the process that allows an induction furnace to work. It was first discovered in 1831 by Michael Faraday. During induction, an electric current is passed through a metal coil which creates a magnetic field. When metal is introduced into the magnetic field, an electrical current passes through the metal and causes it to heat. The most common household use of this process is in a rice maker. The pot that contains the rice is placed on top of a metal coil and is in turn heated. There are two types of induction furnaces. The first is coreless and the second is called channel. Both are in use in the early 21st century. The coreless induction furnace has copper coils that are protected by a steel and magnetic shield and kept cool by water circulating from a special cooling tower. A layer of refractory, or difficult to melt material, is placed above the coils and heated to the desired temperature. A crucible, which is a melting pot made of heat resistant material, is above the refractory. The metal to be melted is placed inside the crucible and the heat produced by the electromagnetic charge melts the scrap. The channel induction furnace can also be called a core induction furnace. It functions very similarly to the coreless furnace, except for the addition of a heated core. Channel furnaces were originally used as molten metal holders, but have been found useful in the melting of lower melt temperature metals. Both types of induction furnaces produce a natural stirring motion when the metal is molten. The pull of the magnetic fields and electrical currents cause the materials to sway in different directions. This stirring is essential to maintaining the integrity of the metal. The corelessfurnace creates a more violent stirring, while the channel is known to have less turbulence at the surface. After melting, the molten metal is poured into a mold. Some pouring methods are fully operated by human hands. Others are mechanical with human intervention, while others are fully automated. Mechanical systems are more efficient for large scale projects, while manual pouring methods are more suited to low volume production lines.

The electric induction furnace is a type of melting furnace that uses electric currents to melt metal. These currents are alternated through large coils around the crucible holding the metal, heating it and forming eddies that melt it down. The pure melted metal sinks to the bottom, while the contaminants rise to the surface where they scooped off. Water systems are used to keep the electric coils cool. The induction furnace is faster and more precise in temperature than a traditional furnace, and has widespread uses in metallurgy.

An electric induction furnace is used by manufacturers to melt metal. Unlike more traditional methods, which involve heating the metal through an external means like fire, the induction furnace melts metal with an electrical charge. This furnace sends alternating electrical currents through the metal, heating it quickly and creating what are known as "eddy currents" that dissolve the metal into a more liquid state. Because electric induction is more precise than other melting practices, it can be used to create specific alloys and melt resistant metals. The electric induction furnace is used widely in manufacturing across the world.

Features An electric induction furnace requires an electric coil to produce the charge. This heating coil is eventually replaced, and can be bought separately from the rest of the furnace. The crucible in which the metal is placed is made of stronger materials that can resist the required heat, and the electric coil itself cooled by a water system so that it does not overheat or melt. The induction furnace can range in size, from a small furnace used for very precise alloys only about a kilogram in weight to a much larger furnaces made to mass produce clean metal for many different applications.

Construction There are many different designs for the electric induction furnace, but they all center around a basic idea. The electrical coil is placed around or inside of the crucible, which holds the metal to be melted. Often this crucible is divided into two different parts. The lower section holds the melt in its purest form, the metal as the manufacturers desire it, while the higher section is used to remove the slag, or the contaminants that rise to the surface of the melt.

So that the slag can be easily removed, there are often specific electrodes place at the top of the crucible to keep it in a semi-liquid state. Crucibles may also be equipped with strong lids to lessen how much air has access to the melting metal until it is poured out, making a purer melt.