Laboratory Ovens and Furnaces

Ovens and furnaces are one of the most basic pieces of scientific equipment in the modern laboratory. Ovens are typically used for drying, baking or curing samples and can manage temperatures of up to 300°C. Furnaces, which can generate temperatures over 1700ºC, are used for firing ceramics, melting metals and glass and curing, forming and joining materials.

Ovens operate using microwave, gravity or mechanically driven convection. Laboratory microwave ovens are similar to consumer-grade microwaves. Gravity ovens are used when temperature uniformity is not essential to the process and offer a low-cost alternative to mechanical ovens. When temperature uniformity is important, mechanically driven convection ovens are used. Internal blowers heat and recirculate the air inside the oven to provide quicker and more uniform temperature ramping.

While oven technology has remained relatively unchanged, vendors continue to address niche markets with innovative products. Yamato recently introduced the DKM 400/600, a forced convection, constant temperature oven capable of temperatures up to 260ºC. The system is equipped with automated features enhanced safety features such as overheating prevention, and calibration offsetting.

In order to reach much higher temperatures than ovens, furnaces are built with ceramic or other specialized materials with imbedded heating elements. Newer furnaces employ microwave technology in order to provide faster, more efficient heating.

Carbolite, in collaboration with C-Tech Innovation, introduced a microwave-assisted chamber furnace with a maximum operating temperature of 1600°C. The combination of traditional furnaces and microwave technology produces faster processing rates than radiant-only and microwave-only systems. The system also reduces energy usage and throughput times.

Ovens have uses in many laboratory settings and in a wide variety of industries. The need for the high temperatures generated by a furnace is limited largely to industries that work with advanced alloys and ceramics Common uses for furnaces include ashing organic samples and researching composite materials and exotic metals.

Academia has the largest demand for laboratory ovens and furnaces. The semiconductor and electronic industry, which is also a major segment, often uses tube furnaces for growing electronic crystals and doping silicon wafers, and vacuum ovens for embedding, among other applications. Other major end-user segments include the pharmaceutical and metals industries.

The overall worldwide market for ovens and furnaces is roughly $75 million in North America and growing at a modest pace. Strong demand from microwave systems is displacing demand for ovens in some applications. Moreover, the demand for extremely high-temperature furnaces and innovative microwave-assisted furnaces are also fueling growth.

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