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Curing Ovens

Industrial curing ovens are thermal processing machines designed to improve the strength and durability of the material by raising its temperature to or above a specified limit and set time.

Once the specific temperature is reached or exceeded, a physio-chemical reaction takes place that hardens and binds the sample material together, improving its strength and mechanical properties. 

Rubber, thermostat polymers, and synthetic adhesives are just some examples of raw materials that use curing ovens to strengthen and improve their chemical structure and functional properties. 

In the following sections, we will cover a broad range of topics related to curing ovens, namely, the different types of curing ovens, how they are made and what they are used for.

We’ll also go over some important factors you should consider before choosing a curing oven supplier. 

Types of Curing Ovens

Heat is the main factor that causes curing (strengthening). Therefore, all curing ovens apply some form of heat to cause the chemical reaction needed to alter a specific material’s structure. 

While the curing process can be achieved through air-drying, baking, solvent/water evaporation, and polymerization, a relevant heating temperature and sustained period are necessary to get the desired strength and durability. 

The most common heating elements used in curing ovens include gas, electricity, oil, and steam. Also, various kinds of catalyzing agents can be used to enhance the process and speed up the required chemical reaction. 

The following is a list of some of the more popular types of curing ovens categorized by the heating component they employ.

Direct Gas-Fired Ovens

Direct gas-fired ovens use gas burners that are usually contained inside an enclosure but can also be situated in combustion chambers that redirect heat to where it is needed. 

These types of curing ovens typically use a zero gas pressure system along with ribbon burners for heating. 

The ribbon burners are fed air by a combustion system—fans placed strategically in different zones—to increase or decrease heat input through air pressure control. 

Direct Oil-Fired Ovens 

These ovens use oil in uniquely designed burners for their heating mechanism.

Oil-fired ovens help to reduce power costs as heating oil is usually less expensive than heating natural gas. 

However, since heating oil carries more risks when compared to other heating methods, it is always recommended to adhere to the guidelines provided by your curing oven manufacturer. 

These usually come in the form of a manual outlining the most common risks associated with heating oil and instructions on how to avoid and limit them. 

Electrically-Heated Ovens

Electrically-heated ovens use resistant heaters that are typically used when other heating systems are not available or practical. 

Electric curing ovens are flexible enough to handle multiple heat treatment processes like annealing, baking, curing, powder coating, and welding.

Such ovens have the added advantage of being very easy to clean, since their interior consists of stainless steel shelves. 

Steam-Heated Ovens

These types of ovens use superheated steam for curing and are very useful for plants and factories that produce a large amount of high-temperature steam.

Curing ovens that use steam for heating commonly employ two or more steam coils along with a steam humidification system to inject steam heat into the heating chamber. 

Steam-heated ovens are ideal for curing water-based resin onto abrasives. 

Since each curing oven listed above uses a different heating method suited for specific curing purposes, it is important to consult with your curing oven supplier as to which one will best suit your manufacturing needs. 

How Curing Ovens Are Made

The typical curing oven is built with insulated steel panels and steel frames so it can withstand the high temperatures it is designed to produce. 

Curing ovens are also often fortified using other materials, which usually include carbon fiber and paint. 

The resin that is combined with carbon fiber cures anywhere between 60 degrees Celsius to 180 degrees Celsius, which makes it an excellent fortification material for curing composite materials popularly used in the aerospace, automotive, and nautical industries, among others. 

All curing ovens must contain the following five components: 

  • An Enclosure (Shell) that comprises a support structure, insulated panels usually made from steel, and air seals. 
  • Heating Units, including the burner, supply fan, and filters.
  • The Air Supply System, which is usually constructed of aluminum metal that is formed into a rectangle to allow for better airflow. 
  • The Recirculated Air System, which consists of a duct made out of the same material as the air supply system; it also utilizes the air supply system’s supply fan to return oven air back to the heating unit. 
  • An Exhaust Air System, which means that air seals are placed in strategic locations within the enclosure to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other dangerous and harmful byproducts of curing. 

All of the above components will be designed, produced, or added using a manufacturing process that consists of the phases described in the following section.

The Stages of the Curing Oven Manufacturing Process

Here are the seven basic phases of the manufacturing process that the components go through.

1. The design blueprints and engineering specifications are made up before the manufacturing process begins.

2. A structural frame is welded according to the design blueprints. 

3. The interior panels are assembled inside of the frame. 

4. Exterior sheathing is added to the frame so it can be easily lifted and carried to the assembly station.

5. Components like burners, fans, ducting, and conveyors are assembled within the protected frame. 

6. In-house and customer testing is performed.

7. Ovens and their included parts and equipment are disassembled, wrapped, and shipped to their final destination. 

While no two curing ovens will look the same due to customer specifications, they do all go through a common manufacturing process that generally looks like the one given above. 

Curing Oven Applications

Curing ovens can be used to strengthen coatings, rubber, plastics, composites, and adhesives. 

The industries which require curing for hardening material and making them more functional include:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Defense & Military
  • Food & Beverage
  • Aeronautical
  • Construction
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Home Appliances
  • Metallurgy

Within these industries, curing ovens are most commonly used for annealing, preheating, drying, and powder-coating materials before the manufacturing process begins. 

Cured materials are usually implemented into products, tools, and other devices that need to be strong, durable, resistant to harsh weather, and maintain a lightweight appearance and foundation while in use. 

Some examples of common material components that are fortified within a curing oven include:

  • Fiber Polymers
  • Ceramic Composites
  • Engineered Wood (plywood, oriented strand boards, wood plastic composites)
  • Glass Reinforced Plastics
  • Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastics
  • Metal Matrix Composites

Curing ovens are especially useful in the following applications:

  • Curing Water-Borne Coatings
  • Curing Solvent-Based Coatings
  • Curing Automotive Alternators 
  • Curing Automotive Head Gasket Layers
  • Curing Rubber Stators 
  • Curing Brake Pads
  • Curing Teflon Coatings
  • Curing Thermostat Plastics
  • Adhesive Curing
  • Epoxy Curing

As can be seen from the above lists, curing ovens may be used whenever composites, plastic, rubber, or coating materials need to be hardened and made more durable, while maintaining a lightweight structure. 

Purchasing Considerations

Although curing ovens are useful in a multitude of applications and in a variety of industries, certain considerations must be examined to see if they are right for your distinct manufacturing projects.

These considerations include:

  • Cost
  • Maintenance
  • Safety 
  • Regulatory Compliance

Each of these considerations is briefly explained below.

Cost

Electric ovens initially cost less, but are expensive to use because of their energy requirements.

Gas ovens have higher building costs, but they are less expensive to run since gas prices are generally lower than electricity prices. 

Maintenance

Curing ovens require daily maintenance to ensure proper operation and results.

Heating elements, ducts, and fans need to be checked daily, or dirt and grime will begin to corrode them and limit their functionality, increasing the risks of malfunction and even fire. 

If you do not have an inspection team in-house, you should hire one through the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA).

Safety

The most important safety factors related to curing ovens include proper training, proper use, and regular maintenance. 

Your curing oven manufacturer should also supply you with specific safety precautions like the type of clothes to wear, cleaning procedures, and transport methods to use while operating your curing oven. 

Compliance

You must make sure that your curing oven is in compliance with NFPA codes concerning industrial ovens and other industrial and commercial equipment. 

Failure to meet their standards could make you and your company liable for any unforeseen circumstances and accidents that may occur while using your curing oven even if it was not you or your workers’ fault. 

As far as choosing a manufacturer, the following three considerations must be examined.

Electrical Capability

A good electrical oven supplier will have the following certifications: CE, NEC, and UL

The above certifications will ensure proper support and service should your manufactured curing oven give you any problems after purchase and delivery.

You should also check if your supplier has an in-house electrical and PLC programming team that can provide immediate help should you need electrical and engineering troubleshooting after purchase and delivery. 

Factory Testing

The manufacturer you choose should offer factory manufacturing testing to make sure your curing oven is working before they ship it out to you. 

In particular, they should offer both heat profile testing and a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT).

Heat profile testing uses telemetry to ensure regulatory compliance and high-quality curing. 

The Factory Acceptance Test can be done within your facility and ensures that the equipment installed in your curing oven meets your requirements. 

These two tests will ensure that any defects, safety issues, and low-quality workmanship are spotted and dealt with before the final product is accepted. 

Service (After-Sale)

Does the curing oven supplier offer after-sale services such as installation, maintenance, and customer support?

If not, you may have a hard time getting any help if something goes wrong with your curing oven. 

Remember to always review the extent of such after-sale services before choosing a curing oven manufacturer, in order to limit operational defects, ensure safety, and make successful curing operations possible. 

Conclusion

Curing ovens are an ideal choice for any manufacturing project that requires strong, durable, yet lightweight material. 

However, some considerations must be analyzed before choosing a manufacturer and making a purchase to ensure that you’re making the right decisions for your manufacturing needs, and that the curing oven you are having built can meet the specific requirements of your manufacturing projects. 

If all considerations have been made and the curing oven is built to your specifications then you should have no problems creating material that will help build a functional, and flexible final product. 


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