Constantly rising energy cost are one of the driving factors for forging operators selecting new billet heating systems; “sustainable” operating practices and responsible use of available energy are other, increasingly relevant factors. According to SMS Elotherm, these factors are among the reasons that demand is rising quickly for heating equipment that operates with improved energy efficiency, and it points to one of its recently developed heating technologies — i zone™ — as a credible response to those demands.
SMS Elotherm GmbH is a unit of SMS Meer within the SMS group, specializing in induction heating and hardening technologies and equipment. Its product range covers the full spectrum from small, f lexible preforging heating units to fully automated systems for integrating into production lines.
Elotherm induction-heating systems are designed with an emphasis on modular components for flexible operation. Using a modular system of individual but matching components means that induction-heating systems can be built with a range of possible variants to meet customers’ requirements. Standard interfaces between the individual components and peripheral units ensure that machines and lines can be extended as requirements change.
The i zone heating technology was specially developed for process control of modern, zone-controlled induction heaters, and since it was introduced in 2009 it has quickly gained in popularity and in its reputation for effectiveness, according to the developer.
Based upon the principle that every heating job requires an individually customized heating process to achieve optimal energy efficiency, the i zone technology makes it possible to adapt the individual heating profile to the subsequent process step. By using the heating curves designed by the production management plus additional material and process data, i zone automatically calculates the ideal process parameters based upon a database-supported expert system online — “always with focus on highest level of process stability and energy efficiency,” said Martin Gerhard Scholles, SMS Elotherm’s Project Manager, Sales.
Scholles emphasized that this is the reason that i zone technology “makes a significant contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions” and allows operators to comply with the demands of many OEMs and Tier One suppliers to reduce their CO2 footprints, significantly, and in on an ongoing basis.
The i zone system also provides users with a series of options for adjusting and optimizing the heating process, through what Scholles called “intelligent energy management.” This includes maximum control of scale formation; equipment start-up with preheated basic material; and an available heat-maintenance mode in case of process interruption.
The system also avoids hot-scrap development because all heated material may be used for subsequent production runs.
Scholles said that the advanced zone-control technology offered by technology i zone makes it an ideal choice for forgers caught between rising production costs and the need to increase their operational f lexibility and competitiveness. He added that customers opting for the i zone system are confirming that the investment costs are recovered after just a short period of operation. Because “i zone” allows users to optimize the inductionheating process toward responsible and efficient use of resources, and make significant contribution to reduce CO2-emissions, the system can be a key to well-directed optimization of process parameters toward lower production cost and better product quality.