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What Is a Conveyor Furnace?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen

A conveyor furnace is a type of machine that is designed to heat components or workpieces as they pass through at a uniform rate. The main benefit provided by a conveyor furnace is that it is constantly in operation, unlike other types of furnaces that must be loaded, heated, cooled, and unloaded. That makes these furnaces well suited to factory applications where continuous processing is required. These furnaces are often used in the processing of solar panels, though they are also used to cure, temper, and harden workpieces in many other contexts. They can be quite versatile, since it is typically possible to fine tune different heating and cooling zones within the tunnel structure to suit various applications.

Furnaces are basically large ovens that can be used to process various products, from ceramics to high tech solar panels. There have been many developments in furnace technology throughout the years, and various configurations are best suited to different applications. Most furnace designs include a compartment that is loaded with the workpieces that need to be heat treated. The compartment is then heated and cooled, after which it can be unloaded and then reloaded again. This is well suited to many applications, but a conveyor furnace is a variation on the design that is typically better when continuous operation is desired.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Unlike other types of furnaces, conveyor furnaces typically have a linear, tunnel-like design. They consist of a conveyor belt that passes through the tunnel structure, which can either be loaded and unloaded by hand, or connected to a larger conveyor system. The tunnel is typically split into several different zones that range from ambient temperature to the maximum amount of heat required to treat a particular workpiece. As a component or workpiece travels along the conveyor, it is subjected to each temperature zone in turn, first heating and then cooling. A conveyor furnace designed to process solar panels, for example, will typically contain pre-heating, binder burn out, heating, firing, and cooling sections.

A conveyor furnace heat source can utilize a number of different technologies, including ceramic heaters, infrared (IR) lamps, or radiation. These heat sources are typically uniform and stable, and can often heat parts to over 1,000°C (1,800°F). Conveyor belt speeds also vary from one application to another, though some furnaces are capable of moving products through at 400 feet (about 120 meters) or more per minute. Both temperature and speed can typically be modified to fit each specific application.

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