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What Is an Electric Smelting Furnace?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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The electric smelting furnace is a device used to melt iron, ores and other materials into a liquid material that can be poured into molds or added to other various materials to create certain alloys. Using electricity to create the required heat to melt the materials, the electric smelting furnace is available in several designs and styles, each featuring their own specific pros and cons. From small, household-current powered models to large, industrial electric arc furnaces, the electric smelting furnace is an efficient tool. The furnace can allow the melting of a small amount of material, such as a slight amount to allow a dentist to create a single tooth filling, up to a large-scale melting of enough material to create a solid steel beam the size of a modern automobile.

While small versions of the electric smelting furnace operate with a small heating element, the more popular type of large furnace is the electric arc furnace. Both versions of the electric smelting furnace operate on electric current, however, the two styles of furnaces use completely different heating methods to melt their ingredients. The smaller version of the electric smelting furnace uses an electric heating element that heats the smelting cup or container, thereby heating the materials placed inside of the cup. As the materials remain in the smelting cup, the temperature begins to rise, subsequently causing the materials to melt. Once melted, the material in the smelting cup is poured into a mold or other similar device to be used by the operator.

The large, electric arc furnace uses an entirely different method of reducing solids to liquid inside of the furnace cauldron. Large electrodes are placed through the cauldron lid and protrude into the furnace cauldron. Materials are placed inside of the brick cauldron and the lid is placed back on the smelting furnace. An electrical charge is sent through the electrodes of the electric smelting furnace and the materials inside of the cauldron actually become the grounding element for the electrodes. As a large electric arc jumps from the electrodes to the materials inside the cauldron, the ensuing heat causes the materials to melt.

The heat is retained in the electric smelting furnace by the lid. The lid is either brick-lined similarly to the cauldron or furnace pot, or it is liquid-cooled to prevent it from melting. Once the materials inside the cauldron are melted, the arc continues to jump between the electrodes and the liquid metal. Once completely melted, the electric smelting furnace is poured into molds to allow the liquid to solidify into useable pieces of metal. The electrodes can be exchanged when worn by unscrewing the bottom section and replacing it with a new section of electrode.

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