IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER

The efficiency of an induction heating system for a specific application depends on several factors: the characteristics of the part itself, the design of the induction coil, the capacity of the power supply, and the degree of temperature change required for the application.

The Characteristics of the Part
METAL OR PLASTIC
First, induction heating works directly only with conductive materials, normally metals. Plastics and other non-conductive materials can often be heated indirectly by first heating a conductive metal susceptor which transfers heat to the non-conductive material.

MAGNETIC OR NON-MAGNETIC
It is easier to heat magnetic materials. In addition to the heat induced by eddy currents, magnetic materials also produce heat through what is called the hysteresis effect. During the induction heating process, magnetics naturally offer resistance to the rapidly alternating electrical fields, and this causes enough friction to provide a secondary source of heat. This effect ceases to occur at temperatures above the “Curie” point – the temperature at which a magnetic material loses its magnetic properties. The relative resistance of magnetic materials is rated on a “permeability” scale of 100 to 500; while non-magnetics have a permeability of 1, magnetic materials can have a permeability as high
as 500.

THICK OR THIN
With conductive materials, about 80% of the heating effect occurs on the surface or “skin” of the part; the heating intensity diminishes as the distance from the surface increases. So small or thin parts generally heat more quickly than large thick parts, especially if the larger parts need to be heated all the way through.

Research has shown a relationship between the heating depth of penetration and the frequency of the alternating current. Frequencies of 100 to 400 kHz produce relatively high-energy heat, ideal for quickly heating small parts or the surface/skin of larger parts. For deep, penetrating heat, longer heating cycles at 5 to 30 kHz has been shown to be most effective.

RESISTIVITY
If you use the exact same induction process to heat two same size pieces of steel and copper, the results will be quite different. Why? Steel – along with carbon, tin and tungsten – has high electrical resistivity. Because these metals strongly resist the current flow, heat builds up quickly. Low resistivity metals such as copper, brass and aluminum take longer to heat. Resistivity increases with temperature, so a very hot piece of steel will be more receptive to induction heating than a cold piece.

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