The better maintained your heat treatment furnace, the better it will function, heat the elements rightly and work for a longer duration. It is a highly significant aspect that you cannot afford to overlook.
Importance of Vacuum Furnace Maintenance
When you invest in a vacuum furnace, you need that to work for years with reliable operation. You need to be fully aware of the preventive maintenance programs, what steps you should take, which you can consult with your equipment provider. The maintenance methods must be custom-tailored specifically to the vacuum furnaces you have installed at your premise, what metals you heat and at what frequency and scale level.
Accept the Need for Heat Vacuum Furnace Maintenance
For a heat treating equipment, maintenance is as much important as anything else.
- One of the most important things that you should know is that your furnace’s maintenance cost could increase when the heat treatment environment is severe, or when the operating temperature is high. Along with that, the design, style and operational mechanism of the furnace also require special maintenance attention.
- You should classify whether your heat treatment process is ‘light-duty’ or ‘heavy-duty’ that defines the level of maintenance structure. If you are going to use the furnace outside of its design limitations, then it requires much more maintenance support.
- Comprehensive understanding of the equipment design and careful thought have to be taken into account to ensure that you keep up with the maintenance process, and avoid frequent component failure.
- Defining and allocating proper resources, schedule and budget for maintenance will help enhance the reliability of the vacuum furnace operation.
- Proper maintenance means that you are able to keep up with the up-time productivity, improved furnace control, and resulting heated parts in consistent mechanical and metallurgical properties.
- Every mechanical component of the furnace, including vacuum chamber heater maintenance, as well as processes like cleaning, lubrication, operation proof and all have to be executed with best practices.
- You have to ensure that every vacuum furnace comes with a maintenance manual that must be read thoroughly and clearly, and should be followed at each step aligning with your heat treatment method.
Which Type of Maintenance Program is Right for You?
Like with several other industrial processes and applications, there are two types of maintenance practices employed for vacuum furnace maintenance – ‘preventive & planned maintenance’, and ‘repair as needed’.
Both the approaches have their own characteristics, and usually both incur same costing. However, repair method is usually done when there is a failure case. And preventive maintenance method includes timely care for the furnace and its equipment that reduces the probability of equipment failure. In the present times, high stress is on the planned and preventive maintenance, as trends have shown.
What is Included in the Planned Maintenance Method?
It includes several approaches such as:
- Activity planning
- Plan execution
- Result evaluation
- Plan revision depending on the result of the maintenance efforts
In detail, this approach includes several aspects as detailed below:
- Identification of spare parts that are essential to replace and at what time frame
- Complete examination and observing component usage time
- Keeping the records pertaining to components and the entire furnace process
- Assessing and maintaining data on when certain problems do occur and because of what reasons
- A comprehensive approach as to why, when, where and how the repairs have to be executed
- Determining the critical components’ Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)
How to Ensure Success of Your Planned & Preventive Maintenance Approach?
You should be fully aware of keep a detailed assessment of the following factors to make your planned and preventive maintenance a success:
- External Constraints – Budget, and equipment usage
- Equipment Servicing – How should it operate, and how it is functioning at present
- Realistic Maintenance Plan – Identify and stock critical spare parts, and determine which particular spare parts should be OEM only
- Furnace Segmentation – Identifying internal and external components needed for operation, and understanding how interior and exterior components interact
- Using Repair Information – Collate entire repair and maintenance data, getting feedback from others, and revise the plan effectively
- Determining Mean Time Failure for Components – It needs to be done with cause & effect analysis, and defining the component’s failure’s root cause
- Disciplined Maintenance – Prepare and execute a carefully structure maintenance program, adhering to it thoroughly
You have to ensure that the up-time productivity of the furnace have to be around 90% on average (suitable greater than this level is ideal). High temperature furnaces should be fully well-functioning and leak-proof. Fixing the problems at the right is highly critical for maintaining the up-time of the heat treatment furnace. The entire maintenance structure and process have to be implemented and carried out to ensure that the furnace is at full operational scale. Your maintenance programs have to cover all the aspects, define and address root cause problems, and avoid repairs having a critical affect.