Stretching the service life of a hot zone-one of the most expensive consumables in a vacuum furnace-is of prime importance to the furnace owner. Proper care and maintenance can slow down hot-zone deterioration, which directly translates to cost savings. Hot-zone service life is directly related to the type of heat treating process used in a vacuum furnace and to the severe thermal stresses imposed by continuous vacuum-furnace cycles. Distortion and contamination are the main factors causing a breakdown of hot-zone components. Distortion is inevitable because thermal cycling is inherent to the process. However, periodic inspection and remediation of hot-zone components together with thorough component cleaning can extend service life.
By Bill Potts, Vac-Aero International Inc., Oakville, Ontario, Canada