ECM ECO Furnace-What the Heck is It?

Last week furnace builder ECM issued a press release about an ECO furnace, a furnace which they feel is a very interesting alternative to a batch IQ or Sealed quench furnace. The press release caught our attention and we asked Dennis Beauchesne General Manager of ECM USA a few questions-these are his answers.

Dennis in your press release of last week you suggested that your “ECO” furnace is a very good alternative to sealed quench (SQ) or integral quench (IQ) furnaces, this leads to an obvious question; could an ECO furnace fit in line with a standard IQ furnace installation? As an example if a captive or commercial heat treater has a row of Surface Combustion Batch IQ furnaces could your system fit in the same system and utilize the same charge car? This leads to another question-what are the working dimensions?

We started the development of this furnace from the observation that many existing customers have already complete Sealed quench or IQ lines installed in their manufacturing facilities: maybe 3 or 4 sealed quench or IQ furnaces, a washer, several tempers and a charge car. Investing in a newly designed system with additional capabilities and added flexibility becomes a struggle.  These capabilities exist in a good number of captive facilities today and now can be offered to heat treaters by only replacing or adding one furnace at a time and not their entire line. So we studied configurations of existing IQ lines and designed our equipment to be compatible with most of the existing designs. Behind the ECO name is a full range of equipment starting from  18” (450 mm) x 24” (600mm) x 18” (450mm),  to the largest at  36” (900 mm) X 48” (1200 mm) X 36” (900mm).

What is the quenching medium? Gas? Oil? Polymer?

ECM has been working extensively on High Pressure Gas Quenching systems since the 80s.  What most people don’t know s that we also have a large installed base of oil quenching systems to be able to treat a really large  range of alloys. The ECO line is able to provide Gas, or hot or cold Oil quenching media depending on the customers’ applications and the furnace. As for oil quenching, customers have shown a strong interest to eliminate risk of fires – you yourself reported in the Monty several fire accidents in the last few months and along with this technology is the possibility to decrease insurance premiums .The ECO line allows for  clean and ergonomic heat treatment, in safe conditions. NO Flames, NO Smoke, NO Soot, NO Endothermic generator, NO Nitrogen Methanol.

Will this type of furnace help heat treaters find and retain personnel to work in the heat treat industry?

As you well know, safety and working environment has become a major factor with finding and retaining personnel and we feel that the ECO will drastically change the working environment for the future. The reduced surface temperature of the equipment, reduced risk of explosions, and the reduced noise levels and less overall risks are significant added benefits for the workers and owners.

Right off the bat I noticed that this is electrically heated and I can understand why (that will be our next question by the way). But what about operating cost? In many parts of North America heat treaters will only consider gas fired furnaces because natural gas is so much cheaper than electricity. Can an electrically heated ECO compete with a gas fired Batch IQ with the same working dimensions?

The target of this furnace is to be competitive not only in Europe or North America, but also in the Asia and Central America markets. We have comparison data showing a significant reduction of cycle time (average 40%) , process gas (average 95%) and energy consumption savings (average 40%).

Electrification is key in other parts of the world. It is becoming more the case also in North and South America.  With electric powered furnaces, comes huge gains in safety, reliability and maintainability, these must be considered in the investment along with additional savings which can be had by turning the equipment off during down-time such as weekends and holidays without supervision necessary and readily available within one hour after being turned on. ECO is the TESLA of furnaces.

You make the point that it is electrically heated which means you can substantially reduce CO2 emissions, you say by 80%. However in North America is that a selling point? Although many North Americans support reducing CO2 emissions study after study has shown that we are not concerned enough about CO2 to actually pay to reduce it. Do you think this is a major selling point?

Environmental trends are evolving and younger generations are being educated to show more interest in reducing CO2 emissions even in North America. Rules, laws and restrictions are coming to most areas of all countries that will limit the amount of emissions from every plant with an added cost if those limits are exceeded. These potential additional operating costs should be considered when looking at future equipment expansion. The CO2 emissions are directly linked to the energy and gas consumption, so we do believe this should be a strong selling point as it the ECOlogical performance of this furnace is strongly representative of the ECOnomic performance (and profits) of the heat treaters using this equipment.

Now this is the big question-how does this furnace compare in price to a standard 36” X 48” X 36” batch IQ furnace?

 We would love to have this conversation with your readers and review their applications and details and compare.  ECO 36” x 48”x 36”  has a very good ratio of investment cost vs productivity in  $/Lbs./Hr  or  €/kg/Hr On top of this, quality of the parts, operating environment, process flexibility and integration of the heat treatment processes are improved and safety overall must be considered.

Have you sold or installed any of these furnaces yet?

We already have several smaller ECO furnaces ordered and installed in Europe and the America’s. In our headquarters, the newest model, ECO 36” X 48” X 36” is currently under construction, we plan an Open House event early next year.

Thanks for your time Dennis, I look forward to hearing more about this.

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