Better Controls Mean Better Melting Operations

June 22, 2005
A new variable induction power control package makes data management more accessible and available to system operators and managers.

The melting process can be more art than science, but there’s no reason not to take advantage of the latest technology. All the process variables and critical set points demand a high degree of expertise. There are devices that will monitor specific process functions, but for the past decade or so Inductotherm has offered an induction-power supply unit that functions as an operational aid for the entire melting cycle. For small and mid-sized metalcasters, it’s been a practical, affordable way to acquire process support. Since April, they have an even better option.

The VIP Melt-Manager Plus was introduced at the AFS/NADCA CastExpo in April, and Inductotherm reports an enthusiastic reaction from the industry. The update takes advantage of progress in control technology to present a more operator-friendly interface, including touch-screen panels replacing keypad entry; better graphic displays of furnace conditions and performance data; automatic collection of operating data for charting, display, or reporting; and several more improvements.

With data on charge weight and kilowatt hours per ton needed to reach pouring temperature entered by the operator, the Melt-Manager Plus runs the melting cycle. It optimizes power consumption and helps reduce electricity costs. It provides operator support for preheating and sintering, which prolongs furnace-lining life and reduces manpower demands.

The Melt-Manager Plus’ newly designed interface panel is accessible and intuitive approach to the furnace operator. All controls and system data are displayed on a touch-sensitive, flat-panel screen located on the control panel and/or a separate remote.

The operator’s main screen includes real-time information on power (kW), ground leakage (mAmps), furnace currents (Amps), furnace volts (Volts), capacitor volts (Volts), and frequency (Hertz). These are displayed as analog-style meters and as digital readouts. There is a slide bar for setting power levels, and buttons for direct access to other system screens, and to the system manual and drawings. As summarized by Inductotherm, Melt-Manager Plus offers these specific features:

  • Automated melting control — Based on the power levels needed to reach pouring temperature and the weight of the furnace charge, Melt-Manager Plus controls the melting cycle and turns off the power supply or reduces to hold power to reduce consumption and conserve the furnace lining. Melt-Manager Plus also offers a preheat function and an optional function for melting weight entry with load-cell input.
  • Sintering runs — Melt-Manager Plus controls part of the sintering cycle with up to four operator-entered steps. Each step includes a heating rate, target temperature, hold time, and maximum sinter-temperature deviation. As the cycle progresses, the Melt-Manager Plus screen charts the temperature set points, maximum deviation, and temperatures from thermocouples measuring the temperature of the lining form.
  • Data management — Melt-Manager Plus records power level, frequency, voltages, currents, weights (optional) and temperatures (for sintering) in real time. It displays this data on-screen as charts, and also records and displays the system’s alarm history log, so operators can identify utilization factors, overall production efficiency, and any operational delays. This data can be used diagnostically, too.
  • Data Export — Melt-Manager Plus includes the ability to export operational information in a standard format for spreadsheet programs, so melting data over long periods can be used in analysis and planning, and is accessible via a standard Ethernet TCP/IP link.

Data management and flexibility are critical, and Inductotherm indicates that customers are responding well to the new features. Easier-to-use programs and interfaces, and the availability of more operating data, automates the process to help control manpower requirements and system safety. That’s neither art nor science. It’s just common sense.