It’s been fascinating to watch and be part of the developments in Heat Treatment over the past 25 years (migrating from a so-called Black Art to a Science) and know that the best is yet to come.
I think current decisions around material type and selection, processing options and the overall production cell configuration are more complex given the broad selection of Heat Treat and related processes on offer. The route taken today may or may not be the optimum route for your processing needs tomorrow – furnaces need to be able to offer a level of flexibility just in case a process change is required throughout the furnaces relatively long life.
Today’s control systems do offer a level of flexibility that allows for process improvements and/or changes to be made relatively easily, this was not possible in older systems.
Reference the point about the link between the Control Layer and Production Software for greater efficiency; I am part way through a new book by Peter Martin and Walt Boyes about “Real-Time Control of the Industrial Enterprise” – this describes in detail how control systems link to the enterprise and how this potentially impacts profitability. Full disclosure; Peter is a colleague at Schneider Electric (formerly Invensys).
The last point made by Janusz centered on furnace control systems and automatic reasoning, this is a really interesting topic. In the past the hardware and software technology available and complexity of programming has dictated what is commercially possible, we are about to challenge this situation.
Over the past two years we have been developing a new PLC and will launch the Heat Treat version of this PLC at the upcoming FNA show in the US. The major development in this technology is that we have been able to build on the widely supported open PLC platform technology of CODESYS and have embedded unique Functions that start to enable solutions relating to predictive/reasoning technology at a commercially acceptable price.
I do think this ‘type’ of technology will start to change what’s possible in Heat Treat control.