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How Mica Improves Industrial Furnace Safety

June 3, 2022

The steel and foundry industry has been a major contributor to global manufacturing, through the production of a wide range of materials, appliances, and different products. The steel and foundry industry is one of the largest industries in the world, so it is crucial that manufacturers meet the strict production demands that are found under the existing circumstances. Industrial furnaces, both electric arc and coreless induction, must operate at extremely high temperatures to melt down metals. Steel casting uses molds to shape and form molten metal into pipes and tube fittings, automotive parts, and machinery components, among other different parts.

In 2020, the revenue generated in the iron and steel casting industry was more than USD $145 billion. In addition, even taking into account the losses from COVID-19, there is still an estimated compound annual growth rate of over 5.4% from 2021 to 2027.

The term furnace safety does not only refer to the staff operating them, but it also involves the health, safety, and operation of the furnaces themselves.  These large, expensive pieces of equipment are required daily working at maximum efficiency and capacity. With the steel and foundry industry being so demanding, it’s crucial to ensure that they operate consistently and avoid breakdowns given the extreme conditions they create.

Keeping furnaces operational

Industrial furnaces are at the heart of any foundry, with the purpose of melting down metals into liquids, which can then be applied to molds and casts to form the required components or products. The high temperatures needed for melting require careful measures to improve safety. Induction furnaces require high temperature insulation to ensure damage doesn’t occur, which can then lead to breakdowns or inefficient performance. 

The need for better insulation materials has become more apparent as manufacturing aims to become leaner, more efficient, and less wasteful. Therefore, improvements in insulation have been required to improve furnace performance and safety. Axim Mica offers mica-based insulation solutions, using its extensive insulating properties in order to help improve furnace efficiency and lifespan.

Why is mica used for insulation?

Mica has multiple properties that make it an excellent choice for industrial insulation solutions. From a production perspective, mica has mechanical properties that make it suitable to manufacture it into different shapes and sizes. Mica is cleavable, so it splits along crystalline planes to form smooth surfaces. This makes it highly flexible and easy to adapt into very thin sheets, rolls, and tubes, making it a very versatile insulation material. 

Muscovite and phlogopite mica have sectile and elastic tenacity. The tenacity of a mineral is essentially how it responds to stress. Sectile tenacity is when the mineral can be cut with a sharp object, whereas elastic tenacity is when the mineral can be bent under stress, then returns to its original shape once the stress is removed. These qualities also allow mica to be adjusted into different shapes and sizes as required. 

While these make mica easier to work with, its dielectric and thermal resistance properties are the key reason mica is so lauded as an insulator. Mica can withstand up to >20 kV/mm and can store charge in an electrostatic field. These dielectric capabilities help form barriers which act as a safety feature protecting workers from an induction furnace’s electrically charged coils. 

Its thermal resistance properties are more than ideal for furnace insulation. The extreme temperatures reached in coreless induction furnaces require mica-based laminate composites which can withstand temperatures up to 1600°C. It helps protect the induction coils while processing metal, and can also protect against damage from vapor fumes, which can build up damaging metals.

Mica is also used in slip plane lining, to increase throughput in an induction furnace, in turn extending the life of the lining. Furthermore, it can be used as part of a seal in a vacuum furnace, which improves its efficiency and safety by withstanding the high temperatures and stresses.

Conclusion

The steel and foundry industry is of massive importance to global manufacturing. It provides not only millions of tons of in-demand materials and components, but also thousands of jobs and economic security for families around the world.

The demand is continuing to increase, and therefore it is of utmost importance that the industrial furnaces in use are kept safe. They need to be efficient, maxing out their capabilities and having the longest lifespan possible. If a large-scale induction furnace is to become damaged and breakdown, production lines are impacted greatly. 

The insulation solutions provided by Axim Mica are key in ensuring your industrial operations run safely and effectively. Get in touch with Axim Mica’s team of experts HERE to see where mica fits in your company’s industrial process.

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