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The Basic Principles Of Induction Heating:
The basic principles of induction heating have been understood and applied to manufacturing since the 1920s. During World War II, the technology developed rapidly to meet urgent wartime requirements for a fast, reliable process to harden metal engine parts. More recently, the focus on lean manufacturing techniques and emphasis on improved quality control have led to a rediscovery of induction technology, along with the development of precisely controlled, all solid state induction power supplies. What makes this heating method so unique? In the most common heating methods, a torch or open flame is directly applied to the metal part. But with induction heating, heat is actually "induced" within the part itself by circulating electrical currents. Since heat is transferred to the product via electromagnetic waves, the part never comes into direct contact with any flame, the coil itself does not get hot, and there is no product contamination. When properly set up, the process becomes very repeatable and controllable.

HOW INDUCTION HEATING WORKS
How exactly does induction heating work? It helps to have a basic understanding of the principles of electricity. When an alternating electrical current is applied to the primary of a transformer, an alternating magnetic field is created. According to Faraday's Law, if the secondary of the transformer is located within the magnetic field, an electric current will be induced.

In a basic induction heating setup, a solid state RF power supply sends an AC current through a copper coil, and the part to be heated is placed inside the coil. The coil serves as the transformer primary and the part to be heated becomes a short circuit secondary. When a metal part is placed within the induction coil and enters the magnetic field, circulating eddy currents are induced within the part. These eddy currents flow against the electrical resistivity of the metal, generating precise and localized heat without any direct contact between the part and the coil.

IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER
The efficiency of an induction heating system for a specific application depends on several factors: the characteristics of the part itself, the design of the induction coil, the capacity of the power supply, and the degree of temperature change required for the application.

METAL OR PLASTIC
First, induction heating works directly only with conductive materials, normally metals. Plastics and other non-conductive materials can often be heated indirectly by first heating a conductive metal susceptor which transfers heat to the non-conductive material.

MAGNETIC OR NON-MAGNETIC
It is easier to heat magnetic materials. In addition to the heat induced by eddy currents, magnetic materials also produce heat through what is called the hysteresis effect. During the induction heating process, magnetic naturally offer resistance to the rapidly alternating electrical fields, and this causes enough friction to provide a secondary source of heat. This effect ceases to occur at temperatures above the "Curie" point - the temperature at which a magnetic material loses its magnetic properties. The relative resistance of magnetic materials is rated on a “permeability” scale of 100 to 500; while non-magnetics have a permeability of 1, magnetic materials can have a permeability as high as 500.

RESISTIVITY
If you use the exact same induction process to heat two same size pieces of steel and copper, the results will be quite different. Why? Steel – along with carbon, tin and tungsten – has high electrical resistivity. Because these metals strongly resist the current flow, heat builds up quickly. Low resistivity metals such as copper, brass and aluminum take longer to heat. Resistivity increases with temperature, so a very hot piece of steel will be more receptive to induction heating than a cold piece.

INDUCTION COIL DESIGN
It is within the induction coil that the varying magnetic field required for induction heating is developed through the flow of alternating current. So coil design is one of the most important aspects of the overall system. A well-designed coil provides the proper heating pattern for your part and maximizes the efficiency of the induction heating power supply, while still allowing easy insertion and removal of the part.

Induction coils are normally made of copper tubing - an extremely good conductor of heat and electricity - with a diameter of 1/8" to 3/16"; larger copper coil assemblies are made for applications such as strip metal heating and pipe heating. Induction coils are usually cooled by circulating water, and are most often custom-made to fit the shape and size of the part to be heated. So coils can have single or multiple turns; have a helical, round or square shape; or be designed as internal (part inside coil) or external (part adjacent to coil). There is a proportional relationship between the amount of current flow and distance between the coil and part. Placing the part close to the coil increases the flow of current and the amount of heat induced in the part. This relationship is referred to as the coupling efficiency of the coil.

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