Local Company Develops High-Efficiency Induction Heater

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A company at the Ohio Works Business Park has developed a new system that reduces considerably the amount of energy used in metals processing, its principals say.

Induction Professionals LLC plans to ship on Wednesday a high efficiency electric induction heater to an aluminum processor, enabling that customer to reduce its energy consumption by more than 30%, said Thomas Kearney, general manager.

“This machine on their specific alloy used 34% less energy than the machines they were buying before,” he said. “That’s a huge number.”

The system was designed, developed and built at Induction Professionals’ plant at 1058 Ohio Works Drive, Kearney said.

Manufacturers all over the world are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and their carbon footprint, he said.  More important, using less energy also reduces the cost of production, especially as natural gas and electricity prices rise.

Induction Professionals’ electric induction unit is designed to heat aluminum “billets,” in this case, round bars that measure eight inches in diameter and 27 inches long. 

The billet is pushed with a pneumatic cylinder into an induction heater that sits atop a large long metal cabinet.  Once the process begins, it is able to heat the billet from room temperature to 750 degrees in 6.5 minutes, Kearney said.

“That type of equipment can also be configured to do that same process in a minute,” depending on the customer’s metallurgical requirements, he said. 

The heating unit reduces the billet from a hardened form to a more pliable state so the metal can move through the extrusion process. In this case, the equipment is bound for an aluminum extruder that manufactures products for a Tier 1 supplier to the aerospace industry, Kearney said.

“Our equipment is the first step in the process,” he said. “They need to have a hot billet to run through the extrusion press. These presses have a force of 3,000 tons.”

Customers in the aerospace industry are especially sensitive, Kearney added.

“Since this is an aerospace application, quality is critical,” he said.  “There can’t be any flaws in the material.”

He said suppliers in the aerospace industry are under pressure from major manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus to reduce energy usage, and Induction Professionals’ new unit helps to address this issue. 

“Every step in the supply chain, they’re asking, ‘What are you doing to reduce your energy consumption?’” Kearney said.

Initially, the company developed a prototype for an aluminum tube manufacturer that registered results ranging from a 25% to 27% reduction in energy usage.  

“We did a series of about 100 development tests, and then based on the development testing, we came up with the design, put the prototype unit in, field trial, and did a rework,” Kearney said.

What sets the new unit apart from others in the industry is that Induction Professionals re-designed the heating coil to enable more efficiency, he added.

“The way we re-designed that coil and reconfigured it, ours are significantly more energy efficient,” he said.

The new induction heater was ordered late last year, he said.

Larry Metzinger, a foreman at Induction Professionals, said it took approximately two and a half months to build the new unit. Most of components were sourced from local companies, he said.

The metal frame cabinet, for example, was fabricated at Sodexo|Roth in Austintown, Metzinger said. “This is the second high-efficiency heater I’ve built,” he said, but has constructed approximately nine units total.

Induction Professionals, founded in 2002, employs eight full-time and uses three consultants, Kearney said.  The company manufactures new equipment, repairs old induction units and supplies replacement parts for industrial customers all over the country, he said.

Kearny added that business is strong at the moment and its order book remains solid into next year.

“We’re busy right now,” he said. “For a company this size, we have a lot of gifted people from a lot of different backgrounds.”

Pictured at top: Larry Metzinger, foreman, and Thomas Kearney, general manager of Induction Professionals in Youngstown.

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