80th anniversary of industrial electroheating standardization

Polish experts continue to play a significant part in leading the development of standards in this important field.

Alicja Haras, Secretary of IEC Technical Committee (TC) 27: Industrial electroheating and electromagnetic processing, looks back at the TC’s history.

Aluminium alloy convection furnace
Aluminium alloy convection conveyor furnace (Photo: Infrared Heating Technologies)

Universal use

Many products commonly used or consumed owe their existence to the application of electroheating techniques. Electroheating causes electricity to be converted to heat, a process used in a variety of manufacturing operations. Calcination, evaporation, sterilization, annealing, metal or non-metal melting, solidification, sintering, smelting, curing and moulding are only a few examples of numerous processes commonly used in electroheating. Their main advantage over the alternative method, obtaining heat from direct fuel combustion, is the ease of process control as well as the lower environmental impact due to the lack of harmful emissions from fuel combustion.

Standardization started in earnest in the 1960s

International Standards for industrial electroheating equipment and installations are developed by IEC TC 27, celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. Although the committee was set up in 1937, its true standardization activities only begun more than two decades later, in 1960. They are reflected in the adoption of 31 documents. In 1960, Professor Marian Mazur became Chair of IEC TC 27, while Professor Tadeusz Skrzypek was appointed as the TC Secretary. Under this management, the TC held four plenary meetings: in Warsaw in 1962, Milan in 1965, and Brussels and Tehran in 1967. It also developed two IEC publications related to industrial electroheating and now celebrating their 50th anniversary:

IEC 239 (1967): Nominal dimensions of cylindrical machined graphite electrodes with threaded sockets and nipples for use in electric arc furnaces. This Standard updated over the years is now in its fourth edition and has been renamed, IEC 60239:2005, Graphite electrodes for electric arc furnaces – Dimensions and designation.

IEC 240 (1967): Characteristics of electric infra-red emitters for heating purposes. A second edition of this Standard was given a new number, IEC 60240:1992.

The purely dimensional specification referred to in IEC 239 led to a reduction in the variety of more unusual types of electrode, resulting in appreciable savings for users.

Uninterrupted activities

The next Chair, 10 years later, was Dr Maxime Kleinpeter from Electricité de France. In 1971, a new IEC TC 27 Secretary was also appointed, with the secretariat of the Committee remaining in Poland between 1960-1987 and again between 1994-2017. The archives show that a number of Standards were developed under this leadership and there are also significant contributions to the field by Polish experts of the time. Professor Mieczysław Hering was a leader of the group that developed Part 841 of the International Electrotechnical Vocabulary (IEV), IEC 60050-841:2004, Industrial electroheat, as well as a Convenor of the team responsible for its maintenance (MT). In 2004 he received the prestigious IEC 1906 Award, in recognition of this contribution. In the same year, this award was given to another Polish expert, who continues to be active in the work of this TC, Wojciech Rusakiewicz.

Six years later, Tadeusz Skoczkowski joined the group of Polish experts honored with the IEC 1906 Award for their involvement in IEC TC 27 activities. Although the award was made in recognition of his work with IEC TC 27/MT 18, he was also the Secretary of the TC from 1994-2010, supported by Assistant Secretary Maria Pernach from 1994–1999, and then by Elżbieta Ślażyńska from 1999-2017. While this report highlights the involvement and accomplishments of specialists from Poland, the achievements of experts from other countries must not be underestimated for their undoubtedly significant contributions to the development of International Standards in this field.

Well-established techniques but still room for new ones

Although electrothermal techniques are already abundant (resistive, electrode, arc, capacitive, induction, microwave, plasma, ultrasonic, laser, etc.), there is still room for new ones to appear in the field of electroheating equipment. User demand dictates the pace of technological development, especially in terms of energy efficiency, as electroheating equipment consumes a significant amount of electricity in industry overall. In the EU, consumption due to electroheating is estimated to be between 20 and 40%. The use of advanced technology may allow this to fall by 5-25% over the next 10 years, bringing significant savings across multiple industries. There is also a growing demand for increasing the quality of final products and the safety of equipment and installations, and for reducing their environmental impact.

Safety considerations paramount

Safety requirements, including aspects such as shock protection, alarm control and signalization and electromagnetic compatibility, as well as test methods for various pieces of electroheating equipment and installations are already either covered in IEC TC 27 Standards or will be included in the future, providing industry stakeholders allocate adequate resources to ensure that the quality of those Standards remains high. This requires the intellectual input of a wide range of professionals, as is normal in the standards development process at any level. One recent development (in 2011) has been the extension of IEC TC 27 to include technologies that use wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum to modify properties of materials, as is widely discussed in current specialist literature and online.

Standardization of the electroheating and electromagnetic processing aspects is of great importance to providers of electroheating equipment, whether they are small- or medium-sized enterprises or global corporations. Each offers products that are individually tailored to suit the needs of its customers. Users of IEC TC 27 Standards are found in a wide range of heavy and light industrial sectors, including the metallurgy sector, which is highly important to the Polish economy. Other newer sectors deal with nanomaterials, nanotechnology, optoelectronics and the processing of waste and hazardous products. All require precise and unique heating methods which are covered by the scope of IEC TC 27 and point to the continuing need for developing new, or revising existing, Standards of this TC.

TC regularly reassessing priorities

Increasing user needs, and observation of emerging fields of application of the methods covered by the scope of IEC TC 27, require the committee sets its priorities regularly to cover the next few years. This year, the first editions of two Technical Specifications (TS) dealing with electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) and electromagnetic fields (EMF), which are so relevant to the operation of this type of equipment, have been published.

IEC TS 62996:2017, covers requirements on touch currents, voltages and electric fields from 1 kHz to 6 MHz, while IEC TS 62997:2017 concerns the evaluation of hazards caused by magnetic nearfields from 1 Hz to 6 MHz.

In the next three to five years, IEC TC experts will revise the entire IEC 60519 series on safety in electroheating installations in order to develop a consistent set of standards for all aspects of safety in industrial electroheating and electromagnetic processing equipment and installations, whether electrical or non-electrical. Publications on test methods will also be reviewed and revised, in accordance with the technological progress already referred to.

Future work to include existing and new publications

Future standardization work on new standards or amendments to existing publications will cover:

  • energy efficiency issues and classification of equipment and installations that allow the efficiency of a given system to be determined and compared with other systems in a given category
  • safety and test methods of various pieces of equipment and installations for electroheating and electromagnetic processing, especially new ones and those not already covered by existing standards
  • safety and reliability issues of advanced digital control methods

The technological developments anticipated for the field of electroheating and electromagnetic processing are cause for wide discussion of standardization work on new projects. New work item proposals will include plasma-arc installations, new casting systems, electromagnetic processing of materials, ultrasonic heating, crystal growth process furnaces and spark erosion. The emergence of numerous new techniques and equipment calls for intensive work on the revision of Part 841 of IEV, which contains IEC TC 27 terminology.

When I assumed the role of IEC TC 27 Secretary at the beginning of 2017, I was unaware that my tenure was beginning in such a special year for this TC. Now, knowing that 2017 marks the 80th anniversary of the foundation of IEC TC 27 and that the IEC National Committee of Poland has held its Secretariat for over 50 years, I am delighted that it provides a unique opportunity to recall IEC TC 27 standardization work, which covers equipment vital to the production of many things in everyday usage as well as being of a high technological standard.