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Shopping for Kiln Controllers: Should I Purchase a Digital Controller, a Conversion Kit, or a Standalone?

Header image for a guide for shopping for kiln controllers

If you’re shopping for kiln controllers, you’ve come to the right place! Buying a new (or your first!) kiln controller can be an intimidating prospect. There are a lot of different kiln control methods and types of electric kiln controllers – as well as a wide variety of different kiln controller manufactures.

Hopefully, by now you’ve done enough research that you have decided to go with the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and the robust remote kiln control and temperature capabilities of the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app! But even still, there are different configurations of TAP Controllers – so how do you decide which one is right for your kiln or heat treat oven build?

Kiln Controller Categories: Digital Controllers, Conversion Kits, and Standalones

If you’ve browsed our online store, you might have noticed that we sell TAP Kiln Controllers in three different formats:

We understand that this can be a little confusing for new customers, so below we’ll be explaining the primary use-cases for each format to help you decide which one is right for you! Additionally, if you’re shopping for kiln controllers, we strongly encourage you to check out the new FAQ section of our website. The tabs labeled TAP Products and Shopping for Kilns are designed to help new and existing customers easily decide which type of TAP Controller is right for them, as well as find places where they can buy new kilns with TAP pre-installed!

Digital Kiln Controllers

The section of our online store labeled Digital Kiln Controllers are generally best suited for new kiln or oven builds, or for users who are comfortable with DIY kiln controller installation. The TAP Kiln Controllers in this category only include the controller itself, a wiring harness, and any other selected options (as well as a faceplate for the TAP and TAP II Controllers). However, controllers in this category aren’t designed for plug-and-play installation. It’ll be up to you to splice wires, purchase thermocouples, and make modifications to your kiln to house the controller.

If you’re less comfortable with DIY kiln controller installation, we strongly encourage you to purchase a TAP Conversion Kit if your kiln is automatic or a TAP Standalone Kiln Controller if you’re using a manual kiln. We’ll be explaining those two categories more in-depth below. But if you are interested in DIY kiln controller installation, we’ve uploaded wiring diagrams for all of our controllers to our website!

A TAP II Kiln Controller configured for DIY installation or for new kiln and oven builds.

TAP Conversion Kits

TAP Conversion Kits are for users who are looking for a simple solution to upgrade their current automatic kiln controller. TAP Conversion Kits include everything you need for a plug-and-play kiln controller upgrade – without having to splice wires or make significant modifications to your kiln. Usually, the only thing you’ll need is a screwdriver, although occasionally drilling new holes for the faceplate may be necessary.

We offer a variety of conversion kits specifically designed to replace 3-key, 12-key, and smart controllers by other manufacturers such as Bartlett, Orton, Paragon, and more. Just go to this shop page, select the category for your current automatic controller, and then find the controller you currently have from the dropdown.

Kiln controller conversion kits are a convenient option for replacing your current automatic controller.

Standalone Kiln Controllers

Finally, we get to Standalone Kiln Controllers, which are designed for seamlessly upgrading a manual kiln to the advanced features of TAP. Say goodbye to your kiln sitter and enjoy intuitive touchscreen controls, the ability to save and automatically execute an infinite number of firing schedules, and the peace of mind and flexibility of being able to remotely monitor and control your kiln!

Standalone kiln controllers include the necessary transformer, electrical receptacle, relays, and thermocouples for simple installation without having to modify your kiln. Occasionally, it may be necessary to drill a small hole through your kiln brick to insert the tip of the standalone unit’s thermocouple into the interior of your kiln (or you can enlist the help of a kiln technician to install your standalone).

Additionally, TAP Standalone Kiln Controllers are available in both tabletop and wall mount configurations to easily accommodate almost any studio workspace!

When shopping for kiln controllers, look for a standalone controller to upgrade a manual kiln.

Shopping for Kiln Controllers: Is TAP The Right Choice for You?

Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the different categories of TAP Kiln Controllers on our online store. Now, the next question is: Is TAP the right choice for your kiln control needs? We can’t answer that question for you, but we can tell you what separates TAP from other kiln control options. TAP Kiln Controllers allow artists to:

  • Operate your kiln with an easy-to-use, precise, user-friendly touchscreen interface.
  • Precisely manage temperatures for single-zone kilns, ovens, or furnaces – including remote control!
  • Throw away your firing notebook with the ability to create, edit, label, and save an unlimited number of firing schedules and steps.
  • Easily check the status of your kilns with easy-to-read indicators, simple graphs of your schedules and current firings, and push notifications to your mobile devices.
  • Save time and enjoy the convenience of being able to fully control and monitor your projects remotely via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Enjoy peace of mind with preventative maintenance alerts, automatic software updates, advanced diagnostics, safety shutoff, and an industry-leading warranty.

Shopping for Kiln Controllers on KilnControl.com

If you’re in the market for a new kiln controller, we encourage you to checkout our online store! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide artists the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We offer TAP and TAP II as digital controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop programmable temperature controllers.

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Standalone Kiln Controllers: Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

TAP Standalone Wall Mount Kiln Controller allow you to upgrade from manual to automatic kiln controls.

For newer artists, figuring out what type of kiln controller you need for your kiln or oven build can be an intimidating prospect. Do you need a conversion kit? A standalone kiln controller? A tabletop kiln controller? Don’t worry, below is a simple cheat sheet for understanding kiln controller categories:

  • Digital Controllers: For new kilns or oven build or competent DIYers. Digital controllers include the controller, the faceplate, and a wiring harness pigtail.
  • Conversion Kits: For upgrading automatic kiln controllers that are already installed on your kiln or oven. Conversion kits include the controller, the conversion box, a wiring harness adapter, and mounting hardware to facilitate seamless installation.
  • Standalone Kiln Controllers: For easily upgrading manual kilns to automatic controllers. Standalone kiln controllers include the controller, standalone controller housing, a power cord, and a thermocouple for plug-and-play installation.

Configurations of Standalone Kiln Controllers

For easily upgrading a manual kiln, a standalone kiln controller is the go-to choice. With standalone kiln controllers you can completely transform your kiln firing experience – from having to constantly monitor and manually adjust the temperature of your kiln to automatically executing your firing schedules with a precise, easy-to-use touchscreen controller that offer features like remote kiln control and temperature monitoring.

SDS Industries offers TAP Standalone Controllers in two different configurations: wall mount kiln controllers and tabletop kiln controllers.

The Difference Between Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and Tabletop Kiln Controllers

From a feature and functionality standpoint, TAP Wall Mount Kiln Controllers and TAP Tabletop Kiln Controllers are exactly the same. In either configuration, you have the option to choose between a TAP or a TAP II, both of which give artists the most precise, easy-to-use kiln control experience available.

Tabletop kiln controllers make upgrading your manual kiln extremely easy.

TAP Standalone Controllers give artists the ability to:

  • Seamlessly upgrade their manual kiln to the most advanced digital kiln controller on the market.
  • Easily manage and execute your firing schedules with an intuitive touchscreen and logical menus that allow you to immediately begin programming and operating your kiln.
  • Enjoy the ability to create, save, edit, and name an unlimited number of firing schedules – each with an infinite number of custom steps – so that you never have to recreate a schedule again!
  • Find the schedule you need when you need it with full alpha-numeric text displays.
  • Save time and maximize peace of mind with remote kiln control and real-time monitoring through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Ensure maximum consistency and stay fully informed with PID-driven precision, advanced diagnostics, error reports, graphical firing logs, push notification alerts, and more!

The only real difference is which setup fits your workspace or studio better.

Pros and Cons Wall Mount Kiln Controllers

For smaller workspaces, or ones where flat surface space is at a premium, a wall mount kiln controller allows for a compact, semi-permanent installation. With wall mount kiln controllers, there is minimal risk that the controller gets damaged by gravity or other environmental exposure. Additionally, it’s easy to mount the controller close to the kiln for clean installs in terms of having the wiring to the power outlet and to the thermocouple out of the way.

However, a wall mount kiln controller does require more work in terms of installation – and will require a surface that you can mount the controller to.

Wall mount kiln controllers allow for a clean, semi-permanent installation for your kiln controller upgrade.

Pros and Cons of Tabletop Kiln Controllers

While standalone kiln controllers are designed for easy installation, installing tabletop kiln controllers is as simple as it gets. All you need is a flat surface in proximity to the kiln to set down the controller! However, there is the risk that you accidentally knock over your controller, or the controller gets damaged by setting down another item on its tabletop.

Additionally, tabletop kiln controllers may require modifications to your workspace for a clean installation depending on where the tabletop is in relation to your kiln.

Explore TAP Standalone Kiln Controllers

Whether you’re looking for a wall mount kiln controller or a tabletop kiln controller, SDS Industries has got you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers are available as standalone kiln controllers in both configurations! With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Standalone controllers make the perfect upgrade to your manual kiln or heat treat oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

CTA for TAP Kiln Controller Shop Pages

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How to Use a Kiln Temperature Monitor

Using a kiln temperature monitor lets you monitor kiln firing temperatures and adds kiln safety.

A kiln temperature monitor is a device that monitors kiln firing temperatures. Typically, when people refer to a kiln temperature monitor, they’re referring to a device specifically dedicated to temperature measurement, such as a pyrometer or a limit controller.

In the next section we’ll explain the difference between limit controllers, pyrometers, and process controllers – because all three devices technically monitor kiln temperature. Then, we’ll explain the benefits and use cases of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor.

Understanding the Difference Between Pyrometers, Limit Controllers, and Process Controllers

Wait, but doesn’t my programmable digital kiln controller already monitor my kiln firing temperatures? Yes, digital kiln controllers (such as TAP Controllers!) receive temperature inputs from the thermocouples and display your kiln’s temperature on the controller interface (or your smartphone with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App!).

However, digital kiln controllers are process controllers, meaning their primary role isn’t to monitor temperature but rather to adjust kiln firing temperatures according to the programmed firing schedule.

Pyrometers, on the other hand, are devices whose sole function is to monitor kiln temperature. And limit controllers, or high limit controllers or safety limiters, are pyrometers with additional control functions that allow users to pre-program their electric kiln to automatically shut off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature.

What’s The Point of a Dedicated Kiln Temperature Monitor?

Okay, but if your primary process controller already lets you monitor kiln temperature, then what’s the point of a dedicated kiln temperature monitor? The answer: kiln safety.

More advanced kiln controllers, such as TAP, provide max temperature safety shutoff in case of relay failure. But even then you’re still relying on a single controller, a single relay, and a single thermocouple to ensure the safety of your kiln, yourself, and your property.

When it comes to safety, especially at high kiln firing temperatures, redundancy is key. A dedicated kiln temperature monitor adds an additional level of safety by acting as a safety redundancy device. When installed and wired to a redundant safety relay, TAP Monitor will automatically shut off your kiln if it exceeds a specified temperature – even if your primary relay fails.

TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone.
TAP Monitor integrates with your kiln to provide remote kiln temperature monitoring to your smartphone – when installed with a redundant relay, TAP Monitor also provides additional kiln safety.

Introducing TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer Limit Controller

While previous kiln temperature monitors only added kiln safety shutoff or a temperature readout, TAP Monitor by SDS Industries adds a whole lot more than that!

TAP Monitor is an advanced, user-friendly kiln temperature monitor that gives kiln operators the ability to precisely monitor kiln firing temperatures – remotely! – regardless of their existing kiln control method.

Available as a plug-and-play standalone pyrometer limit controller or as a set of configurable components for DIY installs and oven builds, TAP Monitor gives ceramicists, potters, glass artists, and bladesmiths the ability to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of their kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to a local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to their manual kiln or oven.
  • Pair TAP Monitor with their existing automatically controlled kiln for remote monitoring.
  • For added safety, use TAP Monitor as a standalone or safety relay controller.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

In addition to the TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer, the TAP Ecosystem includes a variety of programmable kiln controllers that give artists complete control of their kilns – without complicated controls or clumsy user interfaces. The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven. We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, pyrometers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer for kilns

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How to Easily Track Your Electric Kiln Firing Cost

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

Did you know that you can easily program your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost? And with the latest update to the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, we’ve made the kiln firing cost calculator function free for all users!

Why is this important?

There are several benefits to being able to accurately track your electric kiln firing cost. If you sell (or plan on selling) your work, knowing kiln costs for each firing schedule, along with materials and labor costs, allows you to accurately price your work. Additionally, knowing your electric kiln firing cost allows you to accurately track cost growth as utility rates rise.

But even if you don’t sell your work, the kiln firing cost calculator function can help you gain insight into whether your kiln is operating as effectively as it did when it was new, helping you stay ahead of possible kiln maintenance needs. Plus, with how easy it is to program cost settings on your TAP Controller, it’s just cool information to know!

How to Use the Kiln Firing Cost Calculator on Your TAP Controller

Setting up your TAP Controller to track your electric kiln firing cost is super easy. For the original TAP Controller, you can input cost settings right from your controller screen or via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. For the TAP II Controller, as well as the other kiln controllers in the TAP Ecosystem, you will set up your kiln firing costs via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, so you can skip ahead to the next section for instructions!

Steps for Programming Kiln Cost Settings on the Controller UI

TAP Kiln Controllers have a kiln firing cost calculator for tracking your electric kiln firing cost.

  1. From the Home Screen, go to Menu > Settings > Cost.
  2. Enter your kiln’s power rating in watts in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’ If you’re unsure of your kiln’s power rating, you can usually find it on the kiln’s data plate or in your kiln’s user manual. If your kiln’s power rating is in kilowatts, just multiply that number by 1000 to convert the power rating into watts. So, for instance, if your kiln was rated for 2.16 kW, you’d multiply that by 1000, and enter 2160 in the field for ‘Kiln Power.’
  3. Enter your utility provider’s cost per kilowatt hour in the ‘Cost per kWh’ field. You can find this information on your latest electric bill or on the website for your electric utility provider. In the example below, we’ve highlighted the Cost Per kWh (so, for this example, you would enter $0.041 under ‘Cost per kWh): Once you’ve input this information, your TAP Controller will automatically calculate your electric kiln firing cost – so you can ditch the pencil, notebooks, timers, and calculators!

Example of Electric Service Details

How to Setup Electric Kiln Firing Cost Tracking on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App

You can also program cost settings for the TAP or TAP II Controller (as well as our upcoming kiln temp controller options) on the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App – and track your electric kiln firing costs on the go!

  1. In the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, select your kiln from the Summary Screen.
  2. Press Settings on the bottom center of your screen.
  3. Scroll down to Cost. Here you will find the field to input ‘Cost per kWh’ and ‘Kiln Power’ (refer to Steps 2 & 3 from the previous section):

Tracking electric kiln firing costs on a kiln firing cost calculator

You can download the latest version of the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, which makes this feature free for all TAP users on the App Store (for iOS) or the Google Play Store (for Android).

As you know, electric kiln firing costs aren’t the only cost of owning (and maintaining a kiln). For additional information about the cost of kiln ownership – from purchase and installation to maintenance costs – check out our definitive guide on kiln costs!

Explore Programmable Digital Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

When it comes to providing features that make life easier for artists, electric kiln firing cost tracking is just scratching the surface!

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Download the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App for remote kiln control from your smartphone or tablet.

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How to Use a Programmable Digital Kiln Controller

The TAP Controller, pictured alongside the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, is the most advanced programmable digital kiln controller on the market.

Similar to other industries, the mid-1980s brought major advancements to kiln control technology. Manual kilns and kiln sitters gave way to programmable digital kiln controllers. Kiln operators no longer had to manually adjust their kilns for each segment of their kiln firing schedule. Instead, they could use programmable kiln controllers to input their entire firing program in advance, and the controller would carry out the program automatically!

Also known as electronic or automatic kiln controllers, programmable digital kiln controllers are computerized controllers that automatically cycle the relays to a kiln’s heating elements on and off in accordance to predefined ramp rates, setpoints and hold times.

Compared to manual controllers, programmable kiln controllers significantly streamline the firing process, reducing the possibility of user error and ensuring consistently repeatable firing conditions.

The TAP Kiln Controller by SDS Industries is a touchscreen programmable digital kiln controller.

Programmable Digital Kiln Controller Input Methods

When it comes to programmable digital kiln controllers, there are two primary input methods: keys and touchscreen.

Key-Based Controls

Early programmable kiln controllers all used keys, or analog buttons, in order to program the controller. Many kiln controllers today still use this input method. Common configurations are 3-key controllers and 12-key controllers, but some kiln controllers use as many as 24 keys!

However, regardless of how many keys a controller has, this control method presents several inconveniences:

  • Keys must be pressed multiple times to increase setpoints, cycle through preprogrammed schedules, or control other inputs.
  • Key-based controllers often have small, hard-to-read screens that make it impossible to see all the relevant information about a firing schedule.
  • These controllers have multi-layered menus that can be extremely difficult to navigate.

Good luck using these controllers without constantly having to consult the user manual and press a LOT of buttons!

Touchscreen Controls

In 2015, SDS Industries revolutionized the kiln control industry, by replacing keys and alarm-clock-like screens with intuitive, responsive touchscreen controls and an easy-to-read graphical UI. The TAP Controller, and later the TAP II Controller, allows kiln operators to quickly and easily program their kiln with just a few presses of their finger on the controller or their via their smartphone with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.

The TAP II Kiln Controller allows operators to easily preprogram their kiln.

When it comes to programmable digital controllers, touchscreen controls present several major advantages:

  • Intuitive, user-friendly menus that are designed for complete navigation with minimal finger presses.
  • Alpha-numeric, full text displays of kiln firing schedules to make it easy for operators to access, edit, and execute the right firing schedule.
  • The ability to create a theoretically unlimited number of kiln firing schedules, each containing a theoretically unlimited number of steps, so users don’t have to relegate schedules to their firing notebook when they run out of storage.
  • Integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to allow users to create, modify, and execute kiln firing schedules from their mobile device when their kiln controller is connected to Wi-Fi.

Additionally, TAP Digital Kiln Controllers include PID-driven precision, advanced diagnostics, complete firing logs, and preventative maintenance alerts, and more, to ensure that the controller and kiln maintain optimum performance.

The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App acts as a remote programmable kiln controller.

Types of Kilns that Use Programmable Kiln Controllers

Today, programmable digital kilns controllers are the standard for industrial kilns and have become increasingly common for hobby and studio kilns. Many programmable kiln controllers include preset firing schedules for glasswork, ceramics, glazes, and heat treat, greatly reducing the learning curve for new artists while still offering veteran artists the ability to completely customize their firing schedules.

Retrofitting Your Kiln with a Programmable Controller

Whether your kiln came equipped with a manual controller or you’re using an outdated programmable controller, retrofitting your kiln with a modern programmable digital kiln controller is easy through the use of standalone controllers or conversion kits. Standalone controllers are a plug-and-play solution for upgrading your manual kiln to automatic controls, while conversion kits enable you to upgrade an existing automatic controller with no (or minimal) modification to your kiln.

Check out our step-by-step guide for installing programmable digital kiln controller standalones and conversion kits!

How to Use a Programmable Digital Kiln Controller

The specifics of how to program your kiln using a digital kiln controller largely depends on the type of controller you’re using. However, generally, upon powering on your kiln you will use the input method on the controller to either select a saved or preset schedule or create your own (you can do this before or after loading your wares). If you’re new to kiln firing, make sure to familiarize yourself with kiln safety guidelines prior to executing your firing schedule.

Once you have selected your firing schedule, press ‘Start’ and your programmable digital controller will automatically execute your firing schedule to completion. Easy as that! While it may be tempting to trust everything to your programmable kiln controller, for safety reasons you should never leave your kiln unattended during firing. While programmable controllers are extremely reliable compared to relying on a kiln sitter, there is always the possibility of relay failure or other technical mishaps (for additional safety, we recommend using an additional limit controller as an added layer of relay redundancy to force safety shutoff if the kiln exceeds certain temperature thresholds).

Programming a TAP II Digital Kiln Controller

While we can’t provide a How-To for using every programmable kiln controller on the market, below we’ll be looking at how to program a TAP II Kiln Controller (the UI for the original TAP Controller is extremely similar):

Step 1: Starting from the ‘Home Screen’

Below is a picture of the home screen on a TAP II Kiln Controller:

The home screen of a TAP II Kiln Controller

To access kiln firing schedules, or create a new one, press ‘Start’ on the right side of the screen.

Step 2: Using the ‘Schedule Selector’ Screen

On the ‘Schedule Selector’ screen, you have the ability to access all of your saved or preset kiln firing schedules by scrolling through the menu on the left side of the screen. To execute an existing schedule, select the schedule from this screen, then press ‘Start’!

If you need to edit a schedule, clicking the ‘Edit Icon’ beside the schedule title allows you to edit that firing schedule. Or, to create a new schedule, click ‘New’ on the right side of the screen.

The 'Kiln Firing Schedule Selector' screen on a TAP II controller.

Step 3: Edit and Add Steps to Your Firing Schedule

Clicking the ‘Edit Icon’ will bring you to the ‘Edit Schedule’ screen:

On this screen of the TAP II Controller, users have the ability to edit their kiln firing schedule or create a new one.

On this screen, you have the ability to add new steps and edit the Schedule Name, Ramp Rate, Setpoint, and Hold Time for each step. Additionally, you have the ability to set alerts to notify you when your kiln has reached its setpoint or hold time for each specific step. When you’re finished editing your firing schedule, click ‘Save.’

Step 4: Execute Your New Firing Schedule

When you click ‘Save,’ the controller will bring you back to the ‘Schedule Selector’ screen. Select your desired schedule and then press ‘Start.’

The Execute Schedule screen on the TAP II Kiln Controller.

From there, your TAP II Controller will automatically execute your new firing schedule. From the ‘Execute’ screen, you’ll be able to monitor exactly where your kiln is in terms of your firing schedule, as well as skip steps, access firing logs, or abort your firing.

Please Note – Most programmable digital kiln controllers are not nearly that easy-to-use or intuitive. A huge part of our focus at SDS Industries is to make using a programmable kiln controller as simple, precise, and straightforward as possible!

Explore Programmable Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Shop the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.

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Understanding Kiln Firing Schedules for Glass, Ceramics, Pottery, and Heat Treat

Kiln firing schedules for glass, ceramics, pottery, and heat treat

The primary function of a kiln controller is to help users input (and successfully execute!) their kiln firing schedules…but what is a kiln firing schedule? Below, we’ll be helping you understand kiln firing schedules, as well as how firing schedules differ for materials such as glass, ceramic, pottery, and metal heat treat!

Definition of Kiln Firing Schedules

A kiln firing schedule is a progression of steps, made up of temperature changes over specific time intervals, that a kiln moves through during a firing. Each step of a kiln firing schedule is made up of four components:

  • Step #: Also known as a ‘segment,’ step # represents the order in which the steps of the schedule occur.
  • Ramp Rate: Measured in degrees per hour, the ramp rate is the speed at which the kiln is heated up or cooled down.
  • Setpoint: Measured in degrees, the setpoint is the desired temperature the kiln reaches during each step.
  • Hold Time: Also, known as a ‘soak,’ hold time is the length of time (defined in days, hours, or minutes) the kiln stays at a specific setpoint before advancing.

Each of these components determines the properties of the finished ware once the firing schedule reaches completion. Even extremely minor variances in adhering to kiln firing schedules can have a major impact on the finished result, so it’s important to accurately input firing schedules into your kiln controller and to utilize kiln controllers that are able to automatically execute kiln firing schedules with extreme precision.

Example of a Kiln Firing Schedule

Kiln firing schedules, sometimes colloquially referred to as programs or firing schedules, can best be described as the road map the controller uses to execute a firing. While kiln firing schedules can string together as many steps as necessary to achieve the desired firing result, below we’ll be looking at an example of a three-step firing schedule:

Example of a 3-step kiln firing schedule in order to illustrate the format and various components of firing schedules

Assuming the kiln starts at room temperature, or 70° F, the example schedule shown above will result in a firing that takes 5 hours and 24 minutes to complete. Below is a visual graph representing the firing profile of this schedule:

A 3-step kiln firing profile plotted as a line graph

In this graph, we can see that the kiln follows a 500 degree-per-hour ramp rate from time 0 (when the kiln was started) to 950 degrees (the first setpoint). Once the setpoint is achieved, the controller regulates the temperature to keep the kiln at 950° for 30 minutes.

Once the hold time from the first step is completed, the kiln advances at a rate of 1200 degrees-per-hour to a setpoint of 1425° and holds there for 20 minutes.

Finally, the kiln moves to step three, cooling at a rate of 300 degrees-per-hour down to a setpoint of 700°. Because the hold time at Step #3 is zero, the kiln firing schedule is now complete!

See our article on Alerts and Alarms so you can be notified when your kiln firing schedule reaches certain firing points! 

Ramp/Hold vs Time-to Temp Schedules

Kiln firing schedules can also be expressed in different formats. The example above is the common Ramp/Hold format, which can also be described as a Ramp/Soak or Ramp/Dwell schedule. This is the most common kiln firing schedule format, and it is also the format that is supported by TAP Kiln Controllers.

However, kiln firing schedules can also be written in a Time-to-Temp format, which contains all of the same information but prioritizes the timing of the firing as opposed to the temperature of the firing.

When generating a Time-to-Temp schedule, you are, in effect, saying “I want to be at 950 degrees in 1 hour and 45 minutes.” At that point, the controller is responsible for converting the defined “Time-to-Temp” into a usable Ramp Rate. By saying we want to be at 950° in 1 hour and 45 minutes, and assuming we’re starting from 70°, we’ve essentially created a firing schedule with an implied ramp rate of 500 degrees-per-hour.

NOTE: Some controllers that use Time-to-Temp format do not report accurate ramp rate, which can affect outcomes of the firing schedule. For instance, a Time-to-Temp controller might report that your kiln went from 100° to 1250° in one minute, because that was what it was programmed to do, even though achieving that level of temperature change over that time interval simply isn’t possible.

Below is the exact same kiln firing schedule from before written in a Time-to-Temp format:

A kiln firing schedule written in Time-to-Temp format

The firing graph for both formats would look exactly the same – and executing either format would yield the same outcome once the firing schedule reaches completion (assuming the controller was capable of converting the Time-to-Temp into an accurate ramp rate). The only difference is how the kiln firing schedule is expressed. What was defined in three steps in the Ramp/Hold format requires five steps in the Time-to-Temp format, despite yielding the same firing profile.

What Factors Does a Kiln Firing Schedule Depend On?

Kiln firing schedules are dependent on the material/media being fired, as well as the physical capabilities of the kiln. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to kiln firing schedules, as the material within the kiln will require its own unique schedule to achieve optimal results. Later in the article, we’ll be looking at examples of firing schedules for glasswork, firing ceramics, and metal heat treat.

Limitations of Kiln Firing Schedules

Now that you know the components of a kiln firing schedule, you should also understand the limitations. The physical capabilities of the kiln dictate certain physical boundaries that cannot be overcome. The material of the kiln, chamber size, power rating, and thermocouple gauge all contribute to the kiln’s demonstrated performance.

As kilns approach higher temperatures, their ability to heat at defined ramp rates begins to fall off. A kiln that can heat at a ramp rate of 3600 degrees-per-hour while at 200° will likely be unable to generate the same ramp rate at 1500°. This is a result of the kiln material and power rating.

Thermocouples are used to read the temperature inside a kiln chamber and communicate that temperature to the kiln controller. A kiln with an 8-gauge thermocouple will respond much slower to temperature input than a 20-gauge thermocouple. This can result in overshoot at low setpoints as the thermocouple needs time to “catch-up” to the heat that has been applied to the kiln.

Kiln Firing Schedules for Glass

While the kiln firing schedule example above was hypothetical, in this section we’ll explore actual kiln firing schedules for different types of glasswork techniques.

Please Note: Each of these schedules is for 90 COE glass. Additionally, each firing schedule will have to be adjusted according to your specific kiln, the size of your project, as well as the type of glass you’re using – some experimentation will be required, so please just use these as a general guideline.

For additional in-depth technical information about using your kiln to fire glass, please visit https://www.bullseyeglass.com/index-of-articles/.

Full Fuse Firing Schedule

A full fuse is when you use heat and time to combine two or more layers of glass to form one single solid piece of glass. The layers of glass fuse together – hence the name! Below is a full fuse firing schedule for projects that are smaller than 12”.

A full fuse firing schedule for 90 COE glass

  1. 400°F/Hr to 1250°F – hold 30 minutes.
  2. 600°F/Hr to 1490°F – hold 10 minutes.
  3. AFAP°F/Hr to 900°F – hold 30 minutes.
  4. 150°F/Hr to 700°F – hold 0 minutes.
  5. AFAP°F/Hr to 70°F – hold 0 minutes.

You can find temperature guidelines for additional glasswork processes here.

Glass Casting Firing Schedule

Glass casting is when you melt glass until it is soft and malleable enough to conform to a mold. The glass then hardens to create a glass object in the shape of the mold. Below is a glass casting firing schedule for a small open face mold cast:

A glass casting firing schedule for 90 COE glass

 

 

  1. 100°F/Hr to 200°F – hold 6 hours.
  2. 100°F/Hr to 1250°F – hold 2 hours.
  3. 600°F/Hr to 1525°F – hold 3 hours.
  4. AFAP °F/Hr to 1200°F – hold 4 hours.
  5. 50°F/Hr to 900°F – hold 6 hours.
  6. 12°F/Hr to 800°F – hold 1 minute.
  7. 20°F/Hr to 700°F – hold 1 minute.
  8. 72°F/Hr to 70°F – hold 1 minute.

Additional details about casting firing schedules can be found here.

Annealing Firing Schedule

Annealing glass is the process of stabilizing glass during the cooling process by holding it at a steady temperature to give it time to strengthen. COE 96 glass is typically annealed at a setpoint of 960°F. However, the size of the glass, its thickness, as well as the number of layers being used determines how long the anneal hold needs to be.

From the example of the Full Fuse Firing Schedule above, we highlighted the steps that involved annealing in green:

An annealing firing schedule for a glass kiln

Notice that Step #3 has the kiln hold at the annealing setpoint 900°F for 30 minutes in order to give the fuse time to stabilize, and then Step #4 and Step #5 have the kiln slowly cooling down from the setpoint to the final temperature.

See our article Benefits of Using a Digital Controller for Glass Kilns for more information about using your kiln for glasswork!

Kiln Firing Schedules for Ceramics

Before getting into kiln firing schedules for ceramics, it’s important to know what Cone # the material you’re firing is rated for. This represents the setpoint at which the type of material you’re using is properly fired. So, for example, Cone 04 clay would need to reach a setpoint of at least 1945°F whereas Cone 6 Porcelain would need to reach a setpoint of 2232°F.

Please Note: All of these kiln firing schedules are for 04 Cone clay. Just like with glasswork, each firing schedule will have to be adjusted according to your specific kiln, the size of your project, as well as the type of clay, stoneware, or porcelain you’re using – some experimentation will be required, so please use these as a general guideline.

Candling Firing Schedule 

Candling is the process of allowing clay to fully dry prior to high temperature ceramic firings. This involves heating your kilns to a low temperature for a prolonged period of time. Below is an example of a kiln firing schedule for candling your clay:

A pottery kiln firing schedule for candling clay

  1. 150°F/Hr to 150°F – hold 12 hours.

Simple, right? However, this is just to get the clay ‘bone-dry’ before firing it, since the natural moisture of the clay, if fired too quickly, can cause your project to crack and fissure!

Bisque Firing Schedule for Cone 04 Ceramics

A bisque firing is the process of turning clay into ceramics! Below is a slow bisque firing schedule for Cone 04 clay:

A bisque firing schedule for Cone 04 ceramics

  1. 80°F/Hr to 250°F.
  2. 200°F/Hr to 1000°F.
  3. 100°F/Hr to 1100°F.
  4. 180°F/Hr to 1695°F.
  5. 80°F/Hr to 1945°F.

You’ll notice that this firing schedule doesn’t include any hold times. However, the total firing time is 13 hours and 26 minutes. So how does that work? In this case, the firing time is dictated by the ramp rate – or the amount of time it takes for your kiln to reach each setpoint in the firing schedule.

Glaze Firing Schedule for Cone 04 Ceramic

When firing pottery, it’s important to match the Cone # of your glaze to the Cone # of your clay. In this case, we’re using Cone 04 clay, which is a “low-fire” clay. Therefore, we’d want to use a glaze that’s in the Cone 06-04 range. In other words, the temperature of the glaze firing schedule shouldn’t exceed the temperature of the bisque firing schedule.

Glaze firing schedule for Cone 04 ceramics

  1. 150°F/Hr to 250°F.
  2. 400°F/Hr to 1695°F.
  3. 100°F/Hr to 1945°F.

See our article on How to Use a Pottery Kiln Temperature Controller for more information on how to fire ceramics!

Firing Schedules for Heat Treating Metals

Just like with glasswork and pottery, kiln firing schedules for metal heat treat is extremely dependent on the type of material you’re using. But, additionally, it’s dependent on the qualities you want the finished metal to have. For heat treat, the rate at which you cool the metal has a significant impact on the molecular structure of the metal. For these examples, we’ll be working with 1095 steel.

Please Note: All of these kiln firing schedules are for 1095 steel. Just like with Each firing schedule will have to be adjusted according to your specific kiln or heat treat oven, the type of metal you’re using, its thickness, as well as the desired properties – some experimentation will be required, so please just use these as a general guideline.

You can find more information about setpoints and cooling rates for different effects on different types of metal here.

Normalizing Firing Schedule for 1095 Steel

Normalizing is a process where metal is heated to an extremely high temperature for a defined period of time and then either air-cooled or furnace cooled at a controlled ramp rate. Normalizing relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, resulting in harder, stronger metals. Below is a normalizing firing schedule for 1095 steel:

A schedule for normalizing 1095 steel in a heat treat oven

  1. AFAP°F/Hr to 1600°F – hold for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove knife or blade from the oven and allow to air-cool.

Quench Hardening Firing Schedule for 1095 Steel

Quenching is the process where metal is heated and then cooled rapidly by dipping it into an oil, polymer, or water, resulting in very hard, very brittle metal. This increases the hardening of the metal (but also its brittleness). Below is a quench firing schedule for 1095 steel:

Heat treat schedule for quench hardening 1095 steel

  1. AFAP°F/Hr to 1600°F – hold for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove knife or blade from the oven and quench in fast oil to 150°F.

Tempering Firing Schedule for 1095 Steel

After hardening, the metal is heated to a lower temperature to reduce excessive hardness and relieve internal stress. Tempering makes metals less brittle – it should be done within two hours after the steel cools from the quench hardening process. Below is a tempering firing schedule for 1095 steel:

Tempering firing schedule for 1095 steel

  1. AFAP°F/Hr to 400°F – hold for 2 hours.
  2. Allow knife or blade to slowly cool – either air-cooled or within the oven.

You’ll notice that most heat treat applications have simple kiln firing schedules that only involve a single setpoint and aren’t dependent on ramp rate. For this reason, it might make sense to use a single setpoint controller for heat treat applications like the TAP & Go by SDS Industries.

Check out Guide to Choosing Heat Treating Controllers for more information about different types of heat treatments!

The Easiest Way to Precisely Execute Kiln Firing Schedules

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use digital kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Controller Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven to allow you to easily manage and execute your kiln firing schedules.

We invite you to explore our selection of programmable kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP-Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

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14 Types of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

Blog header image for '14 Types of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers,' featuring an image of a TAP Digital Touchscreen Electric Kiln Temperature Controller.

When it comes to controlling the temperature of an electric kiln, there’s a wide variety of electric kiln temperature controller options. Below are 14 types of kiln temperature controllers – from old school analog kiln sitters to advanced digital kiln controllers for complex firing processes.

Types of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

1. Manual Kiln Temperature Controllers

When kilns became electric in the early 20th century, every electric kiln had manual controls. With manual kiln temperature controllers, users set the temperature of their kiln through a combination of analog dials and switches. However, manual kiln controllers cannot adjust the temperature of the kiln or advance through a firing schedule without direct user input.

This means that manual kiln temperature controllers require constant hands-on management and aren’t suited for executing complex firing schedules that require high degrees of precision. However, since they’re inexpensive and have a minimal learning curve for managing user inputs (using a manual kiln controller is a lot like using a kitchen oven), manual kiln controllers are still widely used today.

2. Kiln Sitters

The first major innovation to electric kiln temperature controllers was the invention of the kiln sitter in the 1950s. Used with manual kiln temperature controllers, the kiln sitter was the original limit controller. Limit controllers add kiln safety by ensuring a kiln shuts off when a certain temperature threshold is met. Kiln sitters accomplish this for manual kilns through primitive technology. A sitter cone, inserted in the kiln sitter, melts at a certain temperature causing the kiln to power off.

Illustration showing the components of a kiln sitter with labels.
Although outdated compared to the automatic kiln controllers of today, the invention of the kiln sitter was a major early innovation in electric kiln temperature controllers.

3. Automatic or Digital Kiln Temperature Controllers

In the mid-1980s, the automatic kiln controller was invented. Automatic kiln controllers significantly streamline the firing process by managing the temperature of an electric kiln without user input. Also known as digital controllers, automatic kiln controllers allow users to program their device to reach the right temperatures at the right times without their direct oversight.

Automatic kiln controllers are far more precise than manual kiln controllers and leave less room for user error, making them more suitable for more complex firing schedules like those used for glasswork or some types of ceramic firings.

The first automatic kiln temperature controllers used analog inputs and had extremely complicated menus and user interfaces! However, over the last several decades automatic kiln temperature controllers have evolved massively. Today’s most advanced automatic kiln controllers are extremely easy to use and include responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive UI, full control and extensive diagnostics, real-time monitoring and data, Wi-Fi connectivity, and mobile app integration.

The TAP Kiln Controller is the most advanced automatic electric kiln temperature controller on the market today.
The TAP Kiln Controller is the most advanced automatic electric kiln temperature controller on the market today.

4. 3-Key Kiln Temperature Controllers

For early automatic kiln controllers, users had analog buttons (or keys) to navigate menus and set the temperature of their electric kilns. A 3-key kiln temperature controller has three keys which the operator uses to program the kiln. As you can imagine, this can get extremely complicated! However, 3-key kiln controllers are still sold by certain manufacturers.

5. 12-Key Kiln Temperature Controllers

A 12-key kiln temperature controller includes additional keys, which makes programming an electric kiln slightly more convenient. However, compared to other more advanced electric kiln temperature controllers, 12-key controllers are still complicated to use and don’t present the best user experience.

(Note: If you’re still using a 3-key or 12-key controller, conversion kits allow you to easily replace them with more advanced digital touchscreen kiln controllers.)

6. Touchscreen Kiln Temperature Controllers

In 2015, SDS Industries released the TAP Kiln Controller which was the first commercially available electric kiln temperature controller to use a touchscreen user interface. Touchscreen kiln controllers make programming and monitoring temperature for an electric kiln much more intuitive and user friendly than 3-key and 12-key controllers.

With touchscreen kiln temperature controllers, navigating menus and creating firing schedules can be accomplished with just a few finger presses, and a larger screen and graphical UI allows users to see more details about their firing schedule and view detailed firing charts and diagnostics.

7. Multi-zone Kiln Temperature Controllers

Electric kilns come in two general configurations: single-zone and multi-zone kilns. Electric kilns are heated by resistive metal elements, much like those seen in a toaster oven. For single-zone kilns, all of the kiln’s elements respond to input from a single thermocouple. For multi-zone kilns, multiple thermocouples are used to sense temperature in different sections of the kiln and adjust power to the elements accordingly.

Multi-zone electric kiln temperature controllers, such as the TAP Kiln Controller, include multiple thermocouple inputs to set specific temperatures for different sections of the kiln, allowing users to obtain consistent firing results in a single large kiln.

8. Single-zone Kiln Temperature Controllers

Single-zone electric kiln temperature controllers, on the other hand, only have a single thermocouple, which is used to control all of the elements of a kiln and achieve a single temperature. Currently, the TAP II Kiln Controller is the most advanced and easy-to-use temperature controller for single-zone electric kilns and ovens on the market today.

The TAP II Controller is an advanced single-zone kiln temperature controller, with an intuitive, graphical UI, built-in Wi-Fi, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
The TAP II Controller is an advanced single-zone kiln temperature controller, with an intuitive, graphical UI, built-in Wi-Fi, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.

9. Internet Kiln Controllers

Internet kiln controllers, or Wi-Fi kiln controllers, utilize a Wi-Fi signal to allow users to control and monitor their kiln from their mobile device or tablet. Internet kiln controllers give users far more flexibility and freedom when it comes to operating their electric kilns, allowing them to remotely create, modify, and execute firing schedules, monitor their kiln with real-time updates and push notifications, and skip steps and abort firings.

All of the TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries have Wi-Fi capability and pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to give users almost complete remote control of their electric kiln.

The TAP Micro is an internet kiln controller that users control entirely from their smartphone or tablet.
The TAP Micro, now available for pre-order, is an internet kiln controller that users control entirely from their smartphone or tablet!

10. Single Setpoint Kiln Temperature Controllers

Single setpoint kiln controllers are a simplified electric kiln temperature controller option that allows users to program their kiln to reach a single setpoint (or temperature) for an indefinite hold. Not all firing schedules require multiple setpoints or specific ramp rates (the speed at which a kiln heats up). Single setpoint electric kiln temperature controllers are ideal for users who are making blades, knives, or doing other heat treat processes, or for glassblowers and flameworkers who are using pick up ovens.

11. Limit Controllers

Limit controllers, also known as high limit controllers or safety limiters, are redundant temperature monitoring devices that allow users to pre-program their electric kiln to automatically shut off if the kiln exceeds a specified temperature. While limit controllers usually aren’t suited to be the primary control method on an electric kiln, they are an important part of kiln safety and can protect you, your equipment, and your property in the case of relay or system failure.

The TAP Monitor is the most advanced limit controller and digital pyrometer, allowing users to add precise, remote, real-time digital temperature readings and redundant safety shut-off to any kiln or oven.
The TAP Monitor, now available for pre-order, is the most advanced limit controller and digital pyrometer, allowing users to add precise, remote, real-time digital temperature readings and redundant safety shut-off to any kiln or oven.

12. Process Controllers

A process controller is an automatic electric kiln temperature controller that employs a closed-loop digital feedback system to control and regulate the temperature of industrial control applications more precisely. Process controllers use a mathematical formula to calculate the difference between the input temperature and the current temperature of the application. The process controller then adjusts the output to compensate for the detected changes in the system, ensuring that the current temperature is as close to the expected temperature as possible.

TAP Kiln Controllers utilize PID (“Proportional Integral Derivative”) control algorithms to ensure precise schedule following with the fastest response with minimal overshoot and limited steady-state error.

13. ICS Kiln Controllers

ICS stands for Industrial Control System. An ICS kiln controller is a type of process controller that is rated for industrial applications. Industrial kilns are large and high-powered and require extremely high degrees of precision and consistency, usually accomplished by a control algorithm.

14. Standalone Automatic Kiln Controllers

How do you convert a manual electric kiln to automatic controls? A standalone automatic kiln controller is a plug-and-play solution to upgrade a manual kiln to digital controls. All you have to do is run the thermocouple attached to the standalone kiln controller to the interior of your kiln and plug your electric kiln into the standalone unit. This enables a standalone automatic kiln controller to bypass your manual control system, enabling you to enjoy all the benefits of an advanced digital touchscreen controller.

A table top standalone kiln controller allows you to easily upgrade a manual kiln to digital controls.
TAP Standalone Automatic Kiln Controllers allow users to easily upgrade their manual kiln to automatic controls.

Enjoy the Most Advanced, User-Friendly Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use electric kiln temperature controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of electric kiln temperature controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP-Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

Explore our line of TAP Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers.

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New Kiln Temp Controller Options! Introducing the TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro

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Exciting news! SDS Industries is gearing up to launch new additions to the TAP Kiln Control Ecosystem. As part of our commitment to innovative temperature control solutions, we have three new kiln temp controller products coming soon!

Overview of New TAP Kiln Temp Controller Options

TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro are all designed to be controlled almost entirely through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App as opposed to an on-unit touchscreen. This allows us to offer these products at a significantly more accessible price point without sacrificing core functionality or ease-of-use.

Below is a quick overview of our three new kiln temp controller options:

  • TAP Monitor: TAP Monitor is a digital pyrometer that pairs with any relay-controlled kiln or oven to provide precise remote temperature monitoring and can be used to add redundancy to your existing controller’s safety shutoff.
  • TAP & Go: Our most simplified control option yet, the TAP & Go is a Single Setpoint controller, making it ideal for heat treat, knife-making, or for users who don’t need to execute complex firings.
  • TAP Micro: Enjoy the robust capabilities of TAP at a lower price point! TAP Micro offers a limited feature set and is controlled entirely through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, making it the perfect entry-level controller.

TAP Monitor, TAP & Go, and TAP Micro are all built on a modular platform, with add-on options like a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, an Output Adapter, and an Input Power Adapter. These add-ons snap right onto the Controller Board, so you only pay for the functionality you need!

An isometric rendering of SDS Industries' new modular kiln temp controllers.

TAP Monitor: A Precise Digital Pyrometer and Safety Device

Available as a set of configurable components for DIY install, or as a plug-and-play standalone digital pyrometer, TAP Monitor is the most advanced digital pyrometer on the market today. TAP Monitor is a limit controller that adds precise temperature readings, remote monitoring, push notification alerts, and safety redundancy to any kiln or oven. The TAP Monitor allows you to:

  • Precisely monitor the temperature of your kiln, oven, or forge via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App or on an optional 2.4” touchscreen display.
  • View digital pyrometric readouts from any manually controlled kiln, including remote readouts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile when TAP Monitor is connected to your local network.
  • Easily add precise, real-time digital temperature readings to your manual kiln or oven.
  • Add remote monitoring to your existing automatically controlled kiln.
  • Use TAP Monitor as a limit controller and kiln safety device to add redundant max temperature shutoff (the configurable components can also interface with solid state relays or mechanical relays (with the output adapter) to add relay redundancy).

The TAP Monitor Standalone includes a TAP Monitor Pyrometer (with a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen), a USB Power Cable and a Type K Thermocouple, making it a plug-and-play solution. Available options for the DIY components include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC to 5VDC Power Adapter, and a Relay Output Adapter.

3D rendering of the TAP Monitor Limit Controller

Use-Cases for TAP Monitor

The TAP Monitor isn’t intended to replace your current kiln temp controller. However, you can pair TAP Monitor with any existing kiln controller option on any type of kiln to provide remote monitoring, safety redundancy, and additional peace of mind.

TAP & Go: A Straightforward Single Setpoint Kiln Temp Controller

Not every kiln operator needs to ability to create and execute complex firing schedules with multiple steps, setpoints, or ramp rates. TAP & Go is a simplified, single setpoint controller. You just enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to and let the controller do the work, making it ideal for heat treat, knife-making, or for users who don’t need to execute complex firings. With built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, TAP & Go can be used with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App whether a local internet connection is available or not.

TAP & Go gives kiln operators the ability to:

  • Heat their kiln to hold indefinitely at a single setpoint.
  • Remotely monitor the temperature of their kiln and abort firings through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control of their kiln or oven with a premium subscription to the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App.

Available options for TAP & Go include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC Power Input Adapter, and a 12VDC Relay Output Adapter.

Use-Cases for TAP & Go

TAP & Go has a straightforward feature set for users who need straightforward functionality from their kiln or heat treat oven controller. Since it’s incapable of multiple setpoints, hold times, or ramp rate, TAP & Go won’t be suitable for most users working with ceramics or glass. However, for users who are making blades, knives, or doing other heat treat processes, or for glassblowers and flameworkers who are using pick up ovens, the TAP & Go may be an extremely cost-effective kiln temp controller option!

 

TAP Micro: The Perfect Entry-Level Kiln Temp Controller

TAP Micro, available for preorder here, is a minimalist kiln temp controller that allows you to operate your kiln with a precise, easy-to-use user interface from your mobile device or tablet. TAP Micro allows you to use the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to:

  • Manage temperature for single-zone kilns, ovens, or furnaces.
  • Create, edit, label, save, and execute an unlimited number of firing schedules and steps.
  • Quickly check the status of your kilns with easy-to-read indicators, simple graphs of your schedules and current firings, and push notifications.
  • Fully control and monitor your projects remotely, with the option for extra features like Remote Start via in-app purchases.

Available options for TAP Micro include a 2.4” Capacitive Touchscreen, a 24VAC Power Adapter, and a 12VDC Output Adapter.

Use-Cases for TAP Micro

It’s important to note that the TAP Micro is only intended for new kiln and oven builds. Due to its dimensions and wiring, TAP Micro isn’t intended as a drop-in replacement for your current automatic controller (to upgrade your existing automatic controller, check out TAP Standalone Kiln Temp Controllers and Conversion Kits!).

However, TAP Micro is the perfect solution for:

  • Accessing the simplicity, precision, and reliability of TAP at a significantly lower price point.
  • Adding remote control functionality to your kiln, oven, or furnace to enjoy all the benefits of software-based kiln controllers.
  • Confident DIYers, who don’t mind doing their own installs or making modifications to their kiln.

Additionally, upon release, TAP Micro will be available on new kiln and oven build from select distributors and manufacturers.

 

Choose TAP for Your Kiln Temp Controller Options

While we’re super excited for these new additions to our TAP Ecosystem of Products – and to help make the convenience of TAP more accessible for more users – these aren’t a replacement for our mainline, fully-featured TAP Kiln Controllers.

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries will remain the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use automatic kiln controllers on the market for multi-zone and single-zone kilns, respectively. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of automatic kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP-Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

CTA directing users to the TAP Kiln Controller Online Store

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How to Manage Your Kiln Firing Schedule

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What’s one thing potters, ceramicists, glass artists, and metal workers have in common? Each relies on a kiln firing schedule to produce their finished ware. As you can imagine, kiln firing schedules are not one-size fits all! After all, specific temperatures over specific time periods create specific results.

Below we’ll be exploring the ins and outs of firing schedules – from creation to execution. And we’ll also be looking at how automatic kiln controllers help artists create, manage, and organize their firing schedules.

What Is a Kiln Firing Schedule?

A kiln firing schedule is a progression of steps, made up of temperature changes over specific time intervals, that a kiln moves through during a firing. Each step of a kiln firing schedule is made up of four components:

  • Step #: This represents the order in which the steps of the schedule occur.
  • Ramp Rate: The speed at which the kiln is heated up or cooled down (measured in degrees per hour).
  • Setpoint: The desired temperature the kiln reaches during each step.
  • Hold Time: Also, known as a ‘soak,’ this is the length of time the kiln stays at a specific temperature.

Kiln firing schedules range from extremely simple to extremely complex. For example, some heat treatments for metal may only require a single step with a single setpoint, whereas firing schedules for pottery or glass can include half a dozen steps that require extremely precise inputs and outputs.

Furthermore, different processes for different materials require a specific firing schedule. This may seem like a lot to juggle – and, in the old days, it used to be! In the age of manual kilns and early automatic controllers, kiln operators used to have to shuffle through their firing journals to replicate a specific firing schedule.

Luckily, however, automatic kiln controllers have made creating, managing, and executing firing schedules significantly easier and more streamlined. Modern digital kiln controllers like the TAP, TAP II, and TAP Micro Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries, allow users to select from premade firing schedules or create their own with just a few swipes of their finger from the device’s touchscreen. Additionally, with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, users have the ability to create and modify schedules from their smartphone or tablet – or even execute their firing schedule remotely with a premium subscription.

How to Create a Kiln Firing Schedule

SDS Industries designed and launched the original TAP Kiln Controller in 2015 – in large part because we were frustrated with how dang difficult it was to create kiln firing schedules (and then find them later) on the automatic kiln controllers on the market at the time.

A big part of our focus was on streamlining the user experience for firing schedule creation and execution. And, starting from scratch, we had the opportunity to include all the features we’d always wanted on a kiln controller, such as:

  • An intuitive graphical UI and responsive touchscreen controls.
  • Logically arranged menus with full text displays to make it easy to create new firing schedules or modify existing schedules.
  • Alpha-numeric organization for kiln firing schedules to make finding the right firing schedule easy.
  • The ability to star your favorite schedules for even quicker access.
  • The ability to create a theoretically unlimited number of kiln firing schedules, each containing a theoretically unlimited number of steps, so users never have to pick up their firing notebook again (unless they really want to)!
  • Integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to allow users to create, modify, and execute kiln firing schedules from their mobile device when their kiln controller is connected to Wi-Fi.

Below, we’ll be looking at how to create a kiln firing schedule on the TAP II Kiln Controller UI (schedule creation on the original TAP Controller is extremely similar):

Step 1: Starting from the ‘Home Screen’

Below is a picture of the home screen on a TAP II Kiln Controller:

To access kiln firing schedules, press ‘Start’ on the right side of the screen.

Step 2: Using the ‘Schedule Selector’ Screen to Access Your Kiln Firing Schedules or Create a New One

On the ‘Schedule Selector’ screen, you have the ability to access all of your existing kiln firing schedules by scrolling through the menu on the left side of the screen. Clicking the ‘Edit Icon’ beside the schedule title allows you to edit that firing schedule. Or, to create a new schedule, click ‘New’ on the right side of the screen.

Step 3: Edit and Add Steps to Your Firing Schedule

Clicking the ‘Edit Icon’ will bring you to the ‘Edit Schedule’ screen:

On this screen, you have the ability to add new steps and edit the Schedule Name, Ramp Rate, Setpoint, and Hold Time for each step. Additionally, you have the ability to set alerts to notify you when your kiln has reached its setpoint or hold time for each specific step. When you’re finished editing your firing schedule, click ‘Save.’

Step 4: Execute Your New Firing Schedule

When you click ‘Save,’ the controller will bring you back to the ‘Schedule Selector’ screen. Select your desired schedule and then press ‘Start.’

Execute Kiln Firing Schedule Screen on a TAP II Controller

From there, your TAP II Controller will automatically execute your new firing schedule. From the ‘Execute’ screen, you’ll be able to monitor exactly where your kiln is in terms of your firing schedule, as well as skip steps, access firing logs, or abort your firing.

Schedule Creation UI for the Original TAP Controller

Our partners at Evenheat provide an overview of the schedule creation UI for the original TAP Kiln Controller.

Where Can You Find Different Kiln Firing Schedules?

Manufacturers and distributors often have common kiln firing schedules already programmed into your controller. However, as we mentioned earlier, schedules aren’t one size fits all. Below are some tried and true firing schedules for various types of materials:

  • Kiln Firing Schedules for Glass: Kiln firing schedules for Full Fuse Casts, Contour Fusing, Tack Fusing, Slumping, Deep Slumping, Draping, Fire Polishing, Pot Melting, Bubble Squeezing, Wine Bottle Slumping, and Crackling.
  • Kiln Firing Schedules for Pottery and Ceramics: Kiln firing schedules for Basic Cone 04 Bisque Firing (Earthenware, Stoneware, and Porcelain), Cone 05 Glaze Firing (Earthenware), Cone 05/06 Glaze Firing (Mid-Range Stoneware and Porcelain), Cone 10 Glaze Firing (High Fire Stoneware and Porcelain), and Slow Bisque Firing.
  • Kiln Firing Schedules for Steel: Hardening and Tempering for Steel.
  • Thermocycling a Steel Knife: Forging, Normalizing, Grain Refining, Annealing, and Cooling Cycle for Steel Knives.

However, please note that different materials and techniques have specific temperature requirements. We encourage you to do your research and always follow recommendations for cones and temperature requirements from your supplier for glass, clay, stoneware, porcelain, or metal.

Limitations to Firing Schedules

Now that you know how to create a firing schedule, you should also understand the limitations. The physical capabilities of the kiln dictate certain physical limitations that cannot be overcome. The material of the kiln, chamber size, power rating, and thermocouple gauge all contribute to the kiln’s demonstrated performance.

As kilns approach higher temperatures, their ability to heat at defined ramp rates begins to fall off. For instance, a kiln that can heat at a ramp rate of 3600 degrees per hour while at 200 degrees will likely be unable to generate the same ramp rate at 1500 degrees. This is a result of the kiln material and power rating.

Thermocouples are used to read the temperature inside a kiln chamber and communicate that temperature to the kiln controller. A kiln with an 8-gauge thermocouple will respond much slower to temperature input than a 20-gauge thermocouple. This can result in overshoot at low setpoints as the thermocouple needs time to “catch-up” to the heat that has been applied to the kiln.

Learn More About the Most Intuitive, User-Friendly Kiln Firing Schedule Creation

When it comes to creating kiln firing schedules, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use kiln controllers on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and cutting-edge kiln controller software, TAP Kiln Controllers can pair with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.

We invite you to explore our selection of automatic kiln controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. You can also purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP-Controlled Kilns and Heat Treat Ovens through one of the following distributors:

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Benefits of Using a Digital Controller for Glass Kilns

How to Use a Glass Kiln Temperature Controller Blog Header

Let’s face it: glass is touchy. Heat it up or cool it down too quickly, it’s susceptible to breaking. Hold for too long, and you’re liable to end up with cloudy glass (also known as devitrification). Fail to fast cool or anneal properly, and the structural integrity of your glasswork is jeopardized.

Operating a glass kiln can be extremely intimidating for newcomers. And even vets have to be mindful. One misstep in your firing schedule, and the project you’ve been working on for hours could end up fragile, unintentionally bubbly, or cracked. Precision and consistency are key.

Digital controllers for glass kilns help streamline the glass firing process for glassblowers, fusers, casters, and flameworkers by automatically managing the temperature of the kiln at every stage of the glass firing process, ensuring inputs and outputs are consistent and predictable.

Benefits of Using a Digital Controller for Glass Kilns

Digital controllers provide multiple benefits and quality-of-life features for glass artists, such as:

  • The ability to create, modify, and save an unlimited number of firing schedules, allowing glass artists to select different schedules for different techniques.
  • Touchscreen controls and graphical firing views to allow kiln operators to easily create, execute, and monitor their firing schedule.
  • Precise control algorithms to ensure that the glass kiln reaches the optimum temperature at the optimum time.
  • Alerts, diagnostics, and firing charts that allow glass artists to track their firing progress and provide insights into what adjustments they might need to make to achieve their desired effect.
  • A kiln controller app that gives users the ability to create, execute, and monitor their glass firing schedule from their mobile device.

Throughout this article, we’ll be exploring each of those benefits more in-depth!

Using a Digital Controller for Glass Kilns to Create Firing Schedules

A digital controller, also known as an automatic controller, allows glass artists to create their firing schedule in advance. Digital controllers for glass kilns give operators the ability to set the following for each step of the firing process:

  • Ramp Rate: The speed at which the kiln heats up or cools down.
  • Setpoint: The temperature the kiln reaches.
  • Hold Time: How long the kiln stays at temperature.
TAP II Schedule Screen for Glass Kiln
This is the schedule creation screen for a TAP II Controller, where glass artists have the ability to input Ramp Rate, Setpoint, and Hold Times for an unlimited number of steps and schedules.

Examples of firing schedules for common glasswork techniques such as Full Fusing, Contour Fusing, Tack Fusing, Fire Polishing, Draping, and Slumping can be found here.

Once the firing schedule is created, the digital controller then automatically executes the schedule. 

The Importance of an Intuitive User Interface

When choosing a digital controller for a glass kiln, it’s important to select a controller with a simple, intuitive user interface. Glass firing schedules can be extremely complex. User inputs don’t have to be.

The TAP and TAP II Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries are designed to be extremely user-friendly with responsive touchscreen controls, easy-to-navigate menus, and large full text displays that show complete firing schedules. These features allow glass artists to easily create, manage, navigate, and execute their firing schedules without having to constantly consult their user manual.

PID Control Algorithms to Avoid Errors

Since glasswork relies so heavily on precision, even minor disparities in temperature or divergence from the schedule can result in failed glasswork. The most advanced digital controllers for glass kilns utilize PID (“Proportional Integral Derivative”) control algorithms. Without getting too technical, PID control algorithms automatically monitor and adjust the temperature of the kiln to ensure that it is as close to the Setpoint as possible. PID-driven digital controllers ensure fast response, minimal overshoot, and limited steady-state errors, making them ideal for glass work.

Using Graphical Firing Views and Alerts to Monitor the Firing Process

While digital controllers for glass kilns automatically execute the firing schedule, it’s still important for glass artists to stay informed on the progress of their firing schedule. Digital controllers give operators the ability to set alerts that let them know when their kiln has reached the Setpoint or when Hold Times have nearly passed.

Real-time graphical firing views let operators easily track their glass firing and make sure that the kiln chamber has reached the correct temperature. Diagnostics and datalogging are also important for glasswork and make it easy for kiln operators to troubleshoot possible flaws in their glass and make any necessary adjustments to their firing schedule. 

The Convenience of Mobile Kiln Control

Another potential benefit of using a digital controller for a glass kiln is the ability to control and monitor all kiln functions from a mobile device. The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App, available on iOS or Android, gives glass artists the convenience of almost complete remote control.

The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App allows kiln operators to effectively control their firing schedule from their tablet or mobile device, and includes real-time updates, push notifications, and the ability to update kiln settings, skip steps, or abort firing. Users also have the option to unlock additional convenience features such as remote start by upgrading their subscription. These features allow glass artists to effectively execute complex firing schedules without having to put the rest of their life on pause.

Where to Buy a Digital Controller for Your Glass Kiln

If you’re in the market for a digital controller for your glass kiln, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries are the most advanced, precise, and user-friendly kiln controllers on the market today. We invite you to check out our selection of digital controllers, standalones, and conversion kits on our online store. Or you can purchase TAP Digital Controllers or TAP-Controlled Glass Kilns at one of the following distributors:

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