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.
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:
- Hot Shot Oven & Kiln
- Mobile Glassblowing Studios, LLC
- Jen-Ken Kilns
- Kiln Frog
- Sheffield Pottery
- Delphi Glass