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Understanding Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

Guide for understanding electric kiln temperature controllers.

As an artist, your electric kiln temperature controller will have the single biggest impact on how you experience using your kiln. But there are a lot of different electric kiln control options to choose from! This can be super intimidating for newer artists – or even long-time artists who want to upgrade their controller but aren’t sure about what options are available.

This article is designed to help you understand electric kiln temperature controllers and to help you decide what benefits and features you’d like for your kiln or oven build!

The Role of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

Electric kiln temperature controllers are the primary point of interface between artists and their kiln or heat treat oven. Kiln controllers receive inputs from the artist, as well as the kiln’s thermocouples, and then sends outputs to the kiln’s relay to make sure the kiln’s elements reach the correct temperature.

The TAP Kiln Controller is an advanced multi-zone electric kiln temperature controller
The TAP Kiln Controller is an advanced multi-zone electric kiln temperature controller with intuitive touchscreen controls.

Types of Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers Inputs

Different kiln controllers provide different methods for artists to enter these inputs. These range from the dials and knobs of manual controllers or complicated 3-key and 12-key automatic controllers, to the sleek, easy-to-use touchscreen controls of the programmable kiln controllers in the TAP Ecosystem.

Electric kiln temperature controllers can be manual or automatic. For manual controllers, it’s up to the artist to constantly adjust the temperature and monitor hold times to progress through their firing schedules. With automatic controllers, the artist just enters or selects their firing schedule in advance, and the controller executes the entire firing schedule without requiring any additional inputs.

Electric kiln temperature controllers can also be single setpoint or multi-setpoint. Multi-setpoint controllers execute firing schedules with multiple steps and specific hold times. Single setpoint controllers only bring the kiln to a specified temperature – and that’s it. However, with most heat treat processes, cooling occurs outside the kiln after each setpoint, so a single setpoint is all you need!

TAP II is an advanced single zone electric kiln temperature controller.
TAP II is a streamlined multi-setpoint controller for single zone electric kilns.

Remote Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers

The most recent advancement in electric kiln temperature controllers came in 2016 when SDS Industries released the first iteration of TAP Kiln Control Mobile. For the first time ever, TAP Kiln Control Mobile gave artists the ability to remotely control their kiln and monitor temperature from their smartphone and tablet.

While other kiln controller manufacturers have released mobile apps in the years since, as of this blog, TAP Kiln Control Mobile is by far the highest reviewed app and the only one that offers true remote control. TAP Kiln Control Mobile gives artists the ability to make real-time firing adjustments, create and edit full schedules from your phone, as well as a premium option for remote start.

All of the electric kiln temperature controllers and pyrometers in the TAP Ecosystem integrate with TAP Kiln Control Mobile to give artists more freedom, flexibility, and peace of mind.

Purchasing an Electric Kiln Temperature Controller for Your Kiln or Oven Build

Once you decide what kind of input method you want for your electric kiln temperature controller, you also have to purchase the kiln controller configuration that fits your kiln or oven build. Electric kiln temperature controllers are generally sold in three different configurations. The configuration that’s right for you will depend on whether you’re building a new kiln or heat treat oven, you’re replacing an existing automatic controller, or you’re upgrading a manual kiln to automatic controls.

Below is a quick summary of each option.

Digital Kiln Controllers (Controller Only)

On the SDS Industries online shop, items on the Digital Kiln Controller page only contain the controller itself and a wiring harness pigtail (as well as a selected faceplate type for TAP and TAP II).

Buying an electric kiln temperature controller in this configuration is a good option for competent DIYers who have knowledge of kiln controller wiring diagrams and are comfortable splicing wires. This is also a good option for if you’re working on a new kiln or oven build (which you definitely shouldn’t do if you’re not a competent DIYer!).

The good news is that for the average kiln user, there are typically easier options! We’ll be describing those in the following sections.

The TAP Monitor is an advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller for electric kilns.
The TAP Monitor – an advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller for electric kilns – is available as a configurable digital controller or as a plug-and-play standalone.

Conversion Kits

If you have an existing automatic electric kiln temperature controller that you’re looking to upgrade, then by far the easiest option is to purchase a conversion kit! With a conversion kit, all you do is select the automatic controller you’re looking to upgrade, and then you’ll receive a kit that contains a new electric kiln controller, as well as everything you need for a plug-and-play installation.

In most cases, all you’ll need is a screwdriver! However, on rare occasions minimal modification to your kiln may be necessary.

Standalone Kiln Controllers

Standalone kiln controllers are similar to conversion kits in that they’re designed to be plug-and-play with no or minimal modifications to your kiln. However, while conversion kits are made for upgrading existing automatic controllers, standalone kiln controllers are designed for upgrading existing manual controllers.

Buying a New Kiln with The Controller of Your Choice

Additionally, if you’re in the market for a new electric kiln, you may have more options for your kiln controller than you think! While TAP is included as a default option on a number of kiln brands (check out our partners below!), some kiln manufacturers don’t include TAP as a default pre-installed option… yet.

If you’re shopping for a new kiln from a brand that doesn’t offer TAP Kiln Controllers as a pre-installed option, we encourage you to reach out to them and ask them about TAP. Then, feel free to email us at info@kilncontrol.com and we’re happy to try to facilitate a 1:1 install for the kiln of your choice.

Afterall, if you’re purchasing a new kiln, you shouldn’t have to settle for a kiln controller that doesn’t offer easy-to-use touchscreen controls, the convenience of being able to create and save an unlimited number of firing schedules, and the convenience and flexibility of remote kiln control!

Explore Electric Kiln Temperatures Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP Ecosystem includes a host of solutions to enhance kiln safety and help you prevent (or safely respond to) kiln relay failure. In addition to being the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide advanced diagnostics, preventative maintenance alerts, and remote real-time kiln monitoring and error alerts via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.

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 the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.

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All About Kiln Relays

Guide for understanding the difference between different types of kiln relays

No matter what type of kiln or heat treat oven you have, choosing the right kiln relay is super important! Kiln relays play a fundamental role in regulating the temperature of the kiln, as well as ensuring kiln safety. Over the course of this article we’ll be explaining what a kiln relay is, how they work, as well as what type of kiln relay is right for your kiln or oven build.

We’ll also be exploring how TAP Controllers and safety limit controllers like TAP Monitor can help protect you from the consequences of kiln relay failure, so let’s get started!

What Is a Kiln Relay?

Kiln relays are a mechanism that receive signals from the kiln controller and then regulate the amount of electricity sent to the elements of the kiln. Kiln relays rapidly cycle on and off – or “close” and “open.”

When kiln relays cycle on, the circuit closes, and the elements receive electrical current. The kiln element’s electric resistance converts that current into heat, and the kiln gets hotter. When the kiln’s relays cycle off, or opens, it interrupts the current to the elements. This causes the kiln to naturally lose heat.

Kiln relays can open and close extremely fast – ranging from 50 milliseconds for mechanical relays to 20 nanoseconds for solid states relays. This speed, when combined when precise inputs from the kiln controller allows the kiln to execute kiln firing schedules with extreme precision.

Types of Kiln Relays

Not all kiln relays are created equal. They differ by the mechanism they use to open and close the circuit. This mechanism affects their performance, precision, and durability. Kiln relays also differ by their environmental friendliness. For instance, mercury relays are banned in several states and aren’t commonly used for modern kilns, since mercury is highly toxic. Below are explanations of the different types of relays.

Mechanical Relays

Mechanical relays use a physical switch to open and close the relay. That’s why you can hear them click! Mechanical relays are affordable. But since the switch is physical, mechanical relays are more prone to failure. If mechanical relays fail in the open position, your kiln will no longer heat up, which can be a major inconvenience. However, it’s when they fail in the closed position that you have major issues. This causes your kiln to heat up indefinitely – threatening your project and your kiln.

Additionally, since mechanical relays rely on a physical mechanism, they are significantly less precise than other options. And since they have a shorter lifespan, they have a higher environmental cost.

Mercury Relays

Mercury relays use gravity and displacement to open and close the relay. Mercury relays consist of a metal weight in a tube of mercury. Gravity causes the metal weight to fall, displacing the mercury until it closes the circuit. A coil at the top of the tube electromagnetically lifts the weight when it receives current, causing the mercury to recess and open the circuit.

Since mercury relays only use a single moving part, they are extremely reliable – significantly more so than mechanical relays. However, there are some issues with this mechanism. Firstly, it takes time for the displace and recede – so mercury relays have the same level of precision as mechanical relays. Secondly, mercury is highly toxic and exposure to mercury has significant health and environmental risks. These two factors have made mercury relays largely obsolete.

Solid State Relays (SSRs

Solid state relays use semiconductors, electronic parts, and LED or infrared sensors to turn the circuit on and off based on signals from the controller. They do not rely on contact switches or any other moving parts to open or close the circuit. This mechanism has several advantages over other types of kiln relays. First, the lack of moving parts means there is no contact erosion – so solid state relays are extremely reliable and will last pretty much forever, when appropriately rated for the application.

Additionally, the fact that solid state relays rely on electric signals, light, and sensors makes them extremely fast, offering a greater level of precision than any other type of kiln relay. Since solid state relays almost never have to be replaced or thrown away, they are far less taxing on the environment.

What Type of Relay Should You Choose for Your Kiln?

If the summaries above don’t make it obvious, we strongly recommend investing in a solid state relay for your kiln. While they are more expensive than mechanical relays, you’ll end up saving money in the long run by never having to worry about replacement costs. That’s not to mention the potential costs of relay failure, which you exponentially reduce the risk of facing by using an SSR.

Most new kilns have the option for solid-state relays – and your TAP Kiln Controller will be compatible with all three types of relays! If you’ve got an older kiln with mechanical or mercury relays, consider swapping them out for solid-state the next time they need replacement.

How the TAP Ecosystem Helps Protect You from Relay Failure

When we designed TAP, we included all of the quality of life features that we ourselves would want as artists. That included allowing the controller to track usage on kiln components and sending out preventative maintenance alerts, so that artists would be able to replace kiln elements, kiln relays, and thermocouples before they reach the end of their estimated lifespan. All you have to do is enter the life expectancy for your relay(s), elements, and thermocouples provided by your kiln manufacturer or the component’s product sheet!

The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.
The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.

Additionally, later this year, we’ll be releasing TAP Monitor – the most advanced digital pyrometer and limit controller ever created. TAP Monitor adds the convenience and peace of mind of precise, remote temperature monitoring to your smartphone or tablet. When purchased as a set of configurable components, TAP Monitor can also be wired to a redundant safety relay to act as a safety limit controller, making sure your kiln shuts off safely in case of relay failure.

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

The TAP Ecosystem includes a host of solutions to enhance kiln safety and help you prevent (or safely respond to) kiln relay failure. In addition to being the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide advanced diagnostics, preventative maintenance alerts, and remote real-time kiln monitoring and error alerts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. These features help you prevent and proactively address any potential failures in your kiln or oven build.

Additionally, our soon-to-be released TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer & Limit Controller can be added to any kiln or oven build, regardless of your current kiln control method, to provide safety redundancy and real-time remote kiln monitoring.

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 the most advanced programmable digital kiln controllers for sale.

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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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Setpoint Controls: What is a Setpoint?

Editing setpoint temperatures of the TAP II Kiln Controllers

If you’re new to heat treatment or it’s your first time using a kiln controller, you may find yourself asking: What is a setpoint? Or, if you’re a little more familiar with the topic, you may be looking to find more information about different types of setpoint controls. Don’t worry! After reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of setpoint temperatures and setpoint controls.

Setpoint Definition: What is a Setpoint?

Before exploring different setpoint control options, it’s important to understand what a setpoint is first. Broadly speaking, in a control system, the setpoint is the measurable value you want the system to achieve.

For kilns or heat treat ovens, the setpoint is the desired temperature you want the kiln or oven to reach. In a firing schedule, there may be multiple setpoints for multiple steps. Or, for many heat treat processes involving metal, there may only be a single setpoint. Either way, making sure your kiln or oven reaches its setpoint temperature is crucial for achieving the desired effect!

Setpoint controls on the TAP II Kiln Controller
The TAP II Kiln Controller lets you easily edit setpoints for each step of your kiln firing schedule using intuitive touchscreen controls – the controller then automatically ensures the kiln automatically reaches the correct setpoint temperature(s).

 

Setpoint Controls: Making Sure Your Kiln Reaches the Right Setpoint Temperatures

For a kiln or heat treat oven, setpoint controls are executed through the kiln controller. If you’re still using a manual controller or a kiln sitter, you’ll have to manually adjust the temperature of the kiln to change the setpoint for each step. If you’re using an advanced programmable digital kiln controller, such as TAP or TAP II by SDS Industries, then you input different setpoints for each step when creating your schedule, and the controller executes each step automatically.

Additionally, setpoint controls can be multi-setpoint or single setpoint. Multi-setpoint controllers let you input multiple setpoint temperatures and hold times for multiple segments of a kiln firing temperature. Single setpoint controllers, such as SDS Industries’ soon-to-be-released TAP&Go lets you input a single setpoint temperature.

The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller is designed specifically for heat treat artists and simple one-step firing schedules.
The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller, designed specifically for heat treat artists and simple one-step firing schedules, lets you easily input a single setpoint temperature, and the controller takes care of the rest!

Learn more about different setpoint control methods at Kiln Controls: Exploring Different Kiln Control Methods.

The TAP Ecosystem: Simplifying Setpoint Controls

When we released the original TAP Controller in 2015, our goal was to create a kiln controller that could precisely execute setpoint controls – while making it super easy for artists to input, edit, and manage setpoints.

At the time, we revolutionized the kiln control industry by introducing precise touchscreen controls and intuitive, easy-to-use menus. A year later, we released TAP Kiln Control Mobile, which lets you fully control every aspect of your kiln firings – including editing your setpoint temperature – right from your smartphone!

TAP Kiln Control Mobile lets you remotely control setpoint temperatures from your smartphone or tablet.
TAP Kiln Control Mobile lets you conveniently manage your setpoint controls from your smartphone or tablet.

All of the setpoint controllers in the TAP Kiln Control Ecosystem are designed based on the principles of simplicity and precision – and all of the controllers include integration with TAP Kiln Control Mobile. The video below walks you through schedule management – including how to enter setpoints – for the TAP II Kiln Controller:

 

Explore Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide artists the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use setpoint controls on the market today. With responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app, TAP Setpoint 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 programmable temperature controllers.

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Exploring 9 Different Kiln Formed Glass Art Techniques (Plus Examples!)

An overview of different kiln formed glass techniques such as fusing, casting, and slumping.
What is kiln formed glass? When exposed to heat, glass becomes soft and malleable. This allows glass artists to alter its shape or fuse multiple layers of glass together to create new textures or color combinations. At high enough temperatures, glass even liquefies, allowing artists to pour it into (or over) a mold or contour to create new forms. Once the artist has achieved the desired effect, the glass is allowed to slowly cool and stabilize (or anneal). And the result is kiln formed glass!

9 Types of Kiln Formed Glass Techniques

One of the most exciting parts of being a glass artist is combining various kiln formed glass techniques to create unique, one-of-a-kind glass art. Once you understand these different glass firing techniques, the only limit is your creativity (as well as the capabilities of your glass kiln and glass kiln controller)!
Glass artists like Jill Gary from Jill’s Design combine multiple kilnforming glass techniques to create one-of-a-kind kiln formed glass pieces using her TAP Controller.
Glass artists like Jill Gary from Jill’s Design (who’s a proponent of TAP Controllers!) combine multiple kilnforming glass techniques to create one-of-a-kind kiln formed glass pieces.
Below is an overview of nine different kilnforming techniques – to give you inspiration for your next kiln formed glass art project!

1. Fused Glass

Fusing glass is a kilnforming technique that involves heating two or more layers of glass, and then allowing them to cool, so that they join together to form a single piece of kiln formed glass. How fully the multiple layers of glass fuse together depends on your firing temperature. The hotter the kiln, the more uniform the fuse! Below are several different types of glass fuses:
  • Full Fuse: The layers of glass are heated up until they liquefy and completely merge together, cooling to form a single, smooth piece of kiln formed glass. Full fusing can be used to create unique and beautiful color combinations.
  • Contour Fuse: Contour fusing uses a lower firing temperature than a full fuse. In contour fusing, the different layers of glass are heated up enough to fully join together while remaining distinct separate layers. In contour fusing, both layers of glass get hot enough to lose some of their initial shape, becoming smooth at the edges.
  • Tack Fuse: Tack fusing involves even lower temperatures than contour fusing. In tack fusing, different pieces of glass are heated up just enough to join together at the point of contact, with both layers retaining their original shape. Tack fusing can be used to create new textures or shapes.
Barbara Elias used a tack fuse technique known as “freeze and fuse” to create a three dimensional effect for the flowers in this glass art piece.
Barbara Elias (another artist who uses TAP!) used a tack fuse technique known as “freeze and fuse” to create a three dimensional effect for the flowers in this glass art piece.
As you can imagine, glass fusing is a versatile kilnforming technique that lets you craft new textures, colors, and even shapes! However, it’s important to make sure that the different layers of glass are compatible. Fusible glass has a higher quality grade than standard glass. Additionally, the different layers of glass need to have compatible viscosities (which isn’t always indicated by matching COEs!).

2. Glass Draping

Glass draping is another popular kiln formed glass technique. Glass draping uses heat and gravity to change the shape of a sheet of glass. For glass draping, you “drape” the glass sheet on top of a convex mold and heat up the glass until it at least partially liquefies. Gravity ensures the molten glass drapes around the convex mold. Higher temperatures lead to more dramatic results. Glass draping can be used for everything from creating conventional plates and bowls to producing abstract, other-worldly shapes!

3. Slumped Glass

Slumping is just like draping, only inversed! For slumping glass, a glass sheet is placed inside a concave mold. The glass is then heated up until it partially liquefies, taking on the shape of the mold. Since slumping glass occurs within the mold, it leads to more predictable results, and is used to create plates, bowls, cups, or decorative molds. The higher the temperature, the more fully the glass takes on the shape of the mold.

4. Glass Casting

Glass casting is similar to slumping. However, with glass casting enough glass is placed within the mold to fill it entirely – so that when the glass melts and then cools, it anneals into a solid object. Glass casting is a kiln formed glass technique that’s used to create ornaments, paper weights, and standalone glass art.
Brittany Gabel, VP & Chief Creative Officer of SDS Industries, used glass casting to create the distinct texture on the outside of this glass cup.
SDS Industries’ very own Brittany Gabel (VP & Chief Creative Officer) used glass casting to create the distinct texture on the outside of this glass cup.

5. Glass Crackle

Glass crackle is a decorative kilnforming technique that most typically involves fusing together three layers of glass. The middle layer of glass is then shattered in a controlled method – or you can create the “crackled” middle layer using glass frit and fiber paper to create a crackled effect once it’s heated and allowed to melt. During glass crackling, the three layers of glass are fused together, and the outer layers are left intact so that the final piece retains a smooth (and safe!) outer layer. There are also several alternative methods to create a crackle effect, some of which use distilled water and glass powder, which you can read about here!
Glass frit powder is used in kiln formed glass art projects for filling spaces or creating textures.
Glass frit is ground fusible glass that is used for filling spaces or creating crackled, mosaic, grainy textures, adding fine details to glass art, or for casting. Picture courtesy of Oceanside Glass & Tile, which can be purchased through our partners at Delphi Glass.

6. Pot Melting

Pot melting is another decorative kilnforming technique that involves allowing glass to melt through a hole in the bottom of a pot – onto a primed kiln shelf or into a contained mold – to create swirls and ripples and other textured effects!

Watch our partners at Delphi Glass walk you through how to incorporate pot melting into your kiln formed glass projects.

7. Fire Polishing

Fire polishing is a “finishing” technique. Typically used after cold working glass, the glass is then heated up until it returns to its original shiny and smooth state.

8. Bubble Squeezing

A bubble squeeze is a “preparatory” technique before kilnforming glass. Bubble squeezing is used to create more even fuses by slowly heating up glass to allow trapped air to escape. Bubble squeezing reduces the number of bubbles, as well as their size, resulting in more uniform (and structurally sound!) kiln formed glass.

9. Annealing

Finally, we get to annealing, which is the final step in kilnforming glass. Annealing glass is less of a technique, and more of a necessity! Annealing is a controlled cooling process. If you allow kiln formed glass to cool too quickly, it leads to all kinds of issues – like thermal shock, breakage, shattering, stress fractures, and structural weakness. An advanced glass kiln controller like TAP or TAP II by SDS Industries automatically (and precisely) cools glass at a controlled, highly specified ramp rate – keeping both glass and artists from being exposed to unnecessary stress!

Glass Supplies for Kilnforming Glass

Excited to get started? Before getting started on your next kiln formed glass project, you’ll need the right supplies! Below are brief explanations of the different glass supplies you’ll need for kilnforming!

Glass Kilns and Glass Kiln Controllers

Of course, to kiln form glass, you’ll need a kiln – and a kiln controller – that’s capable of glass firing. Glass kilns are specifically designed to heat glass to very precise temperatures so it can be fused, slumped, or cast.

(Some glassblowing artists also use a dedicated annealing kiln to slowly cool down blown glass that’s been heated outside of kiln to improve its durability and prevent the glass from experiencing thermal shock).

However, in addition to your kiln, it’s important to choose the type of kiln controller. TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries provide glass artists with an advanced programmable digital controller that’s precise, simple, and easy-to-use. TAP Controllers are capable of executing complex schedules with multiple ramp rates to ensure your kiln formed glass comes out just the way you wanted! With TAP Controllers, you can store an unlimited number of firing schedules – so you always have all your glass firing schedules on-hand for when you need them. And with TAP Kiln Control Mobile, you have the convenient option to control and monitor your kiln formed glass firing right from your phone or tablet!

Types of Accessory Glass

Once you have the right kiln and the right kiln controller, you’ll also need glass. Glass used for kilnforming – also known as accessory glass – comes in several forms:

  • Glass Frit: Glass frit is ground fusible glass that is used for filling spaces or creating crackled, mosaic, grainy textures, or for adding fine details to glass art.
  • Sheet Glass: Available in a variety of sizes, sheet glass is used for kilnforming, fusing, and mosaics.
  • Glass Rods, Noodles, Stringers, and Ribbons: Glass rods, noodles, and stringers are long, narrow strips of glass that are fused to other pieces of glass to create patterns, textures, or other artistic effect. Glass ribbons are a flatter, wider alternative that are perfect for fusing.
  • Glass Confetti: Glass confetti consists of small, irregular, ultra-thin flakes of glass and are used for adding touches of color to your kiln formed glass.
  • Glass Billets: Billets are precisely cut sheets of fusible glass that are the perfect size for casting.
Glass rods, noodles, and stringers are used for kiln formed glass projects.
Photograph of glass rods, noodles, and stringers courtesy of Oceanside Glass & Tile.

Accessory glass comes in all sorts of colors and levels of translucence – so that you can create the perfect effects for your kiln formed glass projects. Just make sure that when you’re shopping for accessory glass, that the glasses you choose are compatible. A good place to start is by making sure that the glasses have matching COEs – or coefficients of expansion – which means they’ll expand or contract at the same rates when heated up or cooled down. However, there are other factors that affect compatibility, so it’s always recommended that you do plenty of research before purchasing glass and start by doing a test fuse for glasses you’re not familiar with!

Explore Glass Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide artists with the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use glass kilns 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:

Upgrade Your Glass Kiln with TAP Digital Kiln 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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When to Use a Single Setpoint Controller

Single setpoint controllers are used for metal heat treat and executing simple kiln firing schedules.

When shopping for a kiln controller, it’s important to get a controller with the functionality you need. While advanced programmable digital kiln controllers have robust features to easily execute even the most complex firing schedules, some kiln operators don’t need to execute complex schedules with specific ramp rates for multiple steps. For these operators, a single setpoint controller might be a more affordable option.

Types of Artists a Single Setpoint Controller Won’t Work For

Before discussing the types of artists who should consider purchasing a single setpoint controller, it’s important to discuss the types of artists a single setpoint controller won’t work for. After all, buying a kiln controller that doesn’t include the functionality you need is a total waste of money!

Most Glass Artists

For most glass artists, a single setpoint controller won’t be a viable kiln control option. Kiln firing schedules for glass require the kiln to heat up to multiple setpoints at highly controlled ramp rates. If you heat up glass too fast or cool it down too quickly it can cause breaking or jeopardize its structural integrity.

While glassblowers can use a single setpoint controller to control their pick-up ovens, most glass kilns require advanced process controllers.

Most Ceramic Artists

Likewise, most ceramic artists will probably need to invest in a multi-setpoint kiln controller. Like with glass, most firing schedules for ceramic require multiple steps with specific ramp rates to avoid blowouts and preserve the structural integrity of the ceramic piece. It is worth noting that throughout most of kiln history, pottery was fired without the use of a multi-setpoint controller (or any controller at all!). But for most modern ceramic artists, an advanced multi-setpoint controller will be a better option.

However, if a ceramic artist uses a dedicated kiln for candling clay, a single setpoint can be a good control option for that application.

Artists Who Want Maximum Convenience

Additionally, a single setpoint controller does require more manual intervention. It’s up to the user to manually turn the kiln off or enter a new setpoint for an additional step. The soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller allows user to abort firings from their smartphone via TAP Kiln Control Mobile. However, many artists appreciate the convenience of having their controller automatically terminate firings once the necessary hold time has been reached. For kiln operators who want the convenience of having their controller automatically manage the entire firing schedule, a multi-setpoint controller will be a better option.

Types of Artists Who Should Consider a Single Setpoint Controller

Now that we’ve covered the types of artists a single setpoint controller won’t be a good fit for, let’s discuss those who should consider a single setpoint controller. Afterall, it doesn’t make sense to pay for functionality you don’t need!

Heat Treat Artists

For heat treat artists, such as those who make blades, jewelry, or work with metal clays, most firing schedules only require a single setpoint. In heat treat, ramp rates only apply to the cooldown process. These largely occur outside of a kiln through quenching, exposing the metal to room temperature, or insulating the metal in blankets or sand.

Single setpoint kiln controllers can be the perfect solution for bladesmiths, such as Delight Valley Blades.

For these types of artists, a single setpoint controller is the perfect solution! Additionally, a single setpoint controller can be used for the following applications:

  • Storing material at a single, controlled temperature.
  • Heating material to ensure it stays dry.
  • Controlling the temperature of a greenhouse or hydroponic tank.
  • Candling clay prior to firing.
  • Brewing beer (although a multi-step controller can add significant convenience!).

The TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller by SDS Industries

If a single setpoint controller sounds like a good solution for your kiln control needs, we encourage you to check out the soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller! Designed specifically for heat treat artists, knifemakers, or users who don’t need to execute complex firings, TAP&Go takes the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and simplifies it into the most advanced single setpoint controller on the market.

TAP&Go is an advanced single setpoint kiln controller by SDS Industries.

With TAP&Go, heat treats artists have the ability to:

  • Easily enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to – from the 2.4” touchscreen or the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – and let the controller do the work.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app with a premium subscription.
  • Use TAP&Go’s built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to automatically pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Prevent eye strain with light and dark modes and large, full-text displays.

 

Explore Single Setpoint and Multi-Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

Whether you’re looking for a single setpoint or multi-setpoint controller, TAP has you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use multi-setpoint 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.

The soon-to-be-released TAP&Go includes many of the benefits of TAP but streamlines everything into a single setpoint controller so that heat treat artists only have to pay for the functionality they need!

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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Setpoint Controllers: Single Setpoint vs Multi-Setpoint Controllers

Multi-setpoint controllers are capable of executing schedules with multiple steps, while single setpoint controllers can only automatically execute schedules with a single setpoint.

During a firing schedule, a setpoint is the pre-set firing temperature the kiln must reach in order to successfully complete each step. A setpoint controller measures the kiln’s temperature and cycles the relays to ensure the kiln reaches the desired temperature.

Setpoint controllers, also known as process controllers, are programmable digital devices that automatically execute firing schedules. All the user has to do is enter the desired setpoint(s), and the controller takes care of the rest!

What Is the Difference Between a Single Setpoint and a Multi-Setpoint Controller

When it comes to kiln firing schedules, there are varying degrees of complexity. For firing glass or ceramics, the kiln often has to reach multiple setpoints over multiple steps. However, most heat treat processes – such as those used for making knives, jewelry, or firing metal clay – only involve a single setpoint.

A multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing complex schedules with multiple setpoints. For instance, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries can accommodate schedules with an infinite number of steps! However, that level of robustness might be a little excessive for users who only work in heat treat, which is where single setpoint controllers come into play.

The TAP II is capable of executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.
The TAP II Kiln Controller is capable of automatically executing schedules with an unlimited number of setpoints.

 

Single setpoint controllers are greatly simplified and only require the user to enter the single setpoint they need for each individual heat treat process.

Single Setpoint Heat Treat Processes

While a multi-setpoint controller is capable of executing schedules with a single setpoint, below are metal heat treat processes that only require a single setpoint:

  • Normalizing: The metal is heated to an extremely high temperature for a defined period of time and then air-cooled. Normalizing relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, resulting in harder, stronger metals.
  • Hardening: The metal is heated until it forms an even solution and then allowed to cool to increase its hardness.
  • Case Hardening: Only the outside of the metal is hardened, creating a durable outer layer while ensuring the metal retains flexibility and doesn’t become brittle.
  • Quench Hardening: After heating, the metal is cooled rapidly by dipping it into an oil, polymer, or water, resulting in very hard, very brittle metal.
  • Tempering: After hardening, the metal is heated to a lower temperature to reduce excessive hardness and relieve internal stress. Tempering makes metals less brittle.
  • Annealing: The metal is heated beyond the upper critical temperature and then slowly cooled to soften it and increase its workability. Annealing increases ductility and toughness, while relieving stress, making the metal more resistant to fractures. While annealing can be completed with a single setpoint controller, it will be necessary to use sand or insulated blankets to make sure the metal doesn’t cool down too quickly outside of the oven. However, a multi-setpoint controller can be used to slowly anneal metal within the oven.

Introducing TAP&Go: The Most Easy-to-Use, Streamlined Single Setpoint Controller

In the past, single setpoint controllers were far less featured than their multi-setpoint counterparts. This forced heat treat artists to choose between advanced multi-setpoint controllers that required paying for functionality they didn’t need, or simplistic single setpoint controllers that lacked precision, ease-of-use, or required constant monitoring to know when the oven had reached the right setpoint.

SDS Industries has set out to change that with our soon-to-be released TAP&Go Single Setpoint Controller! Designed specifically for heat treat artists, knifemakers, or users who don’t need to execute complex firings, TAP&Go takes the precision and ease-of-use of TAP and simplifies it into the most advanced single setpoint controller on the market.

The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.
The TAP&Go is a simplified single setpoint controller designed specifically for heat treat.

 

With TAP&Go, heat treats artists have the ability to:

  • Easily enter the temperature you want the kiln or oven to heat to – from the 2.4” touchscreen or the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – and let the controller do the work.
  • Enjoy complete remote monitoring and control through the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app with a premium subscription.
  • Use TAP&Go’s built-in WiFi and Bluetooth to automatically pair with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app.
  • Prevent eye strain with light and dark modes and large, full-text displays.

Explore Single Setpoint and Multi-Setpoint Controllers by SDS Industries

Whether you’re looking for a single setpoint or multi-setpoint controller, TAP has you covered! The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use multi-setpoint 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.

The soon-to-be-released TAP&Go takes the design principles of TAP but streamlines everything into a single setpoint controller so that heat treat artists only have to pay for the functionality they need!

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:

Explore our line of TAP Electric Kiln Temperature Controllers.

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Complete Guide to Kiln Firing Temperatures

A definitive guide for understanding kiln firing temperatures.

Whether you work in pottery, glass, or heat treat, kiln firing temperatures play a critical role in achieving your desired result. Reaching the correct kiln firing temperature during each stage of your firing schedule is the difference between successfully completing a project…or creating a total mess!

Why Are Kiln Firing Temperatures Important?

Changes in temperature affect the physical properties of a medium. Heat alters a medium’s molecular structure, potentially affecting its hardness, brittleness, malleability, color, water resistance, and more.

Every kiln firing and heat treat process involves exposing material to heat to transform its physical qualities to give it a desired set of characteristics. Whether that’s transforming green clay to bisque, tempering a blade, or casting glass to fit a mold!

Different materials undergo specific physical (and chemical) changes at specific temperatures – so kiln firing temperatures are super important and vary according to medium and technique.

Kiln Firing Schedules

However, kiln firing temperature isn’t the only factor affecting outcome. The relationship between changes in temperature over time is super important. That’s why kiln firing schedules define the following:

  • Step #: The order in which the different kiln firing temperatures occur.
  • Ramp Rate: The speed at which changes in temperature occur (measured in degrees per hour).
  • Setpoint: The desired temperature the kiln reaches during each step (measured in degrees).
  • Hold Time: The length of time (defined in days, hours, or minutes) the kiln stays at a specific kiln firing temperature before advancing to the next step.

Kiln firing schedules vary greatly in kiln firing temperatures, as well as complexity. For instance, normalizing steel for a handmade knife might only involve a single setpoint over a specific hold time. Whereas, bisque firing pottery might involve five different setpoints, each with a specific ramp rate.

In addition to increases in firing temperature, decreases in temperature are equally important. Often, heating up an object and then cooling it down too rapidly jeopardizes its structural integrity, leading to cracks and brittleness.

Kiln firing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.
Normalizing 1095 steel to 1600° F relieves internal stress and ensures uniformity, making it stronger and harder.

 

Categorizing Kiln Firing Temperatures

There are multiple ways to categorize kiln firing temperatures – whether by temperature range, material, process, or cone temperature. Artists in different media generally have different ways of categorizing kiln temperature:

  • Heat Treat: By and large, heat treat artists categorize kiln firing temperatures according to process (hardening, normalizing, tempering, etc.) and material. There are very few “one-size-fits all,” standardized ranges or schedules – specificity is key.
  • Kilnformed Glass: Glass artists categorize temperature according to technique (slumping, casting, fusing, annealing, etc.) and glass “coefficient of expansion” (how fast glass expands based on changes in temperature). Glass thickness is equally important, but that has more to do with changes in hold times or ramp rates as opposed to temperature.
  • Pottery and Ceramics: For pottery and ceramics, kiln firing temperatures are still largely categorized based on cone firing temperatures and ranges – which we’ll be covering more in-depth below! Each ceramic material is rated for a cone that corresponds with a specific temperature, allowing for a more standardized scale.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
For a full fuse kiln firing for 90 COE glass, the kiln must reach a setpoint of 1490° F.
 

 

 Understanding Cone Firing Temperatures

 

Unlike heat treat and glasswork, which require a greater level of specificity, potters deal in pre-defined temperature ranges – which correspond with pyrometric cones. Before the advent of modern programmable digital kiln controllers, kiln temperature control relied on manual kilns and the use of pyrometric cones and kiln sitters to measure when the proper kiln firing temperatures were reached.

Pyrometric cones melt at specified temperatures, providing a range for measuring (and categorizing) kiln firing temperatures. So, for instance Cone 06 for “low fire” clay softens and bends at 1832° F (1000° C), while Cone 14 for “high fire” porcelain softens and bends at 2552° F (1400° C).

Today, digital kiln controllers and digital pyrometers have largely made pyrometric cones obsolete. But cone numbers are still widely referenced for categorizing kiln firing temperatures. While cone firing charts are predominantly used in pottery, they are still sometimes referenced for heat treat and glasswork.

Click the button below for an in-depth cone temperature chart – which notes firing temperatures for each cone and describes the changes clay undergoes at each temperature:

 

Kiln Firing Temperature Ranges in Pottery

As you can see on the cone temperature chart, there are also temperature ranges that are used to categorize kiln firing temperatures for clay. The ranges below also correspond with three different categories of clay: earthenware, stoneware, and ceramics:

  • Low-Fire Clays: Cone 06 – Cone 1: Low-fire clays, also referred to as earthenware, are fired at temperatures ranging between 1828° F to 2079°F.
  • Mid-Fire Clays: Cone 4 – Cone 6: Mid-fire clays, which can be earthenware or stoneware, are fired at temperatures between 2142° F to 2232° F.
  • High-Fire Clays: Cone 10 – Cone 14: High fire clays, which can be used for stoneware or porcelain, are fired at temperatures between 2345° F to 2552° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.
Cone 04 clay, which is a common “low-fire” clay, fires at a kiln firing temperature of 1945° F.

For an in-depth explanation of the different types of clay, check out “Kiln Firing Chart for Pottery and Ceramics [Infographic].”

How to Ensure Your Kiln Reaches the Correct Kiln Firing Temperatures

Now that you understand the importance of kiln firing temperatures, how do you ensure your kiln reaches the correct temperature? That’s where kiln controllers come into play! There are three general phases when it comes to using a kiln controller to manage firing temperatures:

  • Input: First, the user has to enter what temperatures the kiln needs to reach, usually through creating a firing schedule or selecting a pre-set schedule.
  • Execution: Next, the temperature controller automatically executes the schedule, ensuring the kiln reaches the correct kiln firing temperatures over the correct timeframe.
  • Measurement: Throughout the execution phase, it’s important that either the controller itself (or an independent pyrometer) is able to precisely record kiln firing temperature based on input from the thermocouple.

Different kiln control methods handle these three phases more or less effectively. For instance, some temperature controllers are able to precisely execute schedules but are so difficult to use from a User Experience (UX) standpoint that it’s hard to know if you input the correct kiln firing temperatures to begin with! Others allow for too much variability in response times or temperature overshoot, meaning the kiln might not reach the precise temperatures you need during execution. And most kiln controllers require the user to be physically present at the kiln at all times to monitor its temperature.

The TAP Kiln Controllers by SDS Industries were designed to solve all these problems – with a touchscreen and intuitive menus to help artists input the correct kiln firing temperatures, as well as PID control algorithms to ensure maximum precision in the execution phase. Furthermore, all of the products in the TAP Ecosystem include integration with the TAP Kiln Control Mobile app – allowing for artists to remotely control and monitor their projects from their smartphone or tablet!

Explore Temperature Controllers by SDS Industries

The TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide users the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use 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 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 and Preventing Kiln Relay Failure

Learn all about kiln relays and how to prevent kiln relay failure.

Three words no artist wants to hear: kiln relay failure. At best, kiln relay failure can be an annoyance that disrupts your project mid-schedule. At worst, kiln relay failure can pose a threat to the safety of your household and your property. However, the good news is that with foresight, proper maintenance, and the right equipment, kiln relay failure can mostly be avoided.

Over the course of this article, we’ll be discussing:

  • How kiln relays work.
  • Why (and how) relays fail.
  • How to choose a kiln relay that minimizes the chance of failure.
  • How to easily track preventative maintenance to know when to replace relays.
  • Kiln safety equipment to invest in to mitigate damage in case of relay failure.

How Kiln Relays Work

To understand why kiln relays fail, first, it’s important to understand how they work. In simple terms, kiln relays are a switch. Based on input from the kiln controller, relays cycle on and off – closing and opening the circuit to the kiln’s element.

When a relay closes, electric current flows to the kiln’s elements, increasing kiln temperature. When a relay opens, no current flows to the element, and the kiln cools down. Relays open and close at variable rates, allowing the kiln to reach precise firing temperatures.

Types of Kiln Relays

Different types of kilns relays have different types of mechanisms that allow them to cycle on and off. In modern kilns the most common types of relays are mechanical relays and solid-state relays. However, some older kilns still use mercury relays – so we’ll be explaining all three mechanisms:

  • Mechanical Relays: Mechanical relays have the most moving parts. Mechanical relays use an electromagnetic switch that physically moves each time the relay cycles on and off. That’s why you can hear them click each time they cycle when the kiln is operational!
  • Mercury Relays: Mercury relays work through gravity and displacement. Mercury relays use a metal weight in a tube of mercury. Gravity causes the metal weight to fall, displacing the mercury until it closes the circuit. A coil at the top of the tube electromagnetically lifts the weight when it receives current, causing the mercury to recess and open the circuit.
  • Solid-State Relays (SSRs): Solid-state relays use semiconductors and electronic parts to turn the circuit on and off based on signals from the controller. They do not rely on any moving parts to open or close the circuit.

Why Relays Fails

Kiln relay failure largely comes down to failure of their switch mechanism. As you might expect, mechanical relays have the most moving parts and are subject to normal wear and tear. They will fail eventually, it’s just a matter of when.

Mercury relays only have a single moving part and aren’t subject to the same contact erosion in high current applications. They’re extremely reliable, lasting for millions of cycles.

Solid-state relays have no moving parts. As such, they are supremely reliable and aren’t subject to any wear and tear. Their only Achilles heel is heat. Solid-state relays must be appropriately cooled via heat sink to maintain proper performance and prevent melting.

Kiln relay failure can occur in one of two positions. A relay can get stuck open, in which case your kiln will fail to heat up. While this is inconvenient and can put your project on hold, it’s far preferable to when a relay gets stuck closed! When kiln relays get stuck in the closed position, the kiln heats up indefinitely, posing significant risk to your household and property.

However, there are safety precautions you can take to circumvent any potential damage, which we’ll be discussing later in the article.

Choosing the Right Type of Kiln Relay

As you can see from the descriptions above, mechanical relays are far more likely to result in kiln relay failure. Mercury relays, while reliable, use the highly toxic liquid metal, mercury, to perform switching. As such, they’re largely obsolete and are even outlawed in states such as California.

That means that, realistically, your best option to prevent kiln relay failure is to purchase a solid-state relay. Not only are SSRs superior in lifespan and environmental concerns, but they cycle on and off significantly faster than other types of relays, resulting in superior performance and precision.

Most new kilns have the option for solid-state relays. While TAP Kiln Controllers are compatible with all three types of relays, we strongly encourage our customers to invest in a solid-state relay. The upside far outweighs the cost. If you’ve got an older kiln with mechanical or mercury relays, consider swapping them out for solid-state the next time they need replacement!

Additionally, whether you’re shopping for mechanical relays or solid-state relays we suggest purchasing from reliable, reputable manufacturers.

Preventative Maintenance

In addition to selecting the right type of relay, preventative maintenance is key to preventing kiln relay failure – especially if you’re using a mechanical relay.

As far as preventative maintenance for solid-state relays, really the biggest consideration is making sure that they are rated properly for the application and that you install the relay correctly with a heat sink to prevent the relay from overheating. Beyond that, we encourage you to store your kiln inside to avoid exposing electrical components to the elements and pay attention to your controller’s error notifications (assuming you’re using an advanced controller such as TAP that provides real-time diagnostics, as well as detailed error and firing logs).

Mechanical relays require much more proactive preventative maintenance. Mechanical relays have a finite lifespan that’s impacted by how often you use your kiln and the types of kiln firing schedules you use. However, you can find an estimated life expectancy for the number of cycles your mechanical relay is rated for from your kiln manufacturer or the relay manufacturer’s product sheet.

With advanced controllers from temperature controller manufacturers like SDS Industries, you can input life expectancy for your relay(s), elements, and thermocouples. The controller will then track the usage of these components and send you preventative maintenance alerts. This helps you replace your kiln relay before it fails.

The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.
The TAP Kiln Controller tracks kiln relay usage to provide preventative maintenance alerts to help users replace relays before kiln relay failure occurs.

 

Kiln Safety Equipment

Investing in the right type of kiln relay and being diligent about preventative maintenance significantly reduces your chances of facing kiln relay failure. But there will always be a non-zero chance that your relay fails, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

We strongly encourage our customers to invest in kiln safety equipment that keeps you safe in case of kiln relay failure. This equipment includes:

  • A reliable fire extinguisher to keep nearby your kiln to mitigate any damage in the case that your relay gets stuck closed.
  • An advanced kiln controller that provides precise inputs to your kiln relay and monitors your kiln for discrepancies to provide you with real-time error alerts.
  • A kiln control mobile app that provides real-time temperature monitoring and push notification alerts and alarms to your smartphone, so that you can spot any warning signs in real-time and respond appropriately.
  • A safety limit controller (such as the soon-to-be released TAP Monitor!) that can be wired to a safety relay to provide max temp safety shutoff even if your primary kiln relay fails.

 

Explore Kiln Control Solutions by SDS Industries

The TAP Ecosystem includes a host of solutions to enhance kiln safety and help you prevent (or safely respond to) kiln relay failure. In addition to being the most advanced, precise, and easy-to-use programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, the TAP and TAP II Controllers by SDS Industries provide advanced diagnostics, preventative maintenance alerts, and remote real-time kiln monitoring and error alerts via TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. These features help you prevent and proactively address any potential failures in your kiln or oven build.

Additionally, our soon-to-be released TAP Monitor Digital Pyrometer & Limit Controller can be added to any kiln or oven build, regardless of your current kiln control method, to provide safety redundancy and real-time remote kiln monitoring.

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 programmable temperature controllers.