Maybe you’re shopping for a new kiln or maybe you’re exploring options for upgrading your current kiln controller. Either way, you’ll find that there are multiple temperature controller manufacturers that make controllers for kilns, furnaces and heat treat ovens.
A few of the temperature control unit manufacturers you’re likely to come across include Orton, Bartlett, Skutt,* and of course TAP by SDS Industries.
*Skutt-branded controllers are technically private label Bartlett controllers, but their touchscreen controller has a proprietary interface, so we’re including them in this comparison.
Comparison Criteria for Temperature Controller Manufacturers
Choosing the right temperature controller for your kiln is a major consideration! After all, your kiln controller will provide the primary interface through which you use your kiln. So how do you decide which kiln temperature controller manufacturer is right for you?
Different temperature control unit manufacturers have different feature sets and different design philosophies. For the sake of this comparison, we’ll be analyzing temperature controller manufacturers by the following criteria:
- Accessibility & Ease-of-Use: How easy is it to get started using the controller and to access all of its features?
- Input Method & User Interface: Does the controller use keys (analog buttons) or touchscreen controls to program the kiln? How easy is menu navigation? Is the display easy to read and visually pleasing?
- Reliability & Support: Does the temperature control unit manufacturer support its products with warranties and customer support? How reliable are their controllers?
- Precision: Do these controllers allow for precise execution of your kiln firing schedules?
- Schedule Creation & Management: How easy is it to create, edit, and execute kiln firing schedules? Does the controller limit how many schedules and segments for schedules you can save to your controller?
- WiFi & Mobile App Integration: Will you be able to remotely manage your kiln firings from your smartphone or tablet?
- Kiln Compatibility: Does the temperature controller manufacturer make controllers that are compatible with your kiln or oven build?
- Price & Availability: What is the cost range of their product line? How available are their controllers?
TAP Kiln Controllers
When it comes to temperature controller manufacturers, SDS Industries were the new kids on the block when they launched the TAP Kiln Controller in 2015, which revolutionized the kiln controller industry. At the time other temperature control unit manufacturers were still using analog buttons, tiny displays, and complicated menus. SDS Industries introduced responsive touchscreen controls, attractive graphical UIs, intuitive, easy-to-use menus, and mobile app integration to the temperature control industry.
The TAP Kiln Control Ecosystem includes a variety of controller options, ranging from $147.50-$199 for controllers that are exclusively controlled via the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App to $489-$650 for the most advanced, easy-to-use touchscreen controllers (which also include mobile app integration!). SDS Industries manufactures a wide variety of conversion kits and standalone controllers, allowing for easy replacement of existing temperature controllers as well as compatibility with any relay-controlled kiln or oven.
TAP Comparison Summary
- Price: $147.50-$650
- Input Methods: touchscreen and TAP Kiln Control Mobile App
- Reliability: The mainline TAP Controllers include an industry-best 3-year warranty. SDS Industries is known for their high-quality components, controller reliability, customer service, and supporting their controllers with updates to controller software and their mobile app to add new features and improve functionality.
- Ease-of-Use: TAP Kiln Controllers are the most user friendly programmable digital kiln controllers on the market today, with touchscreen controls, easy-to-read displays, and intuitive, logical menus.
- Schedule Management: TAP Kiln Controllers allow users to easily create, edit, save, and name an unlimited number of firing schedules with an unlimited number of steps.
- Remote Control: With both free and premium options, the TAP Kiln Control Mobile App allows users to obtain basic to full control and monitoring of their kiln from their smart phone or tablet (including remote start and the ability to create and adjust firing schedules on the fly). The TAP Kiln Control Mobile App has significantly higher ratings on the App Store than mobile apps by any other temperature controller manufacturer.
Orton Kiln Controllers
Orton Autofire Controllers are available in a variety of configurations. Their prices range from $154 for a 3-key controller, $210 for a 12-key controller, and up to $400 for their touchscreen controller. Orton makes temperature controllers that are compatible with a wide variety of electric kilns, including standalone controllers for upgrading manual kilns.
Orton Comparison Summary
- Price: $154-$400
- Input Methods: 3-key, 12-key, or touchscreen
- Reliability: Orton has a solid reputation. Their controllers are backed by a 2-year warranty.
- Ease-of-Use: Their 3-key and 12-key controllers have a steep learning curve for kiln operators, requiring multiple button presses to create a firing schedule. Their touchscreen controller’s menu navigation requires multiple screens to program each step of a firing schedule and isn’t as streamlined as other options.
- Schedule Management: Orton’s flagship controller allows users to save a maximum of 35 firing schedules with a maximum of 20 segments per schedule.
- Remote Control: Orton has a detachable handheld controller option. They have kiln monitoring software for Windows (that doesn’t include schedule creation, editing, or execution) but no mobile app support and no true option for remote kiln control.
The user interface on the Orton Autofire Slide requires multiple windows for editing each step of a firing schedule, making it less intuitive than other touchscreen temperature controllers.
Bartlett Temperature Controllers
Bartlett Instrument Company, founded in 1946 in Burlington, Iowa is a temperature control unit manufacturer whose controllers are the entry-level option for many kilns on the market.
Their temperature controller lineup includes 3-key, 12-key, and 24-key kiln controllers, as well as a touchscreen option. Their controllers range in price from $248-$398. At this time, Bartlett doesn’t have any options for standalone controllers.
Bartlett Comparison Summary
- Price: $248-$398
- Input Methods: 3-key, 12-key, 24-key, or touchscreen
- Reliability: Bartlett has a solid reputation among temperature controller manufacturers. Their controllers include a 1-year warranty for failure from material or workmanship. Repairs are available from Bartlett for $150.
- Ease-of-Use: Bartlett’s 3-key, 12-key, and 24-key controller options require multiple button presses to change settings or edit schedules. Displays for these controllers are small, making menu navigation a challenge for inexperienced kiln operators. Bartlett’s touchscreen controllers are fairly intuitive; however, the display is much smaller than other touchscreens which can diminish the user experience.
- Schedule Management: Bartlett’s top-of-the-line temperature controller allows for users to create 30 custom firing schedules of up to 32 steps. The Bartlett V6-CF Controller (their 24-key controller) allows users to create up to 6 firing schedules with 8 steps.
- Remote Control: The Bartlett Genesis 2.0 has the KilnAid App which allows users to monitor kiln firings but doesn’t provide options for remote control. You can read reviews of the Android app here and iOS app here. The Bartlett V6-CF Controller, as well as Bartlett’s other key-based controllers don’t have mobile app integration.
The small screen on the Bartlett Genesis Controllers makes them difficult to read and don’t allow for full title displays for kiln firing schedules.
Skutt Temperature Controllers
Founded in Olympia, Washington in 1953, Skutt manufactures kilns. Technically, they aren’t a temperature controller manufacturer; but they do sell proprietary controllers manufactured by Bartlett, which is why they’re included in this comparison.
Skutt offers a 24-key controller, as well as a touchscreen option. Their prices range from $570 to $675 for key-based controllers and touchscreen controllers, respectively. Skutt also provides a 24-key standalone to upgrade manual kilns for $930.
Skutt Comparison Summary
- Price: $570-$675
- Input Methods: 24-key or touchscreen
- Reliability: Skutt has a good reputation in the kiln industry. Their controller is backed by a 2-year warranty.
- Ease-of-Use: Skutt’s 24-key controller presents users with the same challenges and inconveniences as key-based controllers by other temperature controller manufacturers. Their touchscreen controller is slightly more intuitive but has small text and a lot of menu layers.
- Schedule Management: Skutt’s temperature controllers allow users to create 12 schedules of up to 32 steps.
- Remote Control: Skutt supports their controller with the KilnLink App, which allows for remote viewing and diagnostics but doesn’t allow users any remote control or schedule creation features. You can read user reviews of their mobile Android app here and iOS app here.
The Skutt Touchscreen Controller has more complicated menus than other touchscreen kiln controller options.
Paragon Controllers and L&L Temperature Controllers
When shopping for temperature controllers, you may come across Paragon Controllers and L&L Controllers. However, neither of these companies are technically temperature controller manufacturers. Instead, they sell rebranded controllers manufactured by Bartlett and Orton.
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:
- Hot Shot Oven & Kiln
- Mobile Glassblowing Studios, LLC
- Jen-Ken Kilns
- Kiln Frog
- Sheffield Pottery
- Delphi Glass