Let’s talk about the high-level nuts and bolts of kiln controllers. Kiln controllers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and offer varying degrees of capability, from simple control knobs to sleek user interfaces. But what does a kiln controller do? Below, you’ll learn about manual kiln controllers and digital kiln controllers, what they do, and the pros and cons of each.
What is a Kiln?
Hey, I thought this was an article about kiln controllers, why are you talking to me about kilns? It is! But before we can jump into what a kiln controller is, we first need to understand what a kiln is. A kiln, in the simplest form, is an insulated chamber that can be heated to very high temperatures. A kiln, in a complex form, is a scientific piece of equipment responsible for delivering a precise amount of heat for a precise amount of time. Whether you’re working with pottery, glass, ceramics, metals or other materials that require heat treatment, you’re likely familiar with kilns and want to understand how to control the intense heat they emit. In comes kiln controllers.
What is a Kiln Controller?
A kiln controller is responsible for managing the kiln’s temperature and tempo according to your inputs. Ultimately, it allows the artist to take a break while it conducts the firing orchestra. The controller precisely calculates what the temperature should be and constantly monitors the inputs and cycles the outputs to make sure that the firing schedule you defined is adhered to from start to finish. Kiln controllers also provide you with feedback on your kiln’s operation.
Why Do I Need a Kiln Controller?
By utilizing a controller on your kiln, you have the ability to expand the creative range of what you’re working on. Whereas before you may have felt you could work solely on pottery, which doesn’t necessarily require an advanced controller, you now have the flexibility to work on glass, metals, and ceramics, with precision and accuracy in firing. A kiln controller is a trusted companion to the kiln, because it constantly monitors the activity that’s occurring. It knows the temperature, it knows when the heating elements are on or off, and it knows exactly what you want it to do.
What Types of Controllers Exist?
There are two types of kiln controllers: manual and automatic. Below are short descriptions of each:
Manual kiln controllers, also known as analog controllers, are generally knobs and switches that enable the constant application of power for as long as they’re on. Temperature control is performed manually with the help of external tools, like high temperature thermometers, for temperature monitoring and the fine tuning of knobs for temperature adjustment. As you can imagine, this requires constant attention and may not allow the user to achieve a specified temperature for any prolonged duration.
Digital Kiln Controllers
Digital controllers harness current technology and build on the advances in computing over the last several decades. These controllers are fine-tuned, intuitive, and provide constant communication and feedback to users.
Some controllers use a push button interface, while others use a touchscreen. Many of the newer controllers are connected controllers, which provide an app for control from your mobile device and offer push notification updates on your firings. Connected controllers also offer the ability to easily receive software updates, which is how you can keep up to date with the latest features and capabilities that your kiln controller offers.
What’s It Like Working with a Controller?
Working with analog controllers is quite cumbersome, but working with digital controllers can be surprisingly simple and intuitive. Digital controllers can offer an interface much like your mobile phone, keeping data displays clear, crisp, and packed with just the right information to help you make informed decisions.
How Can a TAP Controller Help Control Your Kiln?
We at SDS Industries offer a range of digital controller products, which can all be managed through our TAP Kiln Control Mobile App. From multi-zone controllers with support for varying thermocouple types to single-zone controllers, we’ve got you covered.
We created the original TAP Kiln Controller in response to our own frustrations with using the digital controllers on the market at the time. Fed up with pouring over user manuals, we decided to design a controller that was responsive, intuitive, and easy to use – while providing full control over each phase of the firing process. And we’ve been working on improving our platform ever since.
Unique quality-of-life features of the TAP Kiln Controller include:
- Responsive touchscreen controls, an intuitive graphical UI, and logical, easy-to-navigate menus.
- The ability to create (and name!) an unlimited amount of firing schedules
- Wi-Fi compatibility and mobile integration to allow you to remotely manage and monitor your kiln firing from your phone or tablet.
- Diagnostic reports and preventative maintenance alerts to help you anticipate and avoid component failure.
- Automatic safety shut-off if the kiln surpasses its intended temperature.
- Continuous software updates and improvements that are automatically downloaded to your controller (or can be uploaded via USB drive).
Whether you’re working on a new build or looking to upgrade your manual or electronic kiln, we have products that allow you to tap into the world of streamlined, user-friendly kiln controllers. Check out our website to learn more about our TAP Ecosystem of Products.