The Basics of Temperature-Profiling Software
Whether fine-tuning a heat-treatment process or proving that product is made to specification, intelligent datalogger software can assist.
Furnace-temperature profiling systems collect temperature data to help optimize processes and minimize costs for baking, powder-coat curing and other heat-processing operations. These systems include temperature dataloggers, thermocouple sensors and thermal barriers designed to be passed through conveyor or batch ovens. They measure the temperature profile of the heating zone as they pass through the furnace. Temperature profiling is an effective way to determine how fast a furnace heats or cools a product as well as the temperature uniformity across the part. Dataloggers are useful for electric, gas and radiant ovens.
Among the industrial processors using dataloggers to profile their furnaces and ensure a proper heating profile are those manufacturing household appliances, office furniture, and automotive parts and vehicle-body components. Likewise, furnace manufacturers may profile their equipment prior to delivery.
Software is an integral part of temperature-profiling technology, covering all process aspects from sensor connection, calibration, data analysis and report generation. A number of software applications are available for heat-treatment applications. Because profiling software is essential to effective profiling performance, software selection is important. This article will outline key considerations during the selection process.
Software Specs and Function
Many versions of temperature-profiling software are designed for specific industries. Industry-specific software simplifies setup of the logger, and some software includes an automatic download of data from the logger to a PC. With regular usage, software also can identify optimal zones.
Spreadsheet-style interfaces allow quick setup of the datalogger for any application. This is important for quick implementation in a busy environment. If data security is a concern, the operator or manager can protect the data and setup configurations with security functions such as a password.
Other features to seek in temperature-profiling software include a program that is easy to use and has a smart graphical user interface (GUI). Examples include being able to:
- Zoom in on areas of interest
- Use a cursor to pick out exact values, times and dates
- Get a statistical summary of the data
Most software includes a diagram of the logger that demonstrates how to set up the logger for profiling. Because heat-treatment applications often involve more than one sensor, it is helpful to name each sensor channel. Likewise, the user can select the sensor power supply and view sensor power wiring. Once setup is complete, the settings are transmitted to the datalogger, and it is ready for profiling.
Some software includes a communication wizard that eases setup and eliminates some of the work connecting your profiler on your network (modems, Ethernet, GSM, etc.). Setup software also allows users to set temperature-sampling rates for sensors, high- and low-temperature alarm limits, scaling of data and more. Datalogger software typically displays channels in real time, and users can view sensor calibration information and logger diagnostics while profiling if needed.
To set up a temperature channel, the user typically selects the channel onscreen and specifies the sensor type (thermocouple, RTD or thermistor), the temperature range available and temperature scale (°F/°C). Some profiling software includes a calculation function that allows the user to create virtual channels from existing channels.
After Profiling: Download and Export Temperature Data
Many users prefer speed of setup and data export over all other matters. Users should be able to quickly and easily analyze the data from the temperature recorder. Look for an easy-to-use interface such as a familiar Explorer-style interface. It is important to note whether users can save settings on the PC for reuse.
Users also should consider how they want to retrieve the data. Many choose USB because it is low-cost and convenient. Most software applications allow download of the data directly as a .CSV file format or straight to a graph for customizable data analysis. Users have the option to download data by date, time or event. This can save time when working via modem or looking for specific data. Some software can be used to rapidly interpret the results for advanced calculations.
When using a datalogger and its attendant software, the user creates furnace-temperature profiles and collects data from the zones for one purpose: improving the heat-treatment process. Fully configurable data views allow users to view data versus other parameters such as high- and low-level thresholds.
Modern profiling software is most often designed as a spreadsheet. This allows users to focus on the most relevant data, including text comments. With some software, data can be displayed with two different autoscaling Y-axes. This is particularly useful when displaying widely varying data from different temperature sensors on one graph.
Collecting and analyzing the temperature data is integral to fine-tuning a process. In addition, many users present their findings to customers, colleagues or management. For this purpose, many advanced software packages incorporate report-generation functionality. Users can create custom report templates with user-selected descriptive text, headers and footers, graphs and tables, key statistics and datalogger setup information.
With advanced software, users can go into as much detail and experimentation as is desired. The graphing feature within some software offers fully annotated curves, zoom and cursor scrolling analysis.
Whether you want a temperature profiler to fine-tune a heat-treatment process or prove to customers that your product is within specifications, all of these capabilities are possible with intelligent datalogger software. A well-designed temperature-profiling software program opens a window into your furnace and gives you an inside look you can exploit to ensure product quality.
For more information: Contact Stew Thompson, marketing specialist with CAS DataLoggers Inc., Chesterland, Ohio; tel: 800-956-4437; web: www.dataloggerinc.com. CAS Dataloggers manufactures dataloggers for measuring temperature, humidity, force/strain, pressure, flow, voltage, current, resistance and vibration.