Nobody gets excited about lab ovens, but they are definitely essential lab components. Ovens are found in almost every industrial, research and development laboratory. Applications include drying lab ware and keeping it ready for use; sterilization; conducting above-ambient, constant-temperature experiments; drying reagents and desiccants; annealing and curing materials; component and materials testing, and many others.
Basic components common to all general-purpose lab ovens are an electric heating coil, insulation, temperature measurement and/or recording, and a circulation mechanism that provides even temperature distribution. Advanced features include double doors, digital control and temperature recording (useful for regulated industries requiring documentation).
Oven configurations include bench or cabinet styles, conveyor, and vertical. Cabinet ovens are used for batch processing, while conveyor designs—common with medium- to industrial-sized process applications— provide continuous heating of many samples.
Despite the simplicity of lab ovens, manufacturers compete on numerous second-tier features, from temperature programmability, cooling-down capability, alarms, shelving options, monitoring and data logging.
|Eighty-five percent of respondents have at least one oven in their lab.|
|5 or more||19%|
|Ovens are found in almost every industrial, research and development laboratory. Applications include drying lab ware and keeping it ready for use; sterilization; conducting above-ambient, constant-temperature experiments; drying reagents and desiccants; annealing and curing materials; component and materials testing, and many others.|
|Biochemistry and biology||16%|
|Food and beverage||7%|
|Applications range from low-tech glassware drying to sample drying and incubation, equipment sterilization, evaporation, hardening/ curing, tempering, stability testing, aging, baking, annealing, brazing, sintering, burn-off of organics, melting, heat-treating and hot-pressing. Most basic lab uses employ oven temperatures from just above ambient to several hundred degrees Fahrenheit, although ovens used for materials processing reach temperatures in excess of 1000°F. Kilns, speciality ovens used to process ceramics, may reach 2400°F.|
|Heating and drying||50%|
|In recent years, users’ preferences have shifted from gravity ovens without fans to fan-based, forced-air units. Fans distribute heat more rapidly on startup and users are becoming less willing to wait for units to heat up. Oven configurations include bench- or cabinet-style, conveyor and vertical. Cabinet ovens are used for batch processing, while conveyor designs— common with medium- to industirlal-sized process applications—provide continuous heating of many samples. Circulation ovens (the most common in labs) come in two types: gravity convection or mechanical (forced) draft.|
Most common types of ovens found in a lab:
|Uneven temperature distribution often arises in some ovens, which may not be an issue for glassware drying ovens, but many introduce variability for materials curing or biological cell culture. As a result, temperature monitors are the number one component used with lab ovens.|
|Forty-five percent of respondents’ annual lab oven budget for parts, service and repairs is less than $1,000.|
|$0 - $1,000||45%|
|$1,000 - $2,500||16%|
|$2,500 - $5,000||12%|
|Forty percent of respondents expect to purchase a lab oven within the next year and have a budget of $5,000. The main reason for this purchase is to replace an aging oven.|
|Replacement of aging oven||40%|
|Addition to existing systems; increase capacity||28%|
|Setting up a new lab||22%|
|First-time purchase of a lab oven||5%|
Over 90% of the respondents are satisfied with the performance of their lab oven in getting the job done for the intended purpose with very little maintenance. The respondents whose lab ovens were old and lack all the features of a newer oven expressed dissatisfaction. On average, most respondents have their lab oven for 7 years.
Despite the simplicity of lab ovens, in addition to price, manufacturers compete on numerous features from accurate temperature without overshoot, time to heat up, reliability, independent temperature safety or shutoff, temperature programmability, cooling-down capability, alarms, shelving options, monitoring, and data logging.
Labs concerned about operating costs can now select ovens that minimize electricity consumption. A highly efficient oven in constant use can save thousands of dollars over the life of the appliance. Energy efficiency is a complex characteristic based on type of heating and circulation, anticipated usage, temperature range, insulation, door closing, gasket options and other factors. Insulation also provides a measure of safety for operators.
Larger labs primarily interested in glassware drying are better served by large ovens with customizable configurations than by high-tech units with advanced controls. Materials testing or pharmaceutical development groups involved in drying or curing should focus on temperature stability/ uniformity and perhaps automated recording and diagnostics. Vendors recommend that users should modestly overbuy on temperature range to ensure that their applications will easily be covered.
|Low maintenance/operating costs||70%|
|Ease of use||62%|
|Temperature ranges ambient +40°C to 200°C/250°C||38%|
|Service and support||36%|
|Smallest footprint possible with a large interior||26%|
|Controlled airflow to provide uniform temperature heat distribution||26%|
To see the complete survey results and a list of vendors, please visit www.labmanager.com/ovens