A laboratory oven is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment in any lab. It is essential in the workstream, whether it’s a research lab or an industrial one. It has a variety of functions that can make lab technicians’ lives easier, such as drying, heating substances, and more.
Learning about the different types of lab ovens allows for more educated equipment selection. If you don’t know where to start, here are some types of laboratory ovens, and tips on choosing the right one.
Types of Lab Ovens
- Standard Digital Oven
Built for basic functions like heating and drying, a standard digital oven is perfect for small, start-up labs that don’t perform advanced heat treatment methods on a daily basis. This type of oven also offers accurate temperature control and safety, promising a decent quality output.
- Heavy-Duty Oven
Equipped with heavy-duty fittings and furnishings, these ovens are generally used in industrial settings. They have several functions in the laboratory, such as curing, soil testing, and drying of samples.
- Vacuum Oven
Also known as drying ovens, you can use a vacuum oven for procedures that require a lack of atmosphere or inert atmosphere. Its chamber produces heat, while an external vacuum pump is used to decrease the atmosphere inside. This prevents any air convection, thus minimizing any oxidation in the drying process.
Vacuum drying also lets you get rid of moisture, gas, and other volatile substances without cooking the material by reducing the boiling point for liquids to evaporate at a lower temperature.
- Forced Air Convection Oven
Forced air convection ovens, also called mechanical convection ovens, are great for quickly heating and drying multiple samples that have varying moisture levels. They achieve this by using motorized fans that push and actively distribute air through the heating elements and into the chamber.
This provides a consistent air distribution for heating substances that require accuracy and uniformity to process properly.
- Gravity Convection Laboratory Oven
A gravity convection lab oven is a low-cost alternative to mechanical convection ovens, if temperature uniformity isn’t required. Instead of using a blower fan, like in a mechanical convection oven, a gravity convection oven heats the substances by eliminating cold air from the bottom. Hot air rises, expands, and warms the inside of the chamber.
This type of lab oven is great for sterilizing, heating, and simple drying processes where strong air currents disturb lightweight sample materials like powder.
- High-Temperature Oven
This laboratory oven has doors and cabinet walls built with additional insulation to withstand high temperatures as it employs temperatures of 500°C (932°F) and up. Although these are extensively used in the aerospace industry, they can be custom-built to suit the exacting standards of a laboratory’s specificities, such as for research and light industrial applications.
How to Choose a Lab Oven
- Testing applications
Laboratory ovens have multiple applications and functions. For example, a lab oven can be used for drying or dehydrating purposes in clinical, biological, and environmental applications. On top of that, you have sterilization to eliminate bacteria and other microorganisms. Some are also used to reduce metal toughness, increase ductility, or remove excess solvents.
Keep in mind what testing applications you’ll be conducting in your laboratory to choose an oven that accommodates the processes and materials you’ll be using.
- Temperature range
You also need to consider the oven’s temperature range. You’ll need one with a maximum temperature a bit higher than the highest temperature you require in your test methods. This way, you’ll be confident that the oven can reach and maintain the target temperature.
However, it’s good to note that models with higher temperature ranges may not always provide the same stability and uniformity as those with lower temperature ranges provide. They may also be more expensive to operate.
- Chamber size
You must know how much space you’ll need for your samples. For example, you may need a larger chamber to fit a bigger batch of samples, or for samples with complex geometry. Make sure also to select one that’s not too big as it will cost you more energy to heat up the unused chamber area, resulting in higher operating expenses.
On top of the internal space of the chamber, consider the area of your laboratory. Make sure it fits within the confines of your walls and floors, leaving room to move around.
Ventilation is critical because heat treatments often produce smoke, which can fill up your lab. Some samples may also expel harmful fumes, so have the oven’s exhaust be vented outside. Moreover, proper ventilation is needed for optimum drying performance of high-moisture samples. With that, it’s best to consult with professionals to install adequate and safe ventilation.
The lab oven’s material is another crucial point to consider. Lab ovens commonly have stainless steel interiors and shelves to prevent corrosion and deterioration, although these tend to be more expensive. Consider models with plated or galvanized interiors for a more economical option if the samples you test aren’t corrosive.
If you want to improve your lab’s safety, consider a double-walled oven between the chamber and the cabinet.
- Control Options
Controller options for lab ovens range from simple analog dials to more complex, high-accuracy, and programmable digital PID controllers.
Think of your staff who will operate the lab oven. For example, an oven with timed, automatic, and remote operation can be useful for processing a large number of samples every day, with a few staff members. Simpler controls, on the other hand, are more viable and economical when advanced functionality isn’t crucial.
Shop for the Right Lab Oven
Laboratory ovens are an essential part of every lab. They save technicians’ time, allowing for more effective and focused work to be done. Different ovens have different purposes, which is why a typical lab may need more than one oven to function as efficiently as possible. With that, consider what materials or samples you’ll be using the oven for, and then pick the ones for your specific needs. Take a look at AI Furnaces’ laboratory ovens to find the right one for your lab.