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Fireclay bricks were the only material available that would withstand high heats, in excess of 2.000 F before 1930. Insulating fire bricks are developed in the 1940’s and replaced fireclay bricks. Insulating fire bricks were much lighter and consisted of lower thermal conductivity. In the 1960’s, ceramic fiber materials started to replace insulating fire bricks. The first examples of refractory ceramic fibers were in blanket form, made of alumina-silica fibers. They are sold in long rolls and formed in a variety of thickness and widths. Refractory ceramic panels started to appear during the 1990’s, and they are the most advanced insulation method as of today.
Compared to other solutions, refractory ceramic panels provide four times the heat and sound insulating capabilities, with a much lighter form. Refractory ceramic panels do not absorb or retain the heat, they just reflect it. This reduces the amount of fuel required to heat a furnace and lower the operation costs. The lower heat storage also means that the furnace can be heated and cooled much faster. When the furnace is shut down for repairs, the whole process can be completed sooner because of easy access and the furnace can return to full production much quicker.
Refractory ceramic panels are also made of ceramic fibers, but they are cut into strips and positioned side-by-side. This way, they form a module which is called the refractory ceramic panel. The entire panel is usually encapsulated in a steel shell, and it is possible to attach these shells onto the walls of the furnace. Refractory ceramic panels can be used to form the interior walls of a furnace or in between different sections of the furnace. The fiber-reinforced walls of refractory ceramic panels offer high rigidity and excellent strength. The installation costs are higher than the traditional methods, but the repair and maintenance jobs are much cheaper and faster.
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