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thoughts about a programable gas kiln


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I want to find out if there would be an interest in a programable gas fired kiln similar to the electric kiln with soaks, different ramps, and firing down options, in addition to oxidation/reduction control.

 

Jed

 

 

Edited by jrgpots
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1 hour ago, jrgpots said:

I have an idea to break into the hobbiest market with one.   I have a control engineer who might be interested in downsizing the concept.

Go for it, although I'll say a lot of gas firers take pride in controlling the process manually because it is as much of an art as the rest of the process for some.

I know when I was gas firing it would not have been the same if it were automated.  Different, not necessarily better.

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The gas hobby market really is what I call trash can kilns-convered electrics or kilns that look like electrics withy 1 to 4 burners.

Permits and the like seem to be beyond many in that market so small  propane would be the way to go.

I think the market is there as gas it just confuzing to many. Also little experience is a huge factor. Electrics seem easy to beginners .Small gas kilns do have a market so its there I would think about first.

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I'm going to be the bad guy here. I can't say that I'm necessarily correct about all of what I'm going to say, but it's definitely stuff that should be considered/investigated moving forward.

The problem is that most hobbyists can't just put a gas kiln in their home like they can an electric. building codes get pretty strict about large gas equipment with flames coming out the top. Plus most hobbyists  don't have any experience actually firing a gas kiln, even if their work is being fired that way at their studio. Even an automatic programmable one requires knowledge of what is going on with reduction and everything else that happens in a gas firing. Every gas kiln fires differently, even if they're identical kilns, so there would have to be room for adjustments to the programming, which would require some knowledge of the process.

There are very few high fire reduction glazes commercially available, so it forces the hobbyist to also start dealing with mixing their own glazes, which is out of most hobbyists comfort zone and requires more space and investment in materials.

I have tons of customers that covet front loading electric kilns, but the higher cost, combined with the complications of receiving and installing them, means I only sell a couple a year, and almost always to schools, not hobbyists. You can't just roll it off the truck with a pallet jack, take it apart and reassemble it in your basement. The only hobbyists that could even consider one are those that have a double door or overhead door with an entrance from the driveway, or space in the garage.

Most top load electric kilns ship for free, most front loaders ship for $600-800.

Any gas kiln is much more expensive to build than a round electric kiln, especially because you have to build it in such a way that it can be safely shipped. It's a completely different beast than a gas kiln you build in place on cinder blocks. It's the same reason front loading electric kilns are so expensive- engineering anything with a door and an arch is much more complicated than a top loader, and they get damaged easily in shipping if they're not built well and shipped properly.

For it to be truly automatic, it would have to be able to adjust gas, air, and damper, and be able to adjust them for rate of climb, back pressure, reduction levels, etc. It can't just cycle on and off like an electric, everything has to be set right and adjusted as needed as the firing progresses. That can definitely be done, I just don't know if it can be done affordably.

Running a gas line will cost more than an electrical line. Venting is way more complicated. A $400 downdraft vent isn't going to cut it- you need an overhead hood. It gets very expensive and complicated for someone who doesn't necessarily have plans to become a full time potter and make money off their work.

Also consider the customer service that you'll have to provide. You're talking about selling a complicated piece of equipment to people with very limited experience. What happens if there's a problem with the kiln? Who will go fix it if it's on the other side of the country? Your profits can easily be eaten up by a couple of warranty claims.

I think it would be awesome if you can make it work, there's just a lot to think about. Let us know what you figure out.

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1 hour ago, jrgpots said:

that is one of my concerns......how well it would be accepted.   And how many are interested.  If there is mild interest, it would not be worth it.

 

We produce something like that now although for liability reasons it is a monitor and geared toward educational value and the learning how aspect. It helps folks learn reduction and  firing in general more easily. We take the approach that it becomes a redundant piece and the kiln can operate as normal completely without it. For a school or studio wishing to teach it has intranet features, alarm points, IPad, IPhone, Android monitoring etc.... A good package for teaching in a school or studio that still allows folks to learn how to hand fire very accurately. Also good for the experienced potter.
 

Unfortunately,

We only  help potters with a design for their system and assist in the build process. Touch screen stuff but probably no more than $1000.00 diy. It’s intended to give back to the community and I don’t foresee that ever changing really. Bailey does produce a fully automatic, which is expensive. Sorry, probably not what you wanted to hear....... and yes I have significant controls and programming experience.

 

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Edited by Bill Kielb
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On 3/29/2020 at 10:29 PM, jrgpots said:

This is great.  There is no reason to reevent the wheel.  

Jed

ya know I don't really get why you feel it has to be geared toward the hobby market. Commercial markets may already have options but yours may be able to compete and over time rise to the top and if its cheaper it may also have some appeal with some studio potters as well. While disrupting markets is powerful and the holy grail of bringing products to market its not essential. Taking a seat at the table and then starting the sell, redesign, sell, redesign cycle is very doable and will lead to opportunities that come from becoming a part of the market you sell in. You also gain name recognition and reputation with time. 

New is only new for a while and existing companies often fade and new ones take their place. Now if you will excuse me I need to go check my MySpace account and try and get my Blackberry to go online with the new no name router. 

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