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Thermal Heater Design and Testing: Stages of the Design Process

November 23, 2021

In part one of this two-part blog series, we discussed the different types of thermal heating systems that might be used for industrial heating needs. This is one basic area of knowledge required for any design of a thermal heating system, which involves several important steps.

At Gordo Sales, we're proud to offer a wide variety of industrial heating components, from drum heaters and cartridge heaters to radiant heaters and numerous other styles. In today's part two of our series, we'll go over the basic steps that are involved in designing and testing a thermal heating system.

cartridge heaters basics operation

Analyzing Thermal Heating Requirements

First and foremost, it's important to evaluate the thermal heating requirements present -- and these vary significantly between industries. If a system is being designed for semiconductor wafer processing, for instance, this will be very different from chemical processing for a pharmaceutical company.

As a basic rule of thumb for most applications, it's critical to heat the object or material being processed, not the surrounding environment itself. This is because temperatures can vary with different substances, but heating through conduction will only transfer the heat to anything in direct contact with the material being heated -- leaving everything else around it cold.

Selecting Heater Assemblies

Next up is perhaps the most vital stage: Choosing the proper heater assembly for the project's needs. Here are the sub-steps to this process:

  • Choosing heater plate: Since most thermal heating is done through conduction, this step generally involves selecting the proper heater plate material. The chemical composition of the substance to be heated will generally determine what type of metal should be used in its construction.
  • Selecting heating and sensing elements: The heater assembly must be able to transfer heat to the desired substance, so selecting heating elements is essential. For higher temperatures (upwards of 500 degrees F), nichrome wire or cartridge heaters are generally chosen for their ability to maintain high temperature gradients and ability to withstand continuous use.
  • Choosing termination style: Common styles include polyimide, riser and others.

Software Simulation

Once components and accessories are chosen, a software simulation will be run using advanced software. This will help understand the mechanical and thermal behavior of the heater more precisely.


Next, heater manufacturing will take place using a furnace and several CNC machines. These machines can achieve a variety of shapes and sizes for any need.


Now that the heater is manufactured, it will be tested to ensure proper operation. This entails submerging the heater assembly in a warm liquid and seeing how well it transfers heat to the liquid. In addition, a probe is used to confirm that all heating elements are achieving their desired temperature.

For more on how thermal heating systems are designed and tested for quality, or to learn about any of our process heating systems or services, speak to the pros at Gordo Sales today.

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