Portable ovens are moveable thermal processing machines. They function in the same way as many other kinds of industrial ovens, but are generally limited in capacity because of their small size. Portable ovens in industrial contexts tend to be limited to uses within the food service and production industries. In manufacturing contexts, there are few reasons why an oven would need to be portable as the production lines that would feed the ovens are almost exclusively stationary.
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Portable Oven Applications
The food service and production industries use portable ovens for the same purposes as traditional, larger industrial ovens. They can be used for baking food in small batches. They are generally lighter in weight and feature wheels or handles that provide for easy mobility; many portable ovens, when empty, can be carried by a few people. They are designed to heat much smaller product volumes than standard ovens, but have a shorter preheating time as a result. Portable ovens can often be stacked on top of one another or mounted to a counter or wall if necessary. Most are free standing and feature maximum heating temperatures of about 1000º F. They are ideal for event catering because of their portability. Portable ovens also have some limited applications in laboratories where small ovens are used for testing, though stationary ovens can be more practical in labs dedicated to heat treatment-related testing.
Design of Portable Ovens
Portable ovens, like all industrial ovens, vary in their configuration and means of heat generation. While it is possible for very small conveyor ovens to be portable, in most cases portable ovens are impractical because of their complexity, weight and their means of production (they are generally intended to heat treat a continuous stream of products). The overwhelming majority of portable ovens are small batch ovens, which heat batches of product simultaneously. Within the subset of batch ovens, there are three main methods of heat generation. Natural convection, which is the process of heat transfer between solids and gasses, is a common method in small ovens where even heat distribution is not a concern. When even heating is important, forced convection ovens, which feature a fan that circulates the heated air evenly throughout the oven, can be used to ensure even cooking. When efficient heating is essential, infrared radiation heating methods can be used. Infrared ovens use a heating element, often a tungsten coil, which heats the product directly as opposed to through a process transfer from coil to air to product. Infrared heating is the most efficient method of heating, so applications in which energy efficiency is a concern may call for the use of a portable infrared oven. Most portable ovens are made of stainless steel because of its high strength to weight ratio.