About SmartMelter® by PaneraTech

An innovative technology developed by PaneraTech, Inc.

How SmartMelter® Technology was Developed

SmartMelter® is an innovative technology developed by our team at PaneraTech, Inc. Partnering with major glass manufacturers for over a half a decade, our team worked on an effective solution to optimize the life of glass melting furnaces. The result is SmartMelter® – a complete furnace management solution.

An Innovative Team

The PaneraTech team has a long history of developing advanced radar-based sensor solutions. Our primary work has been on thru-wall imaging and advanced wireless sensing technologies for harsh environments. Our company was founded on a mission to commercialize its advanced radar technologies for industrial applications.

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A Problem Identified

Tom Dankert (Retired, Global Furnace Manager at O-I) and Elmer Sperry (Global Furnace Lead at Libbey Glass) were looking for a way to optimize furnace campaign life and lower the risk of leaks in operating furnaces. There was no way to inspect the condition of refractory walls below the glass line. Therefore, the life of each furnace could not be predicted with accuracy. Most maintenance was performed based on a periodic schedule rather than the actual condition of the furnace. Thermal imaging and well-kept records improved speculation. However, this did not solve the problem. Many furnaces were being rebuild and overcoated on a conservative schedule. Some leaks still occurred, halting production for several weeks at a time. 

A Partnership in Research

Because of our experience with radar-based technology, we were asked to work on this problem. If a tool could be developed to measure the actual wear and thickness of the refractory walls, it would improve furnace life, reduce costs and increase safety. Libbey Glass, O-I and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Industrial Partnership Division provided the seed funding to demonstrate the feasibility of radar technology to measure furnace wall thickness. Libbey provided development furnaces with molten glass inside to develop and validate  our sensors. Glass Worldwide Magazine featured the partnership between Libbey Glass and PaneraTech in the March 2016 issue.

Libbey Development Furnace 1

SmartMelter® development furnace #1 at Libbey Glass Toledo Plant with molten glass inside. This furnace had fused-cast AZS blocks with various thicknesses for the development of Refractory Thickness Sensor (RTS).

Libbey Development Furnace 2

SmartMelter® development furnace #2 at Libbey Glass Toledo Plant with molten glass inside. This furnace emulated various glass leak scenarios through insulation to develop the Furnace Tomography Sensor (FTS) for early stage glass penetration detection and insulation thickness measurement.

A Validated Solution

Our work with the development furnaces was successful after overcoming many challenges that took us several years. We performed successful blind trials with operational furnaces that were scheduled to be drained for maintenance.

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O-I, Libbey, and the PaneraTech team in 2013 at the demonstration of the very first generation RTS sensor, which showed the feasibility of the radar technology to measure furnace wall thickness.

And Today

After years of additional improvements to the base technology, our solution has become more portable, compact, and practical than ever. Every day, we are establishing strong new partnerships with glass manufacturers to meet the industry’s needs.

SmartMelter® sensors today


Learn More About the SmartMelter® Solution See the Validation Trials