In the late 1970’s, I was contacted by an old friend who ran a lumber mill and he was considering installing lumber dry kilns for the first time. He had some proposals for European systems and asked me to look at them because they used refrigeration to dry instead of the traditional heat and vent systems. I am an engineer who has been involved in refrigeration systems all my life so he wanted my opinion on the proposals. I knew nothing about kiln drying lumber. I looked at what he had, visited the forestry department at the University of Maine and got basic data about temperatures, time, water removed, weight of lumber etc. I did the calculations and found none of the systems he was being offered would do the job and were primitive in design. He asked if I could build one and we did and it worked well. In the process I developed and patented the idea of using heat pumps to dry at 160⁰F (72⁰C) which was necessary to meet the drying times and quality. Another mill saw what we did and asked for two systems and another asked for three. In the next 40 years, 6000 systems were sold around the world.
When we started Nyle, we did not supply kiln chambers. We would work with customers to give them the information they needed to build chambers to suit their work. We learned what worked and what didn’t work as well. We had customers who bought prefab aluminum kilns and we worked with just about everyone in that business. We had customers who built wood framed kilns, concrete wall kilns, brick wall and even steel buildings. The key to making any of these chamber construction systems work was close attention to and execution of design details. The drying process involves elevated temperatures, high humidity, high air pressure and all these factors can kill a poorly design chamber very quickly. Today, more than 40 years later, some of these wood framed kilns are still operating and some fell apart. They all had the same basic design but the details were far different and that is the key to the story.
The company that we founded and sold and recently retired from, Nyle, now builds prefab aluminum kilns so they no longer provide the level of assistance that had been provided to clients who preferred to buy equipment from Nyle and build their own kiln chambers. I am providing that service.
In the process of developing the Nyle kiln system, we sometimes would find a customer who liked our approach to kiln design and operation but had an existing heat source or was in a location where electric rates were extreme or adequate supply unavailable. So we developed a deep engineering approach to all types of kilns for lumber drying and trained hundreds of operators in the zero defect method of drying lumber.
As the business grew, we found many other applications such as drying leather, food, plastics and other products. We took an engineering approach to drying that was very different from the trial and error methods that are widely used. Designers of drying systems rarely considered energy consumption and environmental impact. We did and it made all the difference.
If a potential client is interested in installing or upgrading a drying system, I offer assistance that might be a short time reviewing proposals to help a client choose intelligently, or a complete kiln design or dryer design. I do not sell any components but will supply a list and suggest suppliers that I know will be reliable and give you what you need.