Therser UK Blog

Tunnel Kiln vs Shuttle Kiln: Comparing Advantages and Disadvantages

If you're in the market for an industrial kiln capable of handling large-volume product firing, you have two choices: the tunnel kiln and the shuttle kiln. In this article, we'll delve into the operations of each type and explore their respective advantages.


Shuttle kilns are renowned for their versatility and find applications across various industries, offering precise control over temperature and timing. In factory settings, they are often paired with on-rail kiln cars, which transport substantial batches of products into and out of the kiln with ease. The term 'shuttle' stems from the idea that kiln cars can be shuttled in and out of the kiln after the firing process is complete.

Tunnel kilns operate differently. Unfired items are loaded onto kiln cars and slowly traverse a lengthy, heated chamber. This gradual process heats the materials until they are fired in the central portion of the chamber. Tunnel kilns are commonly employed for mass-producing high-volume items like heavy clay bricks, tiles, sanitary ware, tableware, and various other products. Due to their considerable size, tunnel kilns often occupy dedicated structures.

Now, let's explore the advantages and disadvantages of each kiln type.

Tunnel Kiln vs Shuttle Kiln: The Pros & Cons

Shuttle Kilns:

Shuttle kilns, also known as batch or intermittent kilns, are the preferred choice for businesses specializing in the rapid production of artisan pottery, tableware, sanitary ware, cladding tiles, and heavy clay products. They can be designed with capacities ranging from 1m³ up to 400 m³, ensuring adaptability to your specific workload. While they are typically less energy-efficient than tunnel kilns, shuttle kilns provide greater flexibility in terms of product variety and firing cycles.

We often recommend shuttle kilns to growing businesses as they enable capacity expansion until the volume necessitates an investment in a tunnel kiln.

For smaller items and diverse workloads, shuttle kilns shine by offering the ability to reprogram for each batch to suit specific product requirements. The multiple control zones ensure uniform temperature application across all items in a batch, while precise, incremental temperature increases enhance precision. However, for high-volume manufacturing or continuous production, a tunnel kiln may prove more efficient and economical due to longer processing times in shuttle kilns, where operators must wait for the entire firing and cooling cycle to unload the product.


Tunnel Kilns:

Tunnel kilns are the go-to choice for constant, high-volume production lines. Their variable cycle times make them ideal for integration into continuous or automated production setups. Tunnel kilns demand less manual labor for operation, thereby freeing up employees and requiring lower maintenance, typically on an annual or bi-annual basis during shutdowns.

In terms of energy and equipment costs per piece, tunnel kilns offer advantages for high-volume production. However, it's important to note that the initial capital investment for building a tunnel kiln is higher than that of shuttle kilns. Additionally, you'll need a more extensive building footprint to accommodate the tunnel kiln and associated loading/unloading tracks.



Bespoke Kilns From Therser

At Therser we design, manufacture, and build furnaces and kilns to suit any requirements. If you’d like to find out more about tunnel or shuttle kilns, and for advice on the type of kiln required for your product and process, please call or email our technical sales team today.


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