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Industrial Ceramics: Introduction

Industrial Ceramics

Ceramics are widely used in industries for a range of purposes. Due to their high heat resistant properties and extreme durability, they can be used successfully in refractory, metallurgical, glassware, oil refinery and such other processes. Today industrial ceramic manufacture is a huge industry in itself and there are several multimillion dollar companies in the field, researching and producing industrial ceramics.



Industrial Ceramic Materials

The materials used in the production of industrial ceramics are different from those used in ceramic art forms. These materials need to be strong and durable and be able to withstand very high temperatures. The common materials used are oxides, carbides and nitrides of nonmetallic inorganic minerals.

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Industrial ceramic materials have the following properties:

I. They should have a very low coefficient of thermal expansion so that they can withstand a high temperature. This low expansion also helps the ceramics to be manufactured without much error, or else there could be a dimension difference when the ceramic is cooling down after firing.

II. They should have high melting points so that they can sustain the high temperatures used in most industrial processes.

III. They should be insulating to electricity.

IV. They should be insulating to heat.

V. They should have a high wear resistance



Preparation of Industrial Ceramics

Industrial ceramics are made from nonmetallic mineral clays. The minerals are first taken in the right proportion to obtain all the required properties, and then they are crushed and ground into a very fine consistency. In order to remove impurities, purifying chemical solutions are added to the mixture. Any impurity is removed in the form of a precipitate. Then wax is added to minerals. Wax acts as a binder and it holds the clay together. Plastics could also be added in case the ceramic requires to be more tenacious and durable. Plastic also improves the pliability of the ceramic.

Different processes are used to manufacture industrial ceramics. Some include:

I. Slip casting

II. Pressure casting

III. Injection Molding

IV. Extrusion



When all the processes are accomplished, and the ceramic has got its shape, the materials are molded and heated for a second and final step. This final stage in the preparation of industrial ceramics is called 'densification'. In general the manufacture of industrial ceramics is complicated and involves numerous processes using very specific and expensive production equipment.



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Industrial Ceramic Products

Ceramics are used in the industry for a wide variety of purposes that mostly involve insulation. The following are some areas where industrial ceramics are used:

I. In fuel industry, industrial ceramics are used to manufacture proppants that are required for hydraulic fracturing process of oil wells and natural gas reserves.

II. In electric appliances, industrial ceramics are used for glazing and insulation. Zirconium oxide is commonly used in manufacturing such industrial ceramics.

III. In refractories, industrial ceramics are used to manufacture crucibles and various other objects that require a high heat resistance. For the same purpose, ceramics are also used in kilns, furnaces, glass manufacture and metallurgical operations.

IV. Various electric fittings are made from aluminum oxide ceramics. Castings for fuse wires, holders of light bulbs, etc. are some of the areas where industrial ceramics are used.

V. Industrial ceramics are used to manufacture filter slices which are used to filter out waste gases in industrial operations.

VI. Zirconium ceramics are used to manufacture tips for circular knitting machines.

VII. Industrial ceramics are used in manufacture of ovens and thermal storages in industry.

Industrial ceramics are an important part of the day-to-day operations in any manufacturing process that involves heat and electricity. Though these may not be beautiful to look at, they are indispensable and highly useful to the industrial world.




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