B.C. Instruments

Introduction

CERAMIC MACHINING: UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS

CERAMIC MACHINING: UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS

B.C. Instruments has been actively involved in ceramic machining for a very long time, and we recognize the value of the process. In essence, ceramics are heat-formed and non-metallic materials that include clay, and particular types of glass. Many who hear the word “ceramic” immediately conjure an image of a coffee cup or a dinner plate, but this is just one area where the material is used.

These days, ceramics are used in everything from superconductors to space shuttle engines, and that’s just scratching the surface. Precision machining helps create strong and durable ceramic variants that can take a beating, and still keep going. That’s important for the kinds of clients B.C. Instruments serves. The process of ceramic machining is relatively threefold, as per the following steps.

FORMING

Before any work can be done on a ceramic piece, it must first be formed to its correct shape and dimensions. This is especially important for the purpose of prototyping and checking. It’s not until later that the piece is strengthened via a second process. Forming is usually done in one of two ways – dry axial/isostatic processing, or injection molding. The former involves the use of dry powder or slip casting techniques, while the latter relies more on a ceramic and plastic mixture.

FIRING

This part of the process is also referred to as “sintering,” and is used to fuse ceramic particles together in order to increase their bonds and create a much tougher variant than the one we mostly associate with our coffee mugs. Though not entirely the same, the process can be (somewhat) compared to metallurgy; particularly sword-making. The objective is to use heat to increase the strength of the material, giving it a resilience far beyond its base components. This can also be accomplished by means of cementation, a process involving the coating of the piece with a liquid binder. Firing is a precise process, due mostly to ceramic’s tendency to shrink after being heated.

FINISHING

The finishing process is more closely associated with traditional precision machining operations such as cutting, grinding or chemical etching. The firing process allows the ceramic material to withstand these processes without breaking under strain. It is important to note that the finishing process may also be applied before the firing process, to achieve particular results. Typically, these include post-firing finishing jobs if required. As such, tougher finishing processes are generally avoided, as the ceramic is in a weaker state.

As one can imagine, the Ceramic Machining process requires a great degree of skill, calculation and proofing to ensure that production runs turn out smoothly, to spec, and without issue. Like any process, it only gets easier over time, not just from the perspective of the skilled worker, but the technologies that make up the process, as well. The rapid advancement in precision machining techniques has greatly refined the process of Ceramic Machining to allow for much greater detail and ease of production. This is especially good news for clients who require their parts to be produced to specifications. Indeed, ceramic engineering itself is undergoing a constant evolution, year over year. As such, ceramic parts have quickly become a mainstay in many high level technical fields. B.C. Instruments produces a multitude of high-grade ceramic machined parts that are used in mass spectrometers, reactor testing equipment, aerospace and defense sensors, and so much more. 

For more information on how B.C. Instruments approaches the Ceramic Machining process to serve the needs of major industries, please contact us today!

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