Enabling Efficiency in Ceramics Manufacturing for a Cleaner Future
With origins in earthenware vessels, the ceramics industry has come a long way from clay pots to components used in outer space. The creation of ceramics dates back as early as 4500 BC, with the pottery wheel estimated to have originated around 3129 BC. From the Ancient Egyptians (who we have the invention of kilns to thank for), to Greek civilizations, Chinese Porcelain, and the origins of stoneware from high temperature fired clays in Germany, their capabilities have undoubtedly stood the test of time.
Technical ceramics first came to light with the invention of electricity, where it was realized that their insulative capabilities and resistance to environmental factors made them much better than other materials being used at the time (such as wood and paper).
Now, their applications serve almost every area of modern society from transportation, aviation, electronics, household goods and many more. However, despite this rapid development in applications and enabling technology, little has changed in the core principles of manufacturing.
Most ceramic manufacturers still rely heavily on high-temperature, energy intensive methods. With growing attention on more sustainable practices throughout industries in order to reduce detrimental impacts on the environment, manufacturers are pushing for alternative techniques.
Ceramic additive manufacturing (AM) has been a steadily growing technology within the ceramics industry, sparking interest from a number of users. In addition to the benefits this method provides, including complex geometries, shorter lead times, material availability and costs benefits, AM also has the potential to offer a more sustainable method of manufacturing.
Unlike traditional manufacturing, AM can reduce emissions drastically, as well as minimize scrap waste. As the technology scales-up, this is likely an effect which will be more evident, as well as something which could become a key consideration for those looking to adopt the technology.
In the effort to reduce carbon emissions and clean-up the manufacturing industry, the US Department of Energy has launched it’s Better Plants program. This program allows industry manufacturers to partner with the government organization to help them help them ‘boost efficiency, increase resilience, strengthen economic competitiveness, and reduce their carbon footprint through improvements in energy efficiency’. They provide support and guidance to manufacturers seeking to improve their practices.
The cold sintering process (CSP), developed by Dr Clive Randall and his research team at Penn State University, is a method which can replace high temperature firing of ceramics (above 1000°C). It uses a transient liquid phase, pressure and heat to achieve dense ceramics, and provides the benefit of reduced energy consumption and carbon footprint.
On applications and market utility, Penn State comments: “The technology could have widespread application in a variety of materials and would also provide a clear roadmap to guide future studies on ultra-low temperature ceramic sintering, ceramic materials integration, printable electronics, bulk ceramics, and sustainable manufacturing processes for electro-ceramics, mechanical components, and refractories.”
Towards a more efficient future for the industry
The ceramic industry is certainly accelerating its work into more sustainable manufacturing methods. Boosted by government legislations, this has served as a catalyst for the industry to adapt and reconsider its methods, ultimately creating greater efficiency in its operations.
If you’re interested in finding out more about improving manufacturing in the Ceramics Industry, you can register for the free-to-attend Conference at Ceramics Expo 2022, which will be covering topics such as additive manufacturing and industry collaboration for better practices. Click here to register today.