In 1925, archeologists discovered the Venus of Dolní Věstonice statuette. 29,000 years old, this figurine beautifully demonstrates the resilience of ceramics. Because of their unique properties, ceramics prove ideal for a variety of uses, from art to aerospace. And abrasive blasting provides an innovative solution for addressing both the hardness and the fragility of these compounds.
Many of us think of ceramics as pottery, fired clay used to make sculptures or table items. But we encounter them in most aspects of our daily life, from the spark plugs in our cars to the circuit boards in our computers. In basic terms, we can speak of this versatile material in two categories:
- Traditional – Traditional ceramics include cement, bricks, glass, porcelain, pottery and tiles. We drive and walk on them, build our houses with them and use them to create elegant works of art.
- Advanced – Advanced ceramics include more complex compounds engineered in the lab for specific applications. For instance, the compound aluminum oxide serves as the principal ceramic for artificial hip joints. Because of its strength and scratch resistance, aluminum oxide has extended the life of hip replacements.
Benefits of Working with Ceramics
Both traditional and advanced ceramics share a number of key benefits, including heat tolerance and resistance to corrosion. Additional benefits include strength, hardness, scratch resistance, light weight and the ability to be formed into complex shapes. Most also act as great insulators.
For example, ceramics work well for many engine components in the automotive and aerospace industries. They handle extremely high temperatures, and unlike metal, ceramic components do not rust. Further, because they can operate at higher temperatures and weigh less than other materials, ceramics promote reduced fuel consumption and lower exhaust emissions.
In addition to automotive and aerospace applications, ceramics offer solutions to construction, medicine, semiconductor processing and even the nuclear industry. And scientists continue to explore new ways to use ceramics to solve complex problems in formidable environments.
Challenges of Machining
Ceramics offer powerful solutions to a wide variety of industries. At the same time, some of the very properties that make them versatile also make them difficult to machine. For instance, the hardness of a ceramic part that has been fired to full density can make the part nearly impossible to machine using conventional techniques.
Further, despite their strength, ceramic components can smash or chip when dropped or when they experience sudden changes in temperature. You may have experienced this, for instance, if you have ever added ice water to a hot mug.
Because of these challenges, technicians often machine ceramics in the green body stage, before final firing. Additionally, they may use machinable ceramics such as Macor, or they may use machining techniques like abrasive blasting.
Abrasive Blasting and Ceramics
Micro-abrasive blasting provides a method for technicians and artists to process fragile ceramics without breaking them. Depending on the abrasive powder and blast pressure used, abrasive blasting can perform a number of functions, from selective cleaning to surface preparation, drilling, cutting and etching.
For example, ceramic mechanical components may present cracks and bubbles after EDM processing. Technicians can use abrasive blasting to remove thermal damage and achieve a smoother texture. Abrasive blasting also proves useful in the dental industry to clean crowns and prepare the surface of implants for improved bonding.
The experts at Airbrasive bring a long history of building solutions for industries from electronics to medicine and automotive. We can help you take advantage of the benefits of ceramics by finding machining solutions to meet the unique challenges you face.