Ask any archaeologist excavating an ancient village and he will confirm that ceramics have been around a long time. Ceramic was first used for making pottery over 10,000 years ago. But today’s advanced, or “technical,” ceramics are being used in ways never imagined by the ancients. They have found their way into the military, medical, automotive, consumer and electronics industries.
In short, ceramics are everywhere.
But what is a technical ceramic, and what makes it different from that old robin-egg-blue bathroom tile hanging on the wall of your shower? With names like aluminum nitride, aluminum oxide, boron nitride, silicon carbide and zirconia, we must be talking about some pretty lofty stuff, right?
Keith Costello, responsible for new business development at machine shop Ferro Ceramic Grinding Inc., Wakefield, Mass., explained that technical ceramics are engineered to provide a host of physical properties, including high density and dielectric strength, low water absorption and gas permeability, and excellent flexure, fracture, tensile and compressive strengths.
Costello noted that technical ceramics in powder form are readily cast or pressed into complex shapes, and, depending on the size of the finished product, can be injection-molded. They also can be extruded into rods or bars, grown into a crystalline form or deposited onto a substrate using chemical vapor deposition.
In their finished, or sintered, state, technical ceramics have several desirable properties. They’re chemically inert, making them corrosion resistant. They can withstand extreme temperatures and remain dimensionally stable. And they’re very, very hard.