New Products, New Possibilities
As we were putting together the table of contents for this issue, I noticed something out of the ordinary—the word “new” appears in almost every description for both the printed articles and our online exclusives. Granted, Ceramic Industry has established a reputation for introducing new technologies to our readers. But in today’s manufacturing environment, new products aren’t as common as they used to be. For years, many ceramic manufacturers have gotten by with the same old equipment and the same old processes. Investments in new technologies can be difficult to justify, especially in this economy, but a persistent lack of demand tends to stifle the ability of equipment suppliers to develop new technologies for our industry. A vicious cycle ensues, and the end result is that ceramic manufacturers are left with outdated processes, making them less able to compete in an increasingly more sophisticated global marketplace.
Luckily, we still have time to turn the tables. Many equipment suppliers continue to see opportunities in our industry and are developing products that can help make ceramic manufacturers more competitive by cutting their costs, improving their product quality and increasing their market share. For instance, a new type of pin disc has recently been introduced that is designed to increase the maximum shear level and rate of product dispersion in fine media mills—a development that could help manufacturers reduce their processing time and energy requirements while generating a better quality product. (See the feature "Case Study.") For manufacturers that have experienced excessive downtime due to a clogged classifier, another new technology might provide a better alternative. A new classifier has been combined with a proven agitated media mill to handle even extremely fine powders with a much higher throughput compared to conventional classifying technologies. Preliminary tests have shown that the combined system requires less energy and less time to produce extremely fine particle sizes compared to more expensive jet milling technologies. (See the feature "Better Quality through Finer Milling.")
Mill wear is another common problem facing manufacturers that process silicon carbide, boron carbide and other abrasive ceramic materials. A new vertical grinding mill eliminates a typical point of wear—the mechanical seal—and features a simplified operating system, providing the potential to significantly reduce maintenance costs. (See the feature "A Vertical Grinding Solution.") For manufacturers of pressed ceramic components, a new freeze granulation technology can prevent particle shrinkage, strong interparticle bonds, and the migration of additives and smaller particles to the granule’s surface—thereby ensuring a higher quality finished product. (See the PPT feature "Improving Powders with Freeze Granulation.") And that’s not all—a new cone valve technology for batching, a new powder rheometer for measuring and quantifying powder flowability, and a new modeling program for designing glass and ceramic products are among the developments featured on our website (http://www.ceramicindustry.com) for this issue.
New technologies won’t guarantee that a plant or company will succeed. But they can provide some much-needed advantages in today’s difficult manufacturing environment. We owe it to ourselves—and to the industry as a whole—to continue to evaluate and implement innovative products that offer new possibilities for the future.