INSIDE CI: March Madness

The monthly roundup from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

Early March is generally the time of the year when I’m the most stir-crazy. Spring hasn’t quite sprung yet, and the wonders of winter have completely lost their charm. I’m tired of sledding and building snowpeople, and I’ve really had it with the snow and ice. I’m ready for longer days and warmer temperatures. I want to be able to get to work in the garden and open the windows.

It would be great if the weather would follow the rules of the calendar, that spring really would begin on March 20-complete with green grass, lush trees and buds on all of the flowers. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is generally less than precise. We might not see any real signs of spring until after the proverbial April showers do their job. I try to be patient, but the anticipation of the March/April-ish arrival of spring tends to ramp my cabin fever up a notch.

Precision is the name of the game for finishing and machining in the ceramic industry, however, as markets ranging from electronics and medical to aerospace and automotive all continue to seek reduced size and weight opportunities. Dimensions in the micron range are often the norm, shapes are becoming increasingly complex, and it seems like the tolerances just keep getting narrower.

It’s fortunate that a number of machining methods are available to help manufacturers meet those requirements. For example, ultrasonic machining utilizes high-frequency mechanical vibration to precisely machine intricate shapes in a variety of advanced materials, including glass, engineered ceramics, composites and piezoceramics (see “Ultrasonic Machining”).

Lasers have long provided an efficient and effective method of machining ceramic substrates for microelectronic packaging applications. From the early flowing gas CO2 laser to the sealed, slab discharge CO2 laser and diode-pumped, solid-state laser, “The Laser Age” discusses laser manufacturers’ continued development of products that are designed to help improve productivity and profitability.

In addition, a new laser-assisted method of machining silicon carbide ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) is being developed that maintains the base structure of the material and helps reduce manufacturing costs. While work is ongoing, the new technology has the potential to provide a number of benefits for SiC CMC manufacturers (see “Laser-Assisted CMC Milling”).

PPP Sourcebook

For select subscribers, the third annual Pottery Production Practices Sourcebook also accompanies this issue. Articles in this edition include profiles of the ceramic arts programs offered by Alfred University, the experiences of potter Frank Matranga and business training opportunities available through the Arts Business Institute. Other features detail common misconceptions relating to pottery, electric kiln selection advice and pottery tools.

In addition, the Supplier Directory* provides details regarding each supplier’s product offerings in an easy-to-read chart format, while the Supplier Index includes contact information for companies that sell into the pottery market. Be sure to visit the Sourcebook online at for spec sheets, direct links to supplier websites and more.

If you have suggestions for next year’s PPP Sourcebook (or regular issues of CI), please don’t hesitate to contact me at

*Supplier listings indicate paid advertising. For rates and additional information, contact Ginny Reisinger at or (614) 760-4220.


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