Exploring the Future of the Ceramic Industry
Exhibitors and attendees alike flocked to Cleveland, Ohio, for the second annual Ceramics Expo.
Exhibitors and attendees alike flocked to Cleveland, Ohio, for the second annual Ceramics Expo, which was held April 26-28 at the I-X Center. Floor space was doubled compared to the 2015 event, with more than 280 exhibitors (over 50 international) showcasing their products and technologies for the ceramic industry. Attendance jumped as well (up by 27%), as 2,702 people came to the free-to-attend event.
Though some exhibitors expressed concerns regarding slow booth traffic, most of the exhibitors I spoke with were happy with the quantity and, perhaps more importantly, the quality of the contacts generated from people who visited their booths. Many exhibitors expected specific business opportunities to come as a result of these contacts, and over 65% of exhibitors were so pleased that they re-booked their booth space for Ceramics Expo 2017 before the end of the show.
The plenary session, which was entitled Industry Leaders—The Future of the Ceramics Industry, began on Tuesday morning following opening remarks by Ed Rybka, chief of Regional Development for the city of Cleveland. Moderated by Barry Watkins, deputy director for Business Development at Alfred University, speakers during the plenary session included Don Bray, vice president of Morgan Advanced Materials; Rickey J. Shyne, Ph.D., director of Research and Engineering at NASA’s Glenn Research Center; and Doreen Edwards, Ph.D., dean of the Inamori School of Engineering at Alfred.
Bray focused his remarks on the need for companies to focus on manufacturing innovation and nurturing a skilled workforce in order to meet production capacity. He stressed the importance of creating a company culture that focuses on innovation, and outlined the design of an internal Innovation Network to:
- Connect people who focus on innovation and have various experience levels
- Set boundaries and engage
- Support and govern
- Manage and track
In terms of workforce development challenges, Bray noted that 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 every day for the next 20 years. Human resources-related challenges include: barriers for talent being removed (i.e., workers are more likely to move now than in the past), demographic shifts, skills gap, work globalization, and declining middle-skill jobs.
Shyne outlined several advanced ceramics-related initiatives that are being undertaken at the Glenn Research Center. For example, ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) are being developed for gas turbine engines because they provide a temperature advantage over metals (by 200-300°F) in hot-section components. Cooled CMC structures are also being studied for hypersonic and rocket propulsion.
In addition, researchers are looking to increase the power density of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs). One avenue being pursued to achieve this goal is the microstructural engineering of porous ceramic materials through processing innovations.
Shyne identified five emerging trends for advanced materials and technologies:
- Additive manufacturing
- Integrated computational materials engineering
- Use of big data analytics
- Engineering of microstructures at the atomic level
Edwards tackled the topic of the skills gap during her presentation, noting an Adecco survey that indicated employers believe that soft skills (e.g., interpersonal skills, problem solving, critical/creative thinking) are most lacking in the workforce. Insufficient technical skills were ranked second in the survey. Factors contributing to the skills gap include: an aging workforce, automation and new technologies that change the required skills, reduced training programs and budget deficits, a declining interest in manufacturing as a career, and generational attitudes about work.
She stressed the need for a new concept in education and employment that focuses less on a straight track from one degree to one job and more on stackable credentials that can be chosen and built upon in order to navigate a career. Such a system requires buy-in from both academia and industry, which both need to engage each other collectively in order to find success.
Conference and Networking Opportunities
Attendees also had the opportunity to attend the Conference @ Ceramics Expo, a series of sessions focusing on two tracks: Ceramic and Glass Applications, and Ceramic and Glass Manufacturing. Speakers came from all along the ceramic industry supply chain, as well as academia and end-use applications.
The conference featured discussions ranging from CMCs and thermal ceramics to additive manufacturing and nanoparticle commercialization. Specific topics in the Ceramic and Glass Applications track included:
- Advanced Ceramics and Glass for Energy Harvesting and Storage
- Thermal Ceramics: Material Performance in Extreme Environments
- Leveraging Dielectric Properties of Advanced Ceramics for Automotive Engine Components
- Industry 4.0—Additive Manufacturing Applications
- Examining Next-Generation Refractory Materials
- Evaluating Optical Properties of Advanced Ceramic and Glass Materials
- Identifying Ceramic Coating Applications
- Examining the Applications for Bioceramic and Bioglass Materials
- Outlining the Applications of Advanced Ceramics in Medical Devices
Ceramic and Glass Manufacturing track topics included:
- Developing the Supply Chain of Ceramic Matrix Composites
- Corporate Citizenship: Solutions for Sustainable Supply Chain Management
- Testing, Analytics and Quality Assurance—Destructive vs. Non-Destructive Testing
- Managing the Supply Chain from Product Development to Volume Manufacturing
- Reviewing Near-Net Shaping Technologies: Injection Molding, Pressing and Precision Glass Molding
- Exploring Additive Manufacturing Technologies
- Enabling Commercialization of Nanoparticles
- Evaluating High-Temperature Manufacturing Techniques
- Overcoming Smart/Functional Glass Manufacturing Challenges
Two networking receptions, complete with food and drink, were held on the exhibit floor during the event. GeoCorp Inc. sponsored Tuesday’s reception, while CoorsTek sponsored the reception on Wednesday. CoorsTek’s reception provided attendees with the opportunity to ride on the I-X Center’s 125-ft indoor ferris wheel, the top of which extends outside and above the roof of the facility in a glass enclosure. The ride was particularly appropriate for this event, since the sky’s the limit when it comes to the future of the ceramic industry.
Ceramics Expo 2017 will be held April 25-27 at the I-X Center in Cleveland. For additional information, visit www.ceramicsexpousa.com.
Selfies with Ci Winner
Congratulations to Allyson Ellegood, abrasives product engineer with Sunnen Products Co., who won our Selfies with Ci booth contest! Allyson took a selfie in our booth and posted it to our Ceramics Expo 2016 event page. Thanks for participating, Allyson! Your $50 American Express gift card is headed your way.