Ceramic Industry

INSIDE CI: Controlled Chaos

April 1, 2008
The monthly roundup from Editor-in-Chief Susan Sutton.

I’ve been having nightmares lately. The plot is different in each one, though the theme seems to be much the same. I’m late and I need to get to the airport fast, but the car I’m in (which is driving itself) is confused and keeps getting lost. Or I’m on a deadline and I need to go upstairs to accomplish something important. Unfortunately, the stairs go straight up to the ceiling and I can’t figure out how to make them reach the next floor.

I don’t typically spend too much time analyzing my dreams. I’ve never consulted a dream book, for instance, or kept a dream diary. Luckily, the meaning of these nightmares seems pretty clear, even to me. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I generally like being active and having a lot going on, but it’s been getting a bit out of hand. I haven’t had a free evening in weeks, and the weekends have been booked solid. In fact, I’ve been doing so much running around that I don’t feel like I’m actually accomplishing anything.

Life in a manufacturing plant can certainly seem chaotic, especially since a multitude of machinery is often running simultaneously. To an outsider, the noise and pandemonium might seem overwhelming and even unmanageable. I’m continually impressed by manufacturers’ ability to harness so many different materials, components and processes to create high-quality end products.

Materials handling and powder processing systems certainly help on that score. Vibratory screen separators, for example, can quickly and easily help manufacturers keep their raw materials within specifications. In addition, understanding how the separator’s vibratory motion affects its performance can help manufacturers optimize results (see "Optimizing Vibratory Screen Separator Performance").

Another example is aero-mechanical conveyors, which are enclosed mechanical conveyors that can transport up to 120 tons per hour of powders, granules, pellets or flakes to distances of up to 60 ft. These conveyors can move product vertically, horizontally or at angles from 0º to 90º, and they offer total batch transfer and dust-free operation. See "Aero-Mechanical Conveying" for more information.

Ceramic fuel cells have the potential to simplify a number of applications by providing portable power in lightweight packages. Using a small tube design and powered by ordinary bottled gas, these solid oxide fuel cells can provide power for construction sites, military use or off-road/off-grid power. In addition, a new manufacturing process, which uses ceramic powder loaded with thermoplastics, offers several advantages compared to traditional fabrication methods (see "Redefining Ceramic Fuel Cells").

The sheer number of regulations that affect heavy metal limits for ceramics and glass can certainly be overwhelming, but the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators works to educate manufacturers and consumers alike. See “Understanding Heavy Metal Limits” for details regarding federal and state guidelines.

I’m going to take a cue from manufacturers and realize that-with clearly outlined goals and efficient organization-just about anything can be managed. I just need to simplify, evaluate what needs to get done, and then organize my time and resources more efficiently. Sounds dreamy.