Ceramic Industry

SUPPLIER SPOTLIGHT: Precision Matters

March 1, 2008
Insaco has been active in the precision machining of ultra-hard materials for over 60 years.

The machining of this missile component required extremely tight tolerances and uniformity throughout the entire wall structure.


Manufacturers in the ceramic industry are often called upon to fabricate ceramic parts that require unusually tight machining tolerances. For over 60 years, Insaco has been active in the precision machining of ultra-hard materials, including most ceramics, sapphire and quartz.

Since these materials are machined to very precise tolerances for dimension, flatness, wedge and roundness/cylindricity, Insaco’s customers focus on applications where tight tolerances and proven measurability are critical to the end-use application. Insaco often partners with manufacturers to provide unbiased material support and value-engineering to improve manufacturability and lower costs while consistently maintaining quality levels that allow the manufacturers to focus on their customer, not their vendor.

Insaco also fabricates ceramic tooling for the improved performance that is critical in extreme environments. Insaco engineers routinely discuss practical application alternatives, including materials and cost drivers, with its customers. Since Insaco does not manufacture the materials it machines, the company can be unbiased in its material recommendations.

Case in Point

Recently, Insaco was approached by a major defense contractor to machine a critical part of its medium-range missile assembly. The 14 in. piece, made from a ceramic matrix composite, played an important role in the success of the missile guidance system. It was critical that the machining of the variable-contour piece maintain extremely tight tolerances and uniformity throughout the entire wall structure for the part to work successfully.

Insaco engineers first developed fixturing to hold the odd-shaped ceramic blank. When dealing with odd-shaped and fragile materials, conventional tooling cannot hold a tapered work piece steady enough to match the precision machining required. This case was especially challenging since the entire blank required machining both inside and out.

The ceramic piece was then measured using a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) to a uniform thickness, holding and documenting tolerances to < 25 microns throughout the contour. Insaco’s recently acquired CMM was designed for half-micron precision over its 4 ft3 working envelope. The use of the CMM to document the tight tolerances on the OD and ID of the tapered part was a critical benefit of this project. Diamond grinding ensured accurate grinding and uniformity throughout the process.

Trials of the machined piece proved 100% successful. In-house precision machining capabilities, coupled with the ability to effectively document and control the wall thickness of this piece, enabled Insaco to not only meet but exceed the client’s expectations.

Partner for Success

Insaco has the ability to precision-machine tiny ceramic or sapphire parts to a 102 x 31 x 70 in. envelope while documenting tight tolerances. The company offers an array of specialty CNC, CMM, lapping and robotic machines for a number of ultra-hard material applications.

For more information, contact Insaco at P.O. Box 9006, Quakertown, PA 18951-9006; (215) 536-3500; fax (215) 536-7750; e-mail sales@insaco.com; or visit www.insaco.com.

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