It's a Wrap: Industry Enjoys another Successful Ceramics Expo
The third annual Ceramics Expo provided thousands of attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest trends and technologies in the ceramic industry.
Ceramics Expo 2017 drew thousands of attendees from over 1,600 companies and 33 different countries to the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 25-27. The third annual event provided attendees the opportunity to learn about the latest trends and technologies in the ceramic industry while reconnecting with old friends and building new business relationships. In addition, the 300+ exhibitors were able to generate more than 6,200 leads during the free-to-attend event, making the third annual Ceramics Expo not only well-organized and enjoyable, but an overall success as well.
Ceramics Expo kicked off Tuesday morning with an opening address from Mark Zupan, president of Alfred University. Zupan also moderated the plenary session, which was titled “Forecasting Key Ceramic Markets to Understand Industry Trends.” The goal of the session was for leaders in the industry to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges that they are encountering in their respective markets.
Doug Freitag, technical director of the United States Advanced Ceramics Association (USACA), discussed the association’s next-generation ceramic matrix composite roadmap. He noted that major market changes in some of the end-use industries for CMCs, such as solar energy, aviation, transportation, gas turbines, etc., are driving the need for new technologies, as well as federal policies and funding.
Freitag shared that North America is the largest and fastest-growing regional market for CMCs, while aerospace represents the largest end-use sector. Though the number of small businesses that produce CMCs is declining due to acquisitions and consolidation, competition is increasing globally as a result of the success seen in the U.S. market. Freitag noted several challenges facing CMCs, including:
- Part cost—industry needs to continue to work to increase efficiencies in order to keep costs down
- Workforce—personnel who have developed CMC technologies are retiring, leaving a vacuum
- Supply chain—certain supply chains (or parts of supply chains) are fragile
According to panelist Richard Clark, who serves as senior technical specialist with Morgan Advanced Materials, the need for higher temperatures is driving multiple advancements for ceramic materials technologies. Clark highlighted the importance of thermal conductivity, which is a vital property for many applications. He noted that cubic boron arsenide and graphene represent areas of interest at the high end of the thermal conductivity range. These materials are finding utility in microelectronics packaging, laser/photonics and aerospace/defense applications.
On the low end of the thermal conductivity range, materials such as silica aerogel, graphene aerogel and silica-based microporous materials are under study. Potential applications for these materials include, among others, aerospace and gas turbines.
Bioactive glass was the topic of discussion for Ted Day, CEO of Mo-Sci Corp. Interestingly, Day shared that bioactive glass was first developed in the late 1960s/early 1970s to help treat soldiers returning home from the Vietnam War. He also highlighted the requirements of a successful bioactive glass, including biocompatibility, degradability, and the ability to bond to living tissue (both hard and soft). Silicate-, borate- or phosphate-based bioactive glasses have been developed, but phosphate-based products are not yet commercially available.
According to Day, bioactive glasses represent 50% of the orthopedic materials market in the U.S., 10% in Japan, 6% in Germany, 12% in other Europe, and 22% in the rest of the world. Issues related to product development include:
- IP landscape
- Desired clinical outcome and what product can meet those requirements
- Cost-prohibitive nature of highly refined products
- Compositional tolerance
- Processing size
- Final testing requirements
Chuck Miller, president of Harper International, rounded out the plenary session with a discussion of the commercialization process. He highlighted the oftentimes considerable timeline that has been experienced by some materials, including graphene, carbon fiber, and optical fiber, between their invention and successful commercial availability. According to Miller, important objectives in thermal processing scale-up include:
- Defining the process window
- Reducing/eliminating risks
- Validating data
- Developing safe processes and meeting environmental regulations
- Modeling and validating in industrial conditions
Ceramics Expo organizers work diligently to develop interesting and appropriate topics for the Conference @ Ceramics Expo. “The conference program is compiled through the research that we do with our target audience,” says Fleur Jonker, conference producer. “This will then form the structure of the research phase, which focuses on delving deeper into each subject: identifying the different challenges, trends and opportunities, but also which perspectives should be included to really round out each session. By tailoring the agenda to their interest, we hope to create a conference that is relevant and current to the industry.”
As in past years, the conference was organized in two tracks, which ran simultaneously during the event. Topics ranged from “Developing Industry Standards for CMCs” and “Developing Additive Manufacturing Applications for Ceramic Parts” to “Designing Complex Small Parts for High-Volume Ceramic Injection Molding (CIM) and Dry Pressing” and “Examining End-User Requirements of Ceramics for Medical Applications,” to name just a very few.
I was fortunate to be able to pop in and listen to a number of the conference sessions. On Tuesday, Melanie Kuhn, Ph.D., R&D group leader for Saint-Gobain Innovative Materials, discussed “Oxidation-Resistant High-Temperature Ceramic Coatings for SiC” during a session focused on “Evaluating Design Approach for Reliable Ceramic Coatings,” which was moderated by CI columnist J. Douglas Jeter, principal of Verity Technical Consultants LLC. As part of her session, Kuhn discussed protective, functional and environmental/thermal barrier coatings.
During Wednesday afternoon’s presentation on “Current Refractory Technology and Practices in the Steel Industry,” Rakesh K. Dhaka, senior research engineer (refractories) for United States Steel Corp., shared that refractories materials represent approximately 2-3% of the cost of steel production. He indicated that properties such as reduced lead times and ease of installation make monolithics generally preferred over brick for refractory linings. Dhaka also shared that rapidly evolving refractories technologies are driving the need for increased collaboration between academia, manufacturers and end users.
Thursday brought a presentation by Daniel Marinha, Ph.D., research engineer with Saint-Gobain CREE, who offered “A Perspective on Flash Sintering.” According to Marinha, flash sintering can provide energy savings for the production of porous/non-technical ceramics that are generally flat shapes or multilayered. Limitations include scalability, difficulties with complex shapes, and limited microstructural control. However, Marinha concluded that flash sintering provides microstructural evolution and electrical behavior that is similar to conventional sintering.
Alicia Walters, product manager with Engis Corp., detailed multiple factors that should be considered when finishing thin ceramic substrates during a talk entitled “Introducing Finishing Methods for Precision Ceramics” on Thursday afternoon. As discussed by Walters, properties such as hardness that make thin ceramics attractive for applications such as microelectronics, energy storage, and aerospace and defense can also make processing difficult. Multiple processes are available, including fine grinding and lapping/polishing, depending on the ceramic material and the finished requirements.
Closing out the Conference @ Ceramics Expo in Track 2 was Jamil Clarke of Hitachi High Technologies America, Inc., who discussed “Advanced Preparation of Powders by Broad Ion Beam Milling.” He highlighted factors that should be considered when determining the best particle size analysis method for a particular application, such as solubility, ease of handling, toxicity, cost, and more. He also detailed several advantages of electron microscopy, including absolute particle size measurement, improved depth of focus, automation, and micron and submicron capabilities.
Supplier of the Year
I was excited to announce the winner of the 2017 Ceramic Industry Supplier of the Year Award live at the show on Wednesday afternoon. We accepted nominations for the award from November 2016 to March 2017. Our readers rated their nominees on a four-point scale (“below average,” “average,” “above average” and “excellent”) in 12 categories: product quality, product range, ordering process, on-time delivery, order accuracy, friendly customer service, efficient customer service, problem resolution, customer education, innovation, eco-friendliness and overall experience. Any additional comments provided by the nominators were also taken into consideration to determine the winner.
The 2017 Ceramic Industry Supplier of the Year was Saint-Gobain, and company representatives Corinne Dathy, Mike Arbini, and Natesh Krishnan were on hand to receive the award. “This is a testament to the quality and the value that we supply to our customers, and we pride ourselves in that,” said Krishnan. “We have been around for 351 years now, and every day we are innovating, coming up with new products, and really seeing how we can solve our customers’ problems. We are very happy to receive this award. Truly it’s part of a team effort and a reflection of what the team has accomplished over the years.”
Ceramics Expo 2018 will be held May 1-3 in Cleveland, Ohio. For additional details, visit www.ceramicsexpousa.com.