Near Net Shape Manufacturing of Advanced Ceramics

Published - Jan 2002| Analyst - Laurel Sheppard| Code - AVM024B
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Report Highlights

REPORT HIGHLIGHTS

  • The U.S. market for ceramic near net shape processed products is estimated to be $2.4 billion in 2001.
  • In 2006, the ceramic near net shape product market is forecast to be $3.1 billion, rising at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 5.3%.
  • The degree of growth depends on whether advanced ceramics are chosen for new technologies or to replace other materials, and whether current makers change to near net shape methods.
  • Functional applications represent 65% of the market. As the segment grows more slowly on the whole, this will drop to 63% in 2006.
  • Chemical applications will rise at an AAGR of 6.9% through the period.

INTRODUCTION

Near net shape processing achieves the final dimensions of a desired shape with minimal machining. Such processing can reduce significantly the manufacturing costs of ceramic components, since traditionally, advanced ceramics have been machined from a fired or prefired (green) blank to the final desired shape. Machining costs, sometimes as much as 75% of the total manufacturing cost (typically, expensive diamond wheels are used), become prohibitively expensive with more complex shapes.

In the area of structural ceramics, increasing use of high-hardness ceramics such as alumina, zirconia, carbides, nitrides, and borides adds to the difficulty and expense of machining. In addition to cost, machining has several other disadvantages. As the wheel wears, it becomes more difficult to maintain dimensional tolerances. Microfractures also are generated during grinding. These are difficult to remove and can cause failure of the part during service. In electronics, the other area of advanced ceramics, near net shape methods are of increasing interest for items such as complex-shaped insulators and ceramic electronic packaging shapes.

In the last decade, the advanced ceramics (especially structural) has been negatively impacted by the following trends: consolidation in the industry and in many of the users' industries, cutbacks in federal R&D funding, and the lack of progress in reducing manufacturing costs. Consequently, advances in near net shape processing also have slowed and the market for advanced ceramic applications has not expanded as much as expected. Although new processes have been developed, many of them still have not been fully commercialized.

Ceramic near net shape processing techniques include:

  • injection molding
  • gelcasting
  • directed metal oxidation process (also known as the Lanxide process)
  • cold and hot isostatic pressing
  • hot pressing
  • extrusion
  • superplastic forming.

Of these, injection molding, cold and hot isostatic pressing and extrusion are well-established manufacturing processes. Injection molding was adapted from the same technique used in the plastics industry for many years and therefore, has the advantage of a base of industrial knowledge. Cold isostatic pressing (CIP) is widely accepted because many of the first mass-produced advanced ceramics were manufactured using this method. Many CIPed parts are machined in the unfired state, otherwise known as green machining.

Extrusion has long been a method for manufacturing traditional ceramics, and has easily been adapted to advanced ceramics for certain shapes. Slip casting is another traditional method that has been adapted for advanced ceramic components. The Lanxide process, hot isostatic pressing, gelcasting, superplastic forming, and a number of other methods have found some success in manufacturing processes.

Rapid prototyping is another technology that can produce complex shapes in small volumes or one-of-a-kind. Originally developed for the plastics industry, rapid prototyping has been modified for ceramic materials either by adapting existing equipment or by developing entirely new processes. Rapid prototyping, also known as layered manufacturing, builds a part layer by layer based on a CAD file. Thus, designs can be tested without the need for tooling expenses.

Growth in near net shape technologies will be closely tied to growth of applications that use them and their markets. Some of these applications will have higher growth than others, depending on how mature their markets are. Development of other novel near net shape processes will continue, and whether they will reach commercialization will depend on a number of technological and economic factors.

STUDY GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

This BCC report updates GB-163, a study previously published in 1995. Since that report was published, much has changed in the advanced ceramics market and new near net shape methods have been developed. Some of these methods show promise as viable methods for producing advanced ceramics. The markets for components manufactured by near net shape processing will depend on demand for their end use applications and economics of the processing methods. Some of these end-use applications are in mature industries, where growth will be much slower compared to newer industries.

This report has been prepared with the following objectives:

  • provide an overview of the various ceramic near net shape techniques
  • identify the technological and issues related to near net shape techniques
  • understand the competition between near net shape techniques and other advanced ceramic-forming methods
  • determine the current size and future growth of markets for near net shape advanced ceramics
  • identify and profile U.S. producers of advanced ceramic near net shape materials
  • provide a summary of foreign competition and report_highlights major foreign companies.

CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE STUDY

BCC's technical/economic study covers the markets, current and emerging production methods, current and emerging applications and provides a market analysis. Current size of the markets is estimated for 2000 and 2001 and forecast for 2006.

SCOPE AND FORMAT

For ceramic near net shape processing methods, this report provides an overview and analysis of the technology, materials produced, new developments, recent important patents and U.S. markets. Foreign competition also is discussed.

The qualitative and quantitative judgments made in this report are a valuable contribution to current knowledge of ceramic near net shape processing technologies and the markets for ceramics fabricated by these technologies. Moreover, this study was conducted at a critical stage, i.e., where the advanced ceramics industry underwent major consolidation and what the impact of this will have on near net shape processes and their relevant markets.

METHODOLOGY AND INFORMATION SOURCES

The findings of this report are based on interviews with developers and users of ceramic near net shape processing, equipment manufacturers and industry experts. Additionally, a number of end users were contacted and asked to evaluate current and future demands for these materials.

Secondary data were obtained from industry associations such as the American Ceramic Society and the American Association of Ceramic Component Manufacturers; trade publications; technical journals; corporate annual reports; the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Census); the U.S. Patent and IBM Databases; and Ceramic Abstract computer searches. An Internet search also was conducted to gather additional data on companies and other organizations involved in near net shape processing.

WHO SHOULD SUBSCRIBE

This report is directed to the various levels of companies involved in developments in this field, such as:

  • companies involved in the development, manufacture, and supply of advanced ceramic materials and components
  • companies interested in the use of advanced ceramics in their products
  • heat engine manufacturers
  • aerospace companies
  • automobile and diesel engine manufacturers
  • electronics manufacturers
  • advanced materials companies interested in diversification
  • financial organizations considering capitalizing or conducting financial analyses on materials companies.

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