Potential Strengths and Limitations of Ceramic Tools

11 June 2020

Ceramic tools have come to our aid in more ways than one over the years. Studies show that cutting tools made of advanced ceramics are very capable of providing a fast and efficient machining even on difficult to process materials. There are several factors that make them one of the best tools in the machining industry. Among those are the abundance and cheapness of sourcing the raw materials for ceramic tools. Aside from that, it does not use strategic materials in its manufacturing. But, of course, like any other equipment – ceramic tools have their downside too. Below are the potential strengths and limitations of ceramic tools.

Ceramic Tool Development

As mentioned above, ceramic tools are capable of wide range and high-speed finishing operations. Such improvements are a by-product of the structural ceramics technology for automotive gas turbine and other high-temperature structural applications. As such, ceramics such as alumina and silicon nitride have significantly improved in its efficiency. Aside from that, other ceramic tool materials include the super-abrasives, namely, the single crystal and polycrystalline diamond and the polycrystalline cubic boron nitride (CBN) have also increased its productivity.

Ceramic Tools Potential Strengths

The strengths of this particular equipment are categorised into four parts – speed, removal rate, machining and accuracy. Ceramic tools operate in a high-speed rate with > 15 m/s or 1000 ft/min  finish-machining of many hard and difficult-to-machine materials. Their removal rate is up to several thousand cm3/min with high-horsepower and high-rigidity. Aside from that, they are also capable of machining extremely difficult-to-machine materials such as hardened steels, alloy and white cast irons, and nickel-base superalloys. Lastly, they produce superior finish and accuracy of parts. This potential exists because ceramics have the following characteristics: high room temperature and elevated temperature hardness; high strength in compression; good chemical stability up to high temperatures.

Ceramic Tools Potential Limitations

Like any other equipment, ceramic tools also have its limitations. Experts say that ceramic tools have lower transverse rupture strength (TRS), lower edge strength, lower fracture toughness, greater proneness to chipping, both micro- and macro-, and even gross chipping, high processing and finishing costs of the ceramic cutting tools, even though raw materials are relatively inexpensive. However, you can significantly reduce the high processing and finishing costs of ceramic tools when you aid it with latest technological advances. But the thing is, it would offer another set of limitations such as – lack of amenability to forming complex shapes in some cases, lack of consistency of the product and of predictability in performance, proneness to notching at the depth-of-cut line and at the point at which the tool edge leaves the finish surface, abrupt ending of tool life without prior warning – compared to gradual tool wear at the end of tool life in the case of carbide tools, more limited scope for machining of a variety of work materials, or for use in different machining operations, competition among ceramic tools and consequent replacement of one for another and need for high-power, high-speed, rigid machine tools.

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