Understanding the Important Factors on the Precision Grinding of Advanced Ceramics

09 October 2019

Advanced ceramic parts have found their way into every industrial application. Commercial usage instances are also high up on the ceramics candidacy ladder, too. They’re made from rigid, extraordinarily heat-resistant silicon carbide or stabilized zirconia. Wear-resistant alumina ceramics are also popular, with their electrical insulating features garnering much attention. Clearly application-advantageous across a considerable number of industrial and commercial applications, advanced ceramic parts can’t satisfy their roles if they’re not accurately formed.

Form-Fitted Ceramic Engineering

Just like any machined metal component, ceramic parts are formed so that they satisfy the highest engineering standards. They’re imbued with perfectly cut dimensions, which are geometrically profiled to meet high-tolerance machining thresholds. Just like that equivalent metal component, advanced ceramic parts can’t hope to satisfy these stringent engineering standards unless they’re worked on by high-performance tooling setups.

Adopting a High-Precision Tooling Format

Worked upon by an error-prone machine shop, cracks and chips crop up in the process workflow. The grinding equipment can’t work a zirconia hardened workpiece, or the polishing station imparts a nasty, grainy finish. With that coarse surface left in place after the post-processing work is done, a pump seal or insulating washer doesn’t properly slip into place and lock. Well, precision grinding services cannot endorse such shoddy operations. The dimensions imparted to any machine seal or washer must satisfy lofty engineering tolerances. We’re talking about a number of zeros to the right of a decimal point, about a value that’s so small that it can’t be visually confirmed. To be sure, with advanced ceramic specs on-the-line, in-shop inspection instruments soon confirm those stringently enforced dimensional thresholds.

CNC Milling and Core Drilling Services

At heart, this is a delicate multi-step grinding process. With a prototype approved by a client, the alumina or zirconia component is coarsely formed by a CNC milling station. Its basic outlines are established. From here, a second tool adds fine details. The rough dimensional profile gains high-precision geometry so that the finished part will slide against a mating surface without leaving any amount of play. Conversely, it won’t fail because of a tight fit. With these dimensional parameters confirmed, the final polishing operation is performed. This work takes place along external surfaces, then it smooths and polishes every internal surface and corner, too.

Application-wise, advanced ceramic parts can be found pretty much everywhere. They have high dielectric ratings, so they’re used as electrical insulation. Alumina components are wear-resistant, so expect to find highly-precise examples of them in pump seals and shaft washers. Corrosion and heat-immune alumina and zirconia parts, be they small or large, are also found as engine pistons, conveyor spools, and drive bushes. Highly functional and power-efficient, these kinds of components can’t do their job unless they’re formed to meet some of the toughest dimensional standards known to engineering science.

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