When we speak about ceramics in our business we are not speaking about your coffee cup style of ceramic. The term is very broadly used and in our business it is related to powder technology that is sintered and can be in various forms. When based with metals they are commonly referred to as MMC’s (metal matrix composites) and in pure form as silicon carbides and silicon nitrides.
Our initial use of ceramics is used in mechanical components related to engines. In our RTU technology, we incorporate MMC’s at this point and will evolve to eventually using ceramics in more than 80% of the engine component materials.
The hold back in this materials technology has been the ability to produce product repetitively without the fear of material failure and the amount of scrap in order to produce good samples. Since it is non-metallic, ceramics cannot be magna-fluxed, x-rayed or crack tested in any matter and there is no true QA process available. As a result, the cost per piece is much higher than stainless steel and even titanium.
By incorporating a LWS (light wave sensor), designed by us for the spot welding industry a few years ago, we now have the capability to qualify this type of product during the forming process so that the scrap rate is reduced to nothing at all. What this means is that an exhaust valve that would be produced in silicon nitride would cost fragment of price versus what they cost today. According to this, a typical RTU valve could be more than competitive as compared to a titanium valve costing or even to a stainless steel one.
The benefits of ceramic components, as they relate to engines, are that the components can be produced in finished dimension. That is, there is no machining required once the component is produced. Ceramic is a non conductor and therefore will not transfer heat or current. Due to its near frictionless quality, lubricity is not an issue and in most cases requires little or no lubrication. Its wear qualities as far more superior than any other material that we know of. Ceramics could very well replace metal as the most commonly used material for any manufactured product. Since the base components are available throughout the world in endless quantities, it could very well become intrusive technology.
- no material failure
- LWS (Light Wave Sensor) reduces scrap rate to virtually nothing
- non-conductor and therefore will not transfer heat or current
- frictionless quality, lubricity is not an issue and in most cases requires little or no lubrication
- cannot be magna-fluxed or x-rayed
- lower production cost
- produced in finished dimension
- ceramics could very well replace metal