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Ceramic Powders are a Critical Part of the Industry Value Chain
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Fabrication of technical ceramics is a complex multi-stage process. Whilst there are other ways to produce finished parts, sintering of ceramic powder remains the dominant process. In most cases, the powder producer and part fabricator are distinct, so powder producers are a critical part of the overall industry value chain. Often, the fabrication of finished parts receives most attention, and the critical role played by powder preparation can be overlooked. This study by Frost & Sullivan addresses that issue, by quantifying the growth potential in the technical ceramics market for powder producers. The focus of this global analysis on technical ceramics is to quantify the growth opportunities for each powder chemistry. The key chemistries included are: alumina, zirconia, silicon carbide, silicon nitride (including SiAlONs) and boron-based ceramics (boron carbide and boron nitride). Other oxide ceramics include mixed oxides such as forsterite. Other non-oxide ceramics includes materials such as aluminium nitride.As is the case for many other materials, the efficient use of natural resources is becoming an increasingly important concern. This has been highlighted in recent years by supply issues for materials such as zircon and even for pure silica sand.The efficient use of resources is developing in many ways in the technical ceramics industry. One is the development of additive manufacturing, which reduces waste by removing the need for machining of the final part. Another is the exploration of new sources of raw materials. Several innovative projects are underway to extract ceramic raw materials from the waste streams of other industries.A feature of many ceramic powders is that, even within a single product type (alumina or silicon carbide for example), there is a very wide range of grades available. The price difference between the most commoditised grades, and the most speciality grades, can be more than 1:20. Growth in demand for the most high-end grades therefore has a disproportionately large effect on revenue growth. Defining what is a technical ceramic application, and what is not, can vary from one company to another. For example some companies are more likely than others to include certain refractory materials, such as kiln furniture, within "technical ceramics." The study states which of these markets is included within scope for each material.Technical ceramics are used in a wide range of applications. The main markets include electrical equipment, industrial machinery, automotive, oil gas & chemicals, the energy industry, and medical devices & implants.Author: Brian Balmer
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