Aluminum oxide ceramic is the most readily available technical ceramic in terms of physical size and also pure aluminum oxide content. Aluminum oxide, commonly known as Alumina, should be the first ceramic to investigate when a designer is considering ceramics as a replacement for current metal applications or where environment precludes metals due to extreme temperature or electrical or chemicals or critical wear. The as-fired material cost is not particularly expensive, but if precision tolerances are desired, diamond grinding and polishing are necessary and these can add considerable cost making the individual part more expensive than a metal part. The savings can come from extended life cycle, or reduced system down time for repair/replacement. Of course, some designs simply cannot function at all if relying on metals due to the application environment or requirements.
All ceramics tend to be more brittle than most metals, and this must also be considered by the designer. Should Alumina prove susceptible to chipping or fracture in application, an excellent alternate to investigate would be Zirconium oxide ceramic, commonly known as Zirconia, which is also extremely hard and wear resistant. Due to its unique tetragonal crystal structure in typical 3% blends with Yttria, Zirconia is exceptionally resistant to impact. Coupled with its fine grain size, Zirconia allows fabricators to successfully achieve fine features and sharp edges that stand up to rough handling. The two common grades of Zirconia are YTZP (Yttria blend) and MgO-PSZ (Magnesium blend).
Both raw materials have been approved for some medical and in-body applications as well as for a host of industrial applications. Insaco works with producers of both materials and is therefore able to recommend potential raw material sources for the designer to specify. Our expertise in precision fabrication with full QC documentation and material traceability appeals to the designer of ceramic parts for medical, aerospace, semiconductor, instrumentation and industrial applications.