Metrosil, manufacturer of globally recognised silicon carbide-based ceramic varistors, recently hosted Dr. Laura Cohen, Chief Executive of the British Ceramic Confederation. Dr. Cohen toured the manufacturing facilities and met the team at M&I Materials, where Metrosil is one of four advanced material streams within this private, export-led company.
M&I Materials’ Technical Director, Dr. Amanda Quadling, who recently joined the BCC Board, was keen to point out the manufacturing enhancements now possible with the latest developments in ceramic science:
“As a voltage-dependant resistor, Metrosil has been used for over half a century as the surge protectors of choice in the world’s largest hydropower generator plants, in relays and in current transformers, but successful businesses constantly reinvent their products and processes. We were eager to tap into smarter manufacturing concepts such as Master Sintering Curves (MSC), which lead to precise inter-batch process control and therefore more energy efficient production in line with our environmental policy.”
Master Sintering Curves apply basic principles of thermodynamics to normalise the impact of different time and temperature regimes in sintering furnaces, to achieve constant levels of ceramic density. The work was carried out at the University of Sheffield, utilising Impact Acceleration (matched) funding from the University of Sheffield’s Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (IIKE) fund.
In tandem, an Innovation Voucher from Manchester’s GC Growth Hub has enabled establishment of a new manufacturing quality control loop via ceramic-phase analysis developed at Manchester Metropolitan University. Ratio methods, applied to X-ray diffraction data, now provide dynamic feedback on ceramic composition when sintering temperatures in the manufacturing process hover close to phase boundaries.
Dr. Cohen concluded her visit to the Trafford Park site saying,
“We’re delighted to welcome Dr. Amanda Quadling to our Board. We value her strong background in research and technology. M&I Materials joined BCC last year and since then have been strongly engaged in our activities on innovation and energy. It’s been fascinating seeing how cutting edge materials science has been improving both products and manufacturing processes.”