The project team has developed industrially viable nanocomposite ceramic processing to a situation where it has been possible to establish that cutting tool materials based on the concept of ceramic nanocomposites have some distinct advantages over existing commercial types of ceramic tooling. By focusing on the existing markets for ceramic cutting tools and economic processing methods, the project team has established windows of feasibility of preparation and handling of very fine powders, and the manufacturing of cutting tools from them. Insert-type cutting tools of various standard geometries have been prepared and used in cutting trials on an instrumented machining centre in a research laboratory and on production lines in the factories of several end users. Examples of considerable increases in productivity in terms of the number of components machined per tool edge have been demonstrated. The cost of manufacturing and processing such powders into ceramic cutting tools means that production is economically feasible for a European market penetration level of 10% (0.5 M pieces per year), in terms of the estimated cost per tool relative to the potential selling price in the current marketplace in competition with existing tooling.
There is an increasing need to supercede tungsten carbide based tooling for machining because of performance limitations at the ever increasing temperatures generated at the cutting tip. Ceramics show advantages over tungsten carbide in certain cutting operations, but they lack the strength and toughness required for reliability in a wider range of tasks. The potential for further development of ceramic materials through nanoscale reinforcement has been demonstrated in Japan, but as yet there is no industrial scale technology available.
A vertically integrated project is proposed aimed at developing ceramic nanocomposites as the next generation of cutting tool materials. The partners include a powder manufacturer, a ceramic processor, a finisher/tool supplier, and a potential user, supported by research expertise in three institutes an a university.
The project will:
A. Develop means of preparing quantities of special new powders and powder mixtures based on Al2O3 and Si3N4 matrices with hard particulate reinforcement needed to fabricate nanocomposite structures;
B. Develop knowledge for handling and pressing powders for production of ceramic parts;
C. Develop appropriate sintering and finishing technology;
D. Undertake cutting trials in the laboratory and in industry to define performance in comparison with existing materials;
E. Assess costs and benefits of using nanocomposite tooling.
An integral part will be the assessment of microstructure and properties of powders and ceramics during their development to direct the optimisation of processing parameters.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
10043 Orbassano Torino
00044 Frascati (Rome)
15062 Bosco Marengo (Al)
TW11 0LW Teddington