CeraNova’s engineers apply their processing expertise to create products for demanding applications that require stringent specifications. Significant performance advantages are realized through our proprietary methods for producing products with controlled microstructures, including very fine-grained ceramics. Tailored microstructures can be designed to provide, for example, high-strength and high-hardness, controlled porosity, or aligned grains. Providing fine-grained, high-purity transparent ceramics with excellent transmission in the visible and mid-wave infrared spectrum is a particular specialty at CeraNova.
CeraNova’s facility in Marlborough houses laboratories and manufacturing space containing specialized equipment for materials development and pilot-scale production.
CeraNova’s engineering staff utilizes state of the art nano-powder processing methods to produce ceramics with unique properties that were not previously possible. CeraNova maintains conventional powder processing and handling capabilities for powders with submicron and nanometer size particles. This includes ambient environment and controlled atmosphere handling/processing of powders.
CeraNova uses a number of techniques to blend the compositions necessary to address customer’s needs. From simple screening and roller milling methods to high-energy milling, CeraNova has a process that produces the perfect rheological feedstock for each forming process. Compounding of plastic and ceramic combinations for extrusion or injection molding employs a precision temperature and torque-controlled, high-sheer blender.
CeraNova’s ability to shape highly uniform “green” bodies is a key factor in producing high-density materials with controlled microstructures and essentially no internal defects. We employ a number of forming methods including molding, pressing, and extrusion, many which involve proprietary techniques for effectively processing nano-powders. CeraNova’s skilled staff has experience with colloidal casting, pressure casting, and vacuum casting, as well as conventional slurry casting. Our proprietary forming techniques enable near-net shape forming, which reduces the time and cost of post-processing steps and produces parts with precision shapes, dimensions, and surface finish. In addition, our staff has significant experience with 3D printing of ceramics to produce parts with high surface area and complex geometries.
Ceramic forming equipment includes a uniaxial press, a single-screw extruder, centrifuges, and a lab-scale tape caster. A controlled-environment chamber is employed for handling and drying of formed parts.
CeraNova maintains several laboratory, pilot, and production scale furnaces for low-temperature thermal treatment, high-temperature densification, and post-processing annealing. Furnaces are equipped for controlled-thermal profiles and for controlled-atmosphere operation including thermal treatment in air, inert, reducing, oxygen, and hydrogen atmospheres.
High-temperature and controlled-atmosphere furnaces at CeraNova include:
• A 3-zone tube furnace capable of 1700°C in controlled atmospheres with a 3.5” diameter x 20” long hot zone.
• W-mesh furnaces equipped for sintering in H2 (to 1650°C) or high vacuum (10-6 to 1800°C) with chamber size 10” diameter x 20” high.
• A large top-hat furnace with a 16” x 16” x 16” chamber capable of 1650°C.
Smaller furnaces (box and tube type) and ovens are used for many operations such as drying, air and controlled-atmosphere sintering, and annealing.
A National Instruments/LabView™/Field Point data acquisition system is in use and is available for both process monitoring and characterization measurements.
CeraNova continues to expand and augment our optical fabrication (grinding and polishing) capabilities and facilities. In-house capabilities have been established to confirm fabrication processes and to determine cost-effective grinding and polishing operations for optical materials prior to manufacturing. Processes to grind and polish several ceramic materials into hemispherical and aspheric shapes are being implemented using CeraNova’s CNC equipment and customized fixtures/tooling.
Fabrication equipment used to produce plano and curved shapes (both spherical and non-spherical) includes a CNC eSX 150 grinder and a CNC UltraForm Finisher (OptiPro Systems). The 5-axis eSX excels at multi-step deterministic grinding, and is capable of precision contour grinding of aspheres (concave and convex), cylinders, prisms, and conformal optics. The UltraForm Finisher (UFF) is a 5-axis CNC finishing and polishing machine, which utilizes bound abrasive and loose abrasive belt technology. It is designed to deliver high-precision optical surfaces such as spheres, aspheres, cylinders, toroids, and conformal optics. Additional fabrication equipment at CeraNova includes spherical polishers and a variety of manual and semi-automatic spindles that provide the ability to grind, fine, or polish plane or curved optics up to 20+ inches in diameter.