Ceramicx goes large

Ceramicx

I am very pleased to note any visitor to our new Ceramicx factory will find great difficulty in discerning the past footprint of the previous space: This has been superseded, reconfigured and elevated into two storeys in many parts. The completion of the 1800m2 expansion to our production facility has led to the ability to double capacity for manufacture.

We have set hard targets for these new facilities. The previous infrastructure succeeded in achieving an average of 15% annual growth figure through the past five years. The new facilities therefore have a high benchmark to outperform.

I am more than confident that we can do it. Wherever we find ourselves Ceramicx maintains a ‘can do’ spirit that has enabled us to export over 95% of our production to 65 countries worldwide.

The unsurpassed surroundings of West Cork and our new facilities are, of course, great assets for our business and we intend to exploit them to our fullest capability.

How Ceramicx heat work led to infrared innovation

With our varied infrared heat work in the automotive industry, I’m reminded that generic technology often needs a specific industrial setting before it can become more widespread and universal.

As a case in point, the work we carried out on our custom-built Ceramicx clam shell IR heater probably wouldn’t have taken place without prior, intensive heat work with Automotive Tier 1 supplier, Mecalbi.

Infrared innovation

The design and engineering of today’s cars contains miles of wiring and more electronics than ever. The technical term for this is ‘harnessing’, and Portugese-based company, Mecalbi, helps make plenty of it via the machines it supplies worldwide.

Founded in 2006, Mecalbi are global heat shrink specialists and produce machinery that can heat shrink thermoplastic sleeves around a variety of automotive wiring. As Mecalbi looked to perfect their heating and drying process cycles, Ceramicx stepped in to design and build a custom clamshell infrared heater that would be fitted into each machine they produce.

Harnessing the opportunity

This heat work method proved so effective for Mecalbi that Ceramicx has now gone on to design other innovative, large scale clam shell heaters/ovens which we now market under our own label.

Custom-built Ceramicx clam shell IR heater

It goes to show that by addressing one specific issue for one company, it can create an opportunity to design and market a generic industrial oven that helps many other companies in their own application processes.

Dr Cáthál Wilson

Surface heating of a post cure carbon fibre composite

Heating the surface of a post cure carbon fibre composite using various infra-red emitters.

Enquiry

A tier 1 aerospace manufacturer requested a report detailing the ability of various Ceramicx infrared emitters to heat the surface of a unique post cure carbon fibre composite. The target was to bring the top surface of the composite to 235°C in approximately 15 seconds. The epoxy resin within the composite is a thermoset plastic, therefore, should the temperature get too high it would permanently burn and deform.

Solution

As with most material tests within the C²I² test room, the initial tests were to find out which type of emitter (long, medium or short wave) was most suited to the job. At a fixed element to target distance of 100mm, it was found that the long wave ceramic elements outperformed the medium wave tungsten and the short wave halogen tubes.

Based on the results, the heating element arrangement used was 6 x 800W black SFEH elements arranged in a 3 x 2 array. Following this decision, the distance between the elements and the target material would need to be reduced in order to reach the temperature target. As 100mm was clearly too large of a distance, this was reduced to 60mm, and in turn 50mm, and the results were noted.

Result

For the heating element arrangement in question (watt density of 44.8 kN/m²), a distance of 50mm was suitable for the surface of the composite to reach the required temperature of 235°C in approximately 11 seconds, well within the time restriction of 15 seconds.

The ability of a surface to absorb thermal radiation and covert it to heat varies greatly between materials, particularly between composites. To maximise efficiency, it is crucial that the most suitable emitter for a specific material is determined before developing a project.

Full report – Post-cure carbon fibre heating with various elements

Contact Ceramicx to help find a solution to all your related heating queries – [email protected]

Patsy Bear – The Time Has Come

The Time Has Come

As some of you may have noticed over the past year, a teddy bear has been popping up now and then through blogs, videos and our Facebook page. You may find yourself wondering, who is this bear and why is he so well-travelled?

Well, today we are going to share with you, the story of Patsy Bear. A tale that begins all the way east in Guangzhou, China.

As part of a yearly tradition, Patrick Wilson our Production Manager travelled to China for Chinaplas, Asia’s no.1 plastics trade fair. He drove from Ballydehob to Dublin Airport, caught a plane and 9704 km and 15 hrs later landed in Guangzhou Airport. He took a quick trip across the city to the Guangzhou International Convention & Exhibition Center and joined our friends from GSAE on the Ceramicx stand at Chinaplas. Later that night a very sleepy Patrick went to his hotel where he had a lovely room with a big comfortable bed. It was only when he woke refreshed the next morning after a good nights sleep he realised that the Hotel had a teddy bear theme. When word got back to the office about this, teddy bears began appearing on Patricks desk, just so he would not feel out of place when he arrived home.

Cue a bit of imagination….Patrick was shortened to Patsy and the presence of one single bear stayed with the office.

For the next two months we began to place Patsy in blog pictures, videos and even gave him a social media presence.

It was not until the end of July that he came to take his bodily-form-as-we-know-it these days

  • May 2017: Patrick Wilson attends Chinaplas 2017.
  • Back in Ceramicx, children’s teddy bears are kept at Patricks desk.
  • May 2017: Patsy Bear begins life digitally.
  • June 2017: Ceramicx Summer BBQ.
  • July 2017: Trip to AGS packaging in Cork.
  • July 2017: Summer holidays on a secret island.
  • August 2017: Pasty finds his bodily form.
  • August 2017: Trip to see a leading automotive OEM in the UK.
  • September 2017: Pasty moves office into the new building extension.
  • November 2017: Trip to Birmingham for the Advanced Engineering Exhibition.
  • January 2018: Trip to Maynooth to receive Fusion Project Exemplar Award.
  • February – May 2017: With the cold weather Pasty takes to hibernation for the cold spring we had.
  • St. Patricks Day: Patsy awakes for one day to put together an infographic to explain the day to our customers not familiar with our patron saint.
  • June 2018: Back to work Patsy takes up residence on the windowsill of the marketing department office ready to enjoy a sneaky bit of sun when he can.
  • June 2018; Patsy lends a paw to the painters outside giving Ceramicx a lick of paint.
  • July 2018: Patsy enjoys a Pizza day in Ceramicx.
  • September 2018: Trip to Maynooth University for Rachel of our Marketing department’s graduation.

Patsy has popped into a few of our blog and facebook posts over the last year and a half. Can you guess how many times?

IR’s ability to respond rapidly to temperature variation

A comparison of the use of conventional heating and infra-red heating in out-of-autoclave curing of carbon fibre composites

There are currently a number of drawbacks relating to autoclave curing of carbon fibre composites. They are expensive to buy and operate, they limit component size, and slow cycle times hinder production volume. These factors among others have resulted in an increased focus on out of autoclave (OOA) methods in recent years, particularly within the aerospace industry.

The majority of OOA curing applications utilise convective heating. As the principle of a convective oven is to first heat the air, which in turn heats the composite component, difficulties arise when attempting to quickly and accurately alter the component temperature. It was proposed that these difficulties could be overcome using Infrared heating.

Ceramicx recently conducted a study to verify the benefits of using Infrared as opposed to convective heating in an OOA composite cure. The cured pieces were structurally tested post cure. The first major finding was the accuracy at which Infrared heating could maintain the desired component temperature in comparison to the convective heating, and the efficiency at which it could do this:

‘IR’s ability to respond rapidly to temperature variation ensures a greatly enhanced ability to match part temperature to intended temperature.’

Samples were then structurally tested using Dynamic Mechanical Analysis (DMA) and flexural three point bending with the aim of gathering basic information to evaluate quality. It was found that the glass transition temperature attained through DMA testing was comparable, albeit a little lower on the IR samples: This was however due to an extended cure time associated with the convective sample which only further highlights the difficult nature of control.

Flexural strength was found to be higher on the IR samples than the convective samples due to the enhanced control of resin flow in the samples which is in turn controlled by accurate application of heat.

Our aim with this analysis was to establish baseline comparisons of curing methods and what we found was that we can very accurately control the curing of carbon fibre composites using IR.

To see the full report visit – ir-heat-experiments

See here for more information on glass temperature of various materials.

Success in Shanghai for Ceramicx

As Chinaplas 2018 prepares to close its doors for another year, Ceramicx can reflect on an exhibiting job well done with much to occupy us in the coming weeks and months.

It is clear that the Chinese plastics industry becomes ever more ambitious and sophisticated with every passing year. The success of Ceramicx IR components and emitters in China has steadily grown over the past ten years. Increasingly now we are discussing heat platens, oven builds and turnkey systems.

Ceramicx is delighted to note that China intends to lead the way for manufacturing quality. Some years back I noted that in addition to being the world’s leader for manufacturing volume, China fully intends to lead global manufacturing in terms of quality and innovation.

And indeed it has become so. With such a large industrial base to draw upon, it has been inevitable that the best from China will come to be the best in the world.

Meanwhile, size and scale continue to dominate. The new exhibition space in Shanghai came up trumps, exceeding 320,000 square meters – 30% more exhibition space than the last edition of the show in Shanghai.

The new venue, the expanded facilities and an increasingly ambitious conference and seminar programme are all signs of a very confident Chinese plastics industry going forward.

Once again, post Chinaplas, we owe a very big thank you to our distributor GSAE, our agent Xu Shan and our exhibiting friends at the British Plastics Federation.

More pictures on our Facebook page.

Shanghai here we come!

Ceramicx supplies new services and facilities

By Frank Wilson, Ceramicx Founder and Director.

Myself and Ceramicx Production Manager Patrick Wilson are delighted to be exhibiting Ceramicx once again at the 32nd International Exhibition on Plastics and Rubber Industries (Chinaplas 2018) Shanghai.

Next week you will find Ceramicx in the European Halls in the exhibition’s new and bigger venue – the National Exhibition and Convention Center, Hongqiao, Shanghai.

Thanks to the great work of our agent Mr Xu Shan and distributor Mr Peter Lee of GSAE Ceramicx sales in China are booming – no question. We expect to be very busy through the whole week.

We have some new attractions to offer: This year sees a first in that Ceramicx welcomes our proprietary IR test oven technology to the show and to the Far Eastern market place. For some time now our Chinese manufacturing contacts have expressed a need to test and validate the performance of various target materials – polymers included – under various kinds of IR heat source.

8kW test unit supplied with 3 interchangeable infraed heating platens consisting of ceramic quartz and tungsten/halogen tubes.

The new Ceramicx test unit brings all three types of IR emitter (short, medium and long wave) into one handy housing. The oven includes controls, sensors and instrumentation to fully measure inputs and outputs and to thus measure and predict the build and performance of many kinds of heating systems and machines.

The new IR heating test machine will answer these needs and we will leave it with our distributor GSAE after the Chinaplas show next week after which we understand that it will tour other Asian markets such as Malaysia.

The Chinaplas exhibition becomes more international with every passing year. Ceramicx has meetings on the stand next week with our Japanese and Indian distributors. We expect to be in discussion with many other countries in addition to our core target markets in China.

Ceramicx has grown its market in China thanks to our world-class production values and performance. Our future growth there will depend on supplying further quality goods and services – enabling our valued distributor GSAE to offer more options to builders of machinery and to the Chinese industries of all kinds – plastics, paints, foodstuffs; automotive; aerospace – anywhere where heat work is critical and can make the difference between profit and loss.

Our sales of IR heating emitters and components of all kinds continue to thrive and rise  – the current total is some 15% increased from last year.

This year’s Chinaplas exhibition area is expected to exceed 320,000 square meters – 30% more exhibition space than that of the 2016 edition of the show in Shanghai. It is recently reported that this month’s Chinaplas is now anticipating some 180,000 visitors. The new venue; expanded facilities and ambitious programme all imply a high-tech feel to the exhibition going forward.

For a full profile of the GSAE team and preview of Ceramicx at Chinaplas 2018 please see the latest issue of Ceramicx HeatWorks Magazine.

InterTradeIreland FUSION Project Exemplar

Frank Wilson, Managing Director Ceramicx being interviewd for Intertrade Ireland by Clean Slate Television Ltd.

InterTradeIreland will recognise the success of the FUSION project, completed in partnership with Findhan Strain and Belfast Metropolitan College, later this month. As part of this, Ceramicx recently hosted Clean Slate Television from Belfast. Michael Quinn and Gemma Major came down last Thursday and spoke with our MD, Frank Wilson and our FUSION Graduate, Peter Marshall about the project, its results and the wider FUSION project experience.

Frank Wilson, Managing Director Ceramicx being interviewd for Intertrade Ireland by Clean Slate Television Ltd.

The FUSION programme is about innovation which is at the heart of everything that Ceramicx does. We’re constantly looking to evolve and drive efficiency in our heatwork products and help our customers optimise their heating applications. The FUSION project allowed us space, not just to develop a system for heating different types of carbon fibre, but deepen our understanding of this new material and apply the learnings from this across the company.

The experience with Clean Slate TV was really enjoyable with both sides provoking thought and learning about each others business. The video will be shown at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 23rd January 2018 in the Carton House Hotel, Maynooth.

Dr. Peter Marshall of Ceramicx being interviewd for Intertrade Irealnd by Clean Slate Television

Clean Slate Television is a Belfast based production company formed by David Kilpatrick and Michael Quinn, who each have over twenty years experience in television and radio production working for some of the worlds leading broadcasters including, BBC, RTE, Channel Four, National Geographic and Discovery.

Ceramicx goes large with USA supplies

Ceramicx Modern Machine thermoforming oven

As a company that designs and manufactures infrared heating systems and ovens for industrial applications, we’re seeing a growing trend in the use of thermoforming as a cost-effective alternative to injection moulding – particularly in the US market. Working closely with our North American distributor, Weco International, our ceramic-based infrared technology is leading the way in infrared engineering solutions.

Ceramicx heating technology

Based in Beavertown, Michigan, Modern Machinery is a state-of-the-art custom thermoforming machine company. On behalf of one of their customers, they’ve designed, engineered, and assembled an integral part of, possibly, one of the largest shuttle thermoforming machine systems in North America.

With a work area measuring 9’ x 23’ (2.7m x 7m), the custom-built Modern Model 9’23’SS (Single Station Shuttle) vacuum forming machine uses only Ceramicx ceramic heating components, sourced from Weco International.

Consisting of a top (visible in photo) and bottom platen, each measures 11’ x 24’ (3.4m x 7.3m) with 754 Ceramicx FTE ceramic infrared heating elements fitted in each. That makes 754 heating zones wired for 2 elements per zone of percentage control through the PLC operating system.

As a well-known designer and manufacturer of a wide variety of thermoforming machines and systems, Modern Machinery has worked with Weco and Ceramicx for some time, with many of its machines shipping with Ceramicx heating technology.

The thermoformer customer who’ll be using this big shuttle machine already has one of Modern’s custom-built systems which uses quartz heating technology. For this larger project, the customer wanted to work with ceramic-based infrared technology made by Ceramicx and supplied by Weco.

Thermoforming continues to grow

Although most people immediately think of packaging when they hear the word ‘thermoforming’, the other products that make up around 15% of the North American thermoforming market also are growing. And many of those are large, including bases for dental chairs, logistics containers, car hoods/bonnets, pick-up truck bed liners, and many more.

Generally speaking, if a part is large and production volume is low, the economics of thermoforming can beat injection moulding hands down. Competing against RIM, thermoforming can offer lower part weight, lower cost tooling, and better surface finish, including high gloss.

Through our and Weco’s experience of attending and exhibiting at trade shows and exhibitions over the years, large parts on display have been numerous. And more than a few of them have been converted to thermoforming from injection moulding and reaction injection moulding (RIM).

With this conversion rate from more ‘traditional’ injection moulding processes to thermoforming continually growing, it seems thermoforming best days are ahead with even bigger things in store.

Ceramicx Modern Machine thermoforming oven
Pictured standing in front of the heating oven going through the final stages of assembly are (L to R) Vince Hicks and Corey Pohlman, partners in machine manufacturer, Modern Machinery; Brett Wehner, President of Weco International; and Brett Terbrack, Weco’s Technical Sales Specialist.

Creating Seamless Integration for Engineering Excellence

Siemens visit

As a progressive company at the forefront of infrared technology, we’re on a never-ending pursuit of constant improvement and excellence in every area. With enviable state-of-the-art machinery, experience, and knowledge already at our disposal, our continuous investment in all three helps create and sustain the highest levels of quality and production our customers expect.

Siemens logo

Beyond this, a big part of our success comes from partnering with other global companies that share the same principles on manufacturing and technology, and our ongoing relationship with Siemens is a perfect example. On a recent bespoke visit to their Congleton premises, near Macclesfield, at what many call the ‘factory of the future’, what we found was more than enlightening.

Ceramicx evolution

During our visit, our hosts wasted no time in showing us the full extent of all their technologies, together with their research into virtual reality, simulation, and robotics. We also saw the full digitalisation of their manufacturing process and the more traditional Siemens product offerings, such as heating control, motion control, and powertrain systems which are all underway.

While the visit was an inspiring look into the heart of a global brand and its processes, our own technological efforts at Ceramicx are also stepping up a gear. Our shop floor automation, product thumbprints, and element birth certificates are all successfully up and running.

Our Circle project (using big data in product validation and testing), SolidWorks, and our Herschel test instrument are all increasing our productivity. And of course, our new factory, built with state of the art labs and white rooms means all of these elements are pieces of the evolving production process now working together at Ceramicx.

Seamless integration

Integration and connectivity have been key to this process and will continue to be. The timing of our Siemens visit couldn’t have been better in boosting our enthusiasm and commitment to the various tasks at hand.

Our hosts at Siemens put it like this: “The seamless integration of data along the industrial value chains will gain more and more in importance, becoming a key criterion for the survival of developing/manufacturing companies.”

Siemens visit
Tadhg Whooley, Liam Maddock, Frank Wilson, Ian Wells (Siemens), Wayne Bursey (Siemens) and Cáthál Wilson

 

We also know that the complete business story has to embrace every area of customer interaction, together with associated new perspectives across sales marketing (digital and traditional), data management, and use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems. Ceramicx has also invested in Systems Applications Products (SAP) technology which plays an increasingly powerful role in our long term strategy.

Future developments

Guesswork, conjecture, and, to some extent, assumptions are quickly disappearing from manufacturing. Precision product design and manufacture – cradle to cradle – are taking over and can now be more or less completely realised in virtual space.

Siemens has shown us that the complete digital representation of the entire physical value chain is within reach. Powerful Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, allows Siemens to develop and optimize new products on an entirely virtual basis. And in the real manufacturing world the Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) concept has been proving its worth for about 20 years, ensuring the efficient interoperability of all automation components.

We’re delighted with our relationship with Siemens and the collaborative opportunities it presents as a global engineering and technology supplier and associate. Together with constant improvement and investment on our part, partnering with such an acclaimed, multinational innovator only reaffirms our commitment.