Types of Technical Ceramics

“Advanced ceramics”, “technical ceramics”, and “engineered ceramics” are all terms that encompass a subset of ceramics that offer high-performance mechanical, thermal, and/or electrical properties. Their highly specialized properties make them desirable for very specific applications that involve extreme temperatures, high voltages, or high friction/compressive loads. The vast majority of these materials are based upon the nitrides, carbides, and oxides of different elements and must be produced with very specialized equipment.
This tool provides a general overview of the properties of the most common technical ceramics. Because technical ceramics are used in such a wide variety of applications, it is useful to understand the relative properties of each material. If you require more in-depth information, please refer to the relevant material page where you will find detailed engineering properties.

Interactive Ceramic Property Chart

Guiding Questions for Technical Ceramic Design

In order to select the appropriate material for your application, there are several questions that you should consider.

  • Are the mechanical properties important? Will the part be exposed to wear/friction/impacts?
  • How many pieces are you looking to have made in your first batch?
  • What type of atmosphere will the part be operating in; inert or oxidizing?
  • What is the maximum operating temperature of the component?
  • Will the component experience any thermal shock?
  • Is electrical insulation important?
  • Is thermal conductivity important?
  • How important are tolerances and surface finish?

Types of Technical Ceramics

Machinable Ceramics

These are fully dense ceramics that require no post heat treatment and can be machined with ordinary metalworking tools. Once machined, they need no further grinding or firing to be used. Machinable ceramics can be an excellent choice if rapid turn-round, complex geometries, or very tight tolerances are required. They provide the ideal basis for prototyping before moving up to harder materials; typically the mechanical properties of machinables tends to be lower than non-machinables, however, they tend to be much more economical for small quantity orders.
Macor vs ShapalShapal has significantly better mechanical properties than Macor, however, this may not be an issue if your application does not require the material to withstand high mechanical loads. Macor is one of our most frequently used ceramics and is typically the most cost-effective material for general technical ceramic applications. If you need more help deciding, more information can be found here.
Hexagonal Boron Nitride is another a machinable ceramic that is available in multiple grades. It has relatively poor mechanical properties when compared to Macor and Shapal, however, it has a very specific set of thermal properties that make it verydesirable when high-temperature capabilities are required.

Non-Machinable Ceramics

These are ceramics that once fired can only be machined using diamond grinding methods or other specialist machining practices. Non-machinable ceramics offer a more extensive range of mechanical and thermal properties but often require specialist tooling and longer lead times. This said, they can often be more cost effective when large quantities or very high performance is required.