Somany Ceramics Ltd. says improved sales resulted in net profit of Rs 10.14 crore ($1.88 million) for the quarter ended March 31, 2013, a year-on-year increase of 19.85 percent. The tile manufacturer’s net sales also rose to Rs 333.71 crore ($61.8 million) for the quarter, compared with Rs 275.86 crore ($51.1) in the year ago period. Net sales for the year rose to Rs 1,046.24 crore ($193.8 million) versus Rs 870.36 crore ($161.2 million) for the last fiscal year. Somany recently acquired a 26 percent stake in two tile producers that increased its annual production capacity of vitrified tiles from 5.3 million to 9.1 million square meters.
The UK-based company Ceram will be holding a free breakfast forum “Re-Engineering Materials—Reduce Waste, Ensure Future Raw Materials Supply and Save Money,” on Friday, June 14 at its headquarters in Penkhull, Stoke-on-Trent. The forum will focus on how raw material shortages and ensuing market price increases are accelerating the need to re-engineer both “waste” and scarce materials in order to meet future industry demands. Andrew Bloodworth, science director for minerals and waste at British Geological Survey, a world-leading geoscience center, will give an independent view on future raw material supply issues. The forum will run from 8:00-11:15 am and include a buffet breakfast, presentations, Q&A session, breakout session with discussion, and networking opportunities.
APC International is pleased to offer custom shear mode piezo half-rings. Shear mode piezo half-rings are poled around the circumference of the ring. Epoxy silver electrodes are then applied to the top and bottom surfaces of the ring or to the outer and inner diameters of the ring. Alternative electrode materials will be considered upon customer request. Shear mode half-rings can be manufactured from APC 850, APC 855, APC 840, APC 841, and APC 880 materials. If desired, APC’s skilled in-house assembly team can bond two shear mode half-rings using a conductive epoxy to create a shear cylinder. Why consider a shear mode piezo half-ring? Sensing applications: Piezoelectric ceramics poled in shear mode are approximately 20 percent more sensitive than piezoelectric ceramics poled in the standard 3-direction. Piezo motor applications: By bonding two shear mode piezo half-rings together with a conductive epoxy the user can easily create a piezo motor that moves in a circular motion.
AVX Corp., a leading manufacturer of advanced passive components and interconnect solutions, has introduced the smallest thin-film 10W 3dB directional couplers available in today’s market. Based on AVX’s proven thin-film technology, the new 0603 3dB 90° couplers exhibit excellent high-frequency performance in ranges spanning 800-6,000MHz and are currently unique in their ability to provide 10W continuous power handling. “Although designed for use in a wide variety of wireless communications applications, the power handling capabilities, expansive frequency range, and miniature size of our new thin-film 10W 3dB couplers makes them especially attractive for portable communications devices, as this particular market segment continues to demand smaller and smaller components in order to keep pace with consumers’ demands for the smallest and sleekest portable technology available,” says Larry Eisenberger, senior marketing application engineer at AVX. Utilizing land grid array (LGA) packaging technology, AVX’s new 10W 3dB directional couplers feature an inherently low profile, low parasitics, excellent solderability, and improved heat dissipation in addition to self-alignment during reflow. Surface mountable and RoHS compliant, the DB0603N couplers also feature low loss, high isolation, and rugged construction for reliable automatic assembly.
From medical engineering to mechanical engineering to automotive industry applications—for years piezo-ceramic actuators have been an integral part of a broad range of applications and have proven their effectiveness millions of times over. The only problem: the actuator’s vulnerability to high humidity and the associated reduction in its durability. CeramTec has now succeeded in developing piezo-ceramic actuators with hermetically sealed protection that also offer outstanding long-term stability. This opens up a world of exciting new possibilities in industry and technology. CeramTec piezo-ceramic actuators are made from hundreds of layers of lead zirconate titanate (PZT) films and exhibit a charge separation when subjected to the deformation process by an external force. With a speed of up to 0.1 milliseconds, they can react very quickly while simultaneously exerting a force of one to two kilonewtons. Conventional piezo-ceramic actuators are protected by a polymer or ceramic coating. However, micro fissures may form during operation, allowing water molecules to come into contact with the piezoceramic. The stray current that arises as a result of this process reduces the performance capability of the actuator and can even destroy it.
Deltech has announced that its control systems is now ETL certified by Intertek. Intertek certifies that Deltech furnace control systems conform to UL508A standards. Standard safety features of Deltech control systems include an emergency stop, door interlock, a safety relay, and isolation switches. Intertek’s ETL Listed Mark is proof of product compliance to North American electrical safety standards. Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) in 50 states and Canada accept the ETL Listed Mark as proof of compliance.
The Edward Orton Jr. Ceramic Foundation has announced that its introduction to refractories course is now full. The three-day refractory ceramics short course is scheduled for June 24-26. Foundation officials say that anyone who would like to be added to the wait list and notified when the next course will be held should please contact group.
It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the passing Haldor Frederik Axel Topsøe, founder of Haldor Topsøe A/S. Topsøe was born on May 24, 1913, and passed away on May 20, 2013, shortly before his 100th birthday, after a brief period of illness. Topsøe will be greatly missed by his entire family and by the company’s employees. He remained actively involved in the daily operations of the company as working chair of the board until a few weeks before his death. During his long life, Haldor Topsøe made significant contributions to the world in terms of technological and scientific innovation to address global challenges within energy, food supply, and the environment. Topsøe has created a truly unique company, a world leader in the field of catalysis, which is instrumental in solving these issues. Henrik Topsøe, his son and vice chair, says,” We have lost the inspiring and loving head of our family—just as science and business have lost a brilliant leader, and the larger world has lost a great man. Due to his perseverance and dedication, and his technological and scientific contributions, my father improved the lives of millions. He has set standards within many fields, and he never stopped pushing the technological boundaries.”
“We want the next revolution in manufacturing to be made in America!” President Barack Obama proclaimed last week at a visit to Applied Materials in Austin, Tex.
He used the visit to announce a competition to establish the next three “manufacturing innovation institutes” as part of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation. The new institutes will be similar to the pilot additive manufacturing institute in Youngstown, Ohio, comprising a collaboration between regional partners from industry, universities and community colleges, and government agencies.
“We are looking for companies and universities who are willing to partner and work together to help turn their regions into centers for high-tech jobs,” Obama said.
Applied Materials manufactures equipment and provides services and software for the advanced semiconductor, flat panel display, and solar photovoltaic manufacturing industries.
According to a White House press release, nearly half-a-million new manufacturing jobs have been added to the U.S. economy in the last three years. In his speech at Applied Materials, Obama called out several large companies that are bringing their manufacturing—and jobs—back to the United States, such as Caterpillar, Ford, and Apple. “There are some good trendlines there, but we’ve got to do everything we can to strengthen that trend,” he said.
The President’s FY2014 budget includes a request for $1 billion to create up to 15 new institutes. However, these next three are being set up through the White House, independent of congressional approval through appropriation.
Two of the institutes will be coordinated by the Department of Defense and one by the Department of Energy. These areas were selected for their commercial potential, applicability to agency missions, and coherence with existing programs such as the Materials Genome Initiative. Full details about the hubs and the government’s other manufacturing activities are available at the Advanced Manufacturing Portal.
They new hubs are (from the White House press release):
Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation (DoD)
Advanced design and manufacturing tools that are digitally integrated and networked with supply chains can lead to ‘factories of the future’ forming an agile U.S. industrial base with significant speed to market advantages. A national institute focusing on the development of novel model-based design methodologies, virtual manufacturing tools, and sensor and robotics based manufacturing networks will accelerate the innovation in digital manufacturing increasing U.S. competitiveness.
Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing (DoD)
Advanced lightweight metals possess mechanical and electrical properties comparable to traditional materials while enabling much lighter components and products. A national institute will make the U.S. more competitive by scaling-up research to accelerate market expansion for products such as wind turbines, medical devices, engines, armored combat vehicles, and airframes, and lead to significant reductions in manufacturing and energy costs.
Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing (DoE)
Wide-bandgap semiconductor-based power electronic devices represent the next major platform beyond the silicon-based devices that have driven major technological advances in our economy over the last several decades. Wide-bandgap technology will enable significantly more compact and efficient power electronic devices for electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable-speed drive motors and a smarter, more flexible grid; in addition to high-performance defense applications (e.g. reducing the size of a sub-station to a suit case).
The president also used the speech to talk about some of his administration’s high school initiatives on workforce development, especially for the high-tech and manufacturing sectors.
A highlight of the meeting was a tour of Interstate Brick, a 122-year-old facility set against the Salt Lake City area’s mountain backdrop. Credit: ACerS
The ACerS Structural Clay Products Division (SCPD), in conjunction with the National Brick Research Center (NBRC; Anderson, S.C.), held its spring meeting May 13 and 14 in Salt Lake City. This is the first year ACerS SCPD and NBRC have held a joint meeting, and the event was very well received by attendees, according to ACerS’ Greg Geiger who was there.
The meeting kicked off with an evening reception on May 13th. On the 14th, Interstate Brick (West Jordan, Utah) hosted a tour of its 122-year-old plant. Before the tour, SCPD Chair James Hopkins of Swindell Dressler presented a certificate of appreciation from ACerS SCPD to Interstate Operations Manager Gerry Gunning.
The plant currently uses 10 body mixes from clay sourced from eight area mines to produce 16-inch hollow reinforceable and veneer brick as well as pavers, thin brick, and residential and commercial veneer between 8-12 inches long.
Interstate is best known for its 16-inch Atlas reinforceable brick, which attendees saw in production during the tour. The material permits construction of taller, thinner walls that can withstand earthquakes, extreme wind conditions, and fire. The company’s 16-inch Emperor face brick can be scored to look like smaller bricks, allowing masons to increase output. The tour concluded with lunch for attendees.
The afternoon technical session featured nine speakers on topics ranging from efflorescence to thin brick production and testing. Chip Clark from the Brick Industry Association (Reston, Va.) gave an informative presentation on the Building Information Modeling for Masonry (BIM-M) initiative. The goal of BIM-M is to unify the masonry industry and supporting industries by developing and implementing BIM for masonry software to facilitate collaboration among owners, architects, engineers, manufacturers, masons, contractors, construction managers, and maintenance professionals. Clark said brick manufacturers can contribute to BIM-M by providing data used in the software’s Masonry Unit Model Definition, including product dimensions; elective tests; and physical, thermal, and sound properties that should be included in the database.
The event concluded with NBRC’s general membership meeting followed by a review of its research program. Full meeting details, including corporate sponsors and PowerPoint presentations, are available here.
Sapphire versus Gorilla Glass in smartphones? Corning says no contest but GT Advanced Technologies disagrees
There have been many gains in the production and application of sapphire over the last decade, but one new application being pursued—cover and touch screens for smartphones and similar devices—has certainly surprised me and is generating some controversy over its commercial feasibility.
Most of the discussion about sapphire can be traced to GT Advanced Technologies (GT), a Nashua, N.H., company. Back in March, GT had a booth at the Mobile World Congress 2013 show in Barcelona, Spain, where it had a demonstration of an iPhone 5 where the Gorilla Glass 2 (GG2) front cover had been replaced with sapphire (see video above).
I mention the GG2 only because the state-of-the-art glass is Gorilla Glass 3, which has three times the damage resistance of GG2, a huge improvement in an already great product. GG3 is just now debuting on the new Samsung Galaxy S4, and I suspect GG3 will show up in the next generation of iPhones, but Apple notoriously will never admit it.
Now, there is no getting around that sapphire is a wonderfully tough material, as demonstrated by its use in military transparent armor, critical optics (including many of the tiny camera lenses in smartphones) and high-end watch faces. And, I am sure that a sapphire smartphone would highly resist scratching, but … my personal opinion is that the scratching concerns, whether from car keys or sand or whatever, are highly overrated.
My first iPhone 3 fell out of my shirt while I was cycling down California’s Mt. Tam at about 40 mph. As I looked back, I saw the phone skidding and tumbling about 50 feet through the gravel on the shoulder of the road. When I retrieved it, it was face down. I expected the worse, but there was nary a scratch. Nowadays, I stuff my phone in the same pocket with my keys all the time, and I have tossed it into a lot of beach bags with sand.
There still isn’t a scratch on my phone, and I have yet to see one that does, although I am sure it happens sometimes. But I have seen no evidence that scratches are a major shortcoming of Gorilla Glass. (Smearing and difficulty seeing in direct sunlight seem to be bigger problems). I should point out that I am differentiating between scratches and cracks. I have seen several smartphones with the latter, and while scratches can lead to cracks—more on this below—cracks frequently come from impact damage when a phone is dropped on an exposed edge.
Regardless of my anecdotal experiences, sapphire has some definite knocks against it. The material may be very hard, but unlike glass, I know of no way to introduce compressive stress to sapphire. No alkali ions can be introduced to sapphire to “pack” the surface they way that a chemical treatment, for example, does to glass. These ions give glass its retained strength after damage and are what keeps damage, even smaller than visible scratches, from turning into a full-fledged crack.
Perhaps more importantly from a business standpoint, it would seem that the process of making sapphire is cost prohibitive compared to Gorilla or other glasses that can be made in a rapid continuous process. I’ve written before about some of the most advanced processes, but making sapphire still requires pulling single boules of crystal, inspecting the boules, sectioning the boule into “good” and bad sections (the diamond wire saws create more waste). After that, one must polish each sheet, a process that can introduce flaws. Critics also say that sapphire will have to be considerably thicker and heavier than GG2 or GG3 and may have glare problems. The video below, although apparently meant to be laudatory, illustrates most of these drawbacks, and the processes stands in sharp contrast to Corning’s continuous and highly automated method for making GG.
Corning is hardly unbiased, but it recently publicly expressed its doubts about sapphire. Although sapphire supporters probably see a victory in the fact that Corning has responded at all, a new press release describes sapphire as “not a major threat.” A company VP, Jeffrey Evenson, says, “What would people say if someone invented a cover that was about half the weight, used 99 percent less energy to make, provided brighter displays, and cost less than a tenth of sapphire? I think they’d say that sapphire was in real trouble. It so happens that we at Corning already invented that cover—and it’s called Gorilla Glass.”
GT, however, seems serious about promoting the idea of using sapphire in consumer touch screens. This week, the company is doing additional demonstrations and presentations at the 2013 Society for Information Display’s Display Week event in Vancouver, B.C.
In news release about appearing at the SID meeting, GT counters doubters, saying, “The presentations will highlight results of recent sapphire material testing and provide an update on the progress being made in the development of an optimized fabrication value chain for delivering low-cost and high volume sapphire screen material. GT is developing and investing in a number of innovative technologies that, when commercialized, will help to lower the cost of sapphire cover screens to levels that are competitive with reinforced glass material.”
GT also has been buying up some manufactures of advanced sapphire-making equipment. For example, last week it announced that it had purchased the Santa Rosa, Calif.-based Thermal Technologies. Tom Gutierrez, GT’s president and CEO says, “The acquisition of the Thermal Technology business adds a number of innovative and important products and technologies to our rapidly diversifying portfolio that will, we believe, allow us to accelerate our entrance into new markets.” Likewise, GT has been announcing some sales agreements with purchasers of crystal-making equipment.
All of this begs the question, Is GT’s business plan to make and sell sapphire touch screens or generate interest in sapphire among touch screen makers in order sell them sapphire-making equipment? I suspect it is the latter. I tried to get clarification on this and many other questions from GT but as of this writing, I have not heard back from the company.
Meanwhile, I am definitely in the cynic category. It’s not just about the inherent weaknesses of sapphire in this type of application. To be successful, you have to have both superior technology and the capability to deliver the product in large volumes at competitive prices. There is uncertainty about the former, and GT cannot do the latter. It is worth remembering that Steve Jobs’ biggest concern about Gorilla Glass wasn’t the technology—it was whether Corning could deliver it in the amounts that Apple thought it could sell, and even then, Corning had to basically drop everything to get the orders filled.
• Austrian fireproof materials maker RHI is considering building a new plant in the United States, the company said, to join the growing number of European industrial firms attracted by cheap energy prices across the Atlantic. RHI said it would make a decision in the fourth quarter and could invest about €50 million to build or take over a plant.
• Vesuvius said it expects its 2013 revenue to fall following restructuring and disposals. Trading has been broadly flat this year and production of steel and foundry has been affected by difficult market conditions; production fell 5.0 percent in Europe and North America in the first four months of the year, offsetting a 6.4 percent growth in Asia.
• Pretoria Portland Cement Company of South Africa plans to build a 1 million metric tons per year plant costing $200 million in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The South African cement producer aims to make at least 40 percent of its sales outside of South Africa by 2016.
• Australia’s CSR Ltd. has warned its Viridian glass division will be a continued drag on earnings in the year ahead, even after a reorganization and a $196 million provision booked in the latest financial year.
• PPG Fiber Glass has sold its 50 percent interest in the PPG-Devold glass fiber joint venture to Hexagon Devold. The 50-50 joint venture was created in 2007 to manufacture glass fiber reinforcement fabrics for use in turbine blades for wind energy.