Why do we use ceramic instead of 316SS for certain applications?

Posted: 6/11/2019

In its various incarnations, stainless steel often seems like an industrial standard for pumps and various other applications. The exact grade of stainless steel may vary, and end users may find themselves combining it with various polymers and other exotic materials, but stainless steel is the standard — right? Well, not exactly. For many applications, ceramic makes much more sense. Why? There are multiple reasons.

Ceramic Offers Extreme Hardness and Strength

Traditionally, manufacturers have used stainless-steel shafts and carbon bearings in pumps. Yet these familiar materials face definite drawbacks. Susceptibility to corrosion. Limited operational effectiveness. Difficulties dealing with limescale and other kinds of particulate matter. 

That’s why ceramic has become popular for certain applications. It addresses these issues and more. While it’s true that some ceramics are brittle, newer formulations show surprising strength. Once fired, they can become so hard that only diamond outclasses them. This strength allows pumps with ceramic parts to function for thousands of operational hours.

Such hardness also deals well with particles that work their way into the bearing area. In applications involving a wet-running pump, specks of sand, rust, or some such similar matter get ground up into an easily manageable size. Not only do ceramic shafts and bearings last longer than various grades of stainless steel, they won’t corrode, making them ideal for dealing with highly caustic substances.

Alumina Ceramics Reduce Costs and Increase Longevity

Of course, not all industrial ceramics are created equal. Some can become brittle. Others with less high-quality compositions might suffer from porosity. Fortunately, March Pumps uses Alumina ceramics, a particularly hardy and versatile type of industrial ceramic.

To start, Alumina ceramics can withstand temperatures of 1200° Celsius. This make them ideal for applications that involve high temperatures. However, such heat resistance comes with compromises. Once temperatures reach 1000° Celsius, ceramics experience reduced thermal shock resistance.

There isn’t just one Alumina ceramic either. Alumina products range in purity from 96% to 99.9% pure. This affects their color, as well as their ability to serve as electrical insulators. As the purity increases, so does its insulating properties. All ceramics do well when it comes to dealing with corrosive substances, and an extremely pure ceramic does even better when pumping caustic chemicals.

How Can March Pump Help Find the Best Material?

While industrial ceramics offer numerous benefits for pumping applications, not every end user will find them ideal. Why? Ceramics have a relatively high cost when compared with stainless steel. Still, some have found that their long operational life more than makes up for it.

So should you use industrial ceramics? Contact March Pump via phone (847-725-0580) or through our contact page, and let us help with your decision. We’ve worked in the industry since 1954 and more than understand how chemical ratings can influence your final selection.

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