ICACC Ceramic Society

Advanced Ceramics and Composites Expo

Tim Jones, MRF’s Business Development Manager, represented us at the International Conference on Advanced Ceramics and Composites (ICACC-17), which was held in Daytona Beach, Florida, January 22-27, 2017.

The international conference brings together scientists, researchers, industry leaders and manufacturers of advanced structural and functional ceramics, composites and emerging materials and technologies.  The conference focused on fifteen Symposia, such as photonics and energy, bio-ceramics and bio-composites, materials for sustainable nuclear fission, and additive manufacturing .  In addition to the Symposia presentations, there were evening sessions where equipment manufacturers met with attendees and the presenters talked one-on-one with attendees about their subject matters.  Information and technologies were exchanged freely in a collaborative atmosphere.

The list of attendees supplied by ACS shows the 952 attendees and presenters were truly international.  While the US had the largest attendance, other top countries were  Japan,  Germany,  France, Canada and China. China’s may have been underrepresented, since the conference dates coincided with the Chinese New Year holiday, when a major part of the population travels to and returns from hometowns.

Manufacturing companies represent only 21% of attendees, partly because funding of ceramic research by US manufacturers is curtailed and also because any research findings are not generally shared in a collaborative fashion. USA attendees consisted mostly of universities, manufacturers and government labs.

The next ceramic conference is the ACS Ceramic Expo in Cleveland from April 25 – 27th. This conference is sponsored by the Manufacturing Division of the ACS and will have 270 manufacturers and 3500 attendees.  This is the largest ACS conference of the year and MRF will be present at this event.  MRF has been serving the Ceramics Community for over 26 years with its expertise in custom high temperature furnaces for specific applications and processes.

Exhibiting at the American Ceramics Society

Exhibiting at the American Ceramic Society

On November 1, 2016 Materials Research Furnaces exhibited at the annual Expo held by the New England Section of the American Ceramic Society in Boxborough, MA.

Representing MRF was Timothy Jones, Business Development Manager.  In attendance were thirty-two ceramics industry professionals from twenty organizations.  Mr. Jones had the opportunity to discuss ceramic engineering issues with many of the participants, as well as provide a brief overview of MRF to the entire group of attendees.  He stressed the twenty-six year history of MRF working with ceramic development and production engineers and our world-wide presence in the High-temperature furnace industry.

Of special interest to the audience was a presentation by Dr. William Lee, Chair in Ceramic Engineering at Imperial College London.  Dr. Lee was recently appointed president of the American Ceramic Society and has extensive experience in structural ceramics and nuclear engineering.

MRF has been a constant presence in the Ceramics Community with it’s expertise in and willingness to build custom high temperature furnaces for specific applications and processes. Ceramics in recent years have seen an increase in research and development. Investments are being made worldwide to develop new complex ceramic composites and bring them to market. These new ceramics offer many benefits over more traditional materials. MRF is excited to be a part of these developments with it’s offering of state-of-the-art custom furnaces.

Graphite Hot zone parts

Which spare parts should you keep on hand for a furnace?

High temperature furnaces are a relatively large investment and often have a life span of several decades. As is the case with any piece of machinery, parts wear out and will need to be serviced, replaced or maintained. With the JIT attitude in today’s manufacturing environment, some parts may have large lead times and could cause extended periods of down time were they to fail and none are on hand. Other parts may become obsolete due to the ever shorter product cycles especially in electronics. These include controllers, motors, PC’s, sensors with integrated electronics, etc. To avoid costly down-time and be prepared for maintenance, what should you have on hand, what are your furnace recommended spare parts?

 Heating elements and shielding

Heating elements and shielding are especially important to have on hand as spares, as they are the heart of a furnace and due to the many different sizes and configurations, are not often a readily stocked item. These parts slowly degrade over time depending on the temperatures, gases and contaminants they are exposed to. An easy way to check the efficiency of your heater and shielding is by comparing power usage of the hot zone at a given temperature with the power usage listed in the operation manual. If the overall KVA usage has increased, or the voltage and amperage deviates substantially from those numbers, it may indicate a worn out hot zone. A temperature uniformity test may also provide valuable data regarding the condition of the hot zone. An MRF hot zone typically has a uniformity of +/-10C over the usable hot zone, an increase in deviation may indicate degradation in efficiency and insulating characteristics of the heating element and shielding. A visual inspection of shield conditions and heating element condition can easily confirm this.

Graphite Hot zone parts

Graphite hot zone parts

metallic shields 710px

Metallic heat shields

Temperature Thermocouples

Temperature Thermocouples

Other items exposed to extreme heat are fixtures, heart plates, retorts, etc. While typically these items will easily exceed the life of the hot zone itself, some may need to be replaced eventually as well.


Thermcouples are often the primary sensor used to measure the temperature. While they are usually sheathed for prolonged life, they are prone to drift over time and need regular replacement in order to ensure accurate feedback. Vacuum and pressure sensors also need to be checked periodically for accuracy and performance. Many users have a calibration schedule to do just this.


Seals such as Viton, Buton or other o-rings, are relatively cheap and are recommended to be replaced when doing maintenance to ensure vacuum integrity. For furnaces running in positive pressure, the chamber gas exhaust valve is another item that should be kept as a spare. These valves may be exposed to numerous volatile substances, and they tend to collect on this valve as they cool down while exiting the furnace.

Electronics too?

Product life cycles of electronics and instruments are ever decreasing, with faster, newer and enhanced versions flooding the market more rapidly with each succession. Over the years, the majority of components that have changed the most are easily identified as the control components such as PLC’s, instruments, controllers, smart sensors, PC’s, display panels, etc. As an indirect supplier of these components, we only choose components that are industrial and have a proven track record of functionality, reliability and availability. As such they have a much better life expectancy than for example you average cell phone. Do we recommend keeping spare control components on hand? It depends, but in general we don’t see the need except for sensors. Even if your current control instruments may no longer be available in some years, most manufacturers will still support and repair them and/or offer newer updated replacements. As such it doesn’t seem the best use of resources especially for smaller labs.



As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. MRF furnaces are built from reliable quality components, and are built to withstand the test of time, yet certain components subject to the wear and tear from thermal cycling or mechanical motion will eventually need replacement. Every MRF furnace is accompanied with a recommended maintenance schedule as well as a list of the specific spare parts for the model purchased. Adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and keeping a relevant supply of furnace consumables is the best way to prevent unexpected down time.