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|The project work programme will be developed and executed in collaboration with the industrials of the partner regions who are the driving force for the project. Only the main points of the work programme are outlined here.
Dissemination of information and knowledge
During the course of the project five seminars will be held in each region. These seminars are principally for the benefit of industrialises and therefore it is they who will decide the agenda of topics for the seminars of their region. The seminars can address any subject in the area of ceramics technology which the industrialists feel is required. For example, possible topics could be the application of different coating techniques, the problems of plasticity during the fabrication of ceramics, the introduction of regulation (European and national) in environmental matters and their impact on the ceramics industry, training of technicians on a particular topic, etc.
The interregional seminars will be organised successively in each of the seven partner regions. They will cover fabrication and control techniques, innovations and environmental issues. The detailed programme will be chosen on the basis of consultation with industrialises and technical advisors. In general, they will aim to fulfil the following objectives:
Euroceram News, to be published every three months will be available both in paper format and also electronically.
We would like you, the industrialists to consider this first edition as an invitation to participate directly in the project.
The second edition will describe the programme, including seminars and interregional exchanges, as well as the results of the consultation which will be held between now and June 1999 with the industrialists of all the regions.
Euroceram on the Internet
The Internet is a rapid means of communication ideal for allowing all the partners in the world of ceramics to contact each other over large distances. By accessing the Furoceram site, the ceramist will have the choice of:
1. Access to Euroceram News
2. Consultation of Database « Dataceram »
Among the services available will be:
3. Regional Information
On selecting this category, the user will have access to general information on each of the partner regions.
4. Ceramics in the Partner Regions
This category will provide a brief description of the ceramics industries active in the seven partner regions of the network. Links will allow the user to access the web sites of companies already on the Internet and for those companies not on the Internet, a page summarising their activities will be constructed at the network’s expense.
5. The Letter Box
This tool will allow companies, particularly SMEs, to request information or assistance with particular problems. The request will be sent to experts within the network who will organise contacts for the company. The letterbox will also allow organisation of an Internet forum, which will be at the disposal of all partners. Such a forum could deal with any relevant issues such as questions relating to trade or to available regional and community assistance.
Themes for co-operation
Between them the seven regions possess a wealth of knowledge and know how and all are already participating in development projects. The network will allow cost reduction and time saving to be achieved as a result of information and technology exchanges. This will give a boost to the activities already in progress and provide the opportunity to diversify in new directions.
In order to combat competition from outside the community, the ceramic industry must ceaselessly improve production and the quality of the final product. Furthermore, the majority of ceramics companies are SMEs, for whom this challenge is difficult to meet because of their difficulty in investing in R&D.; It was therefore decided to choose certain themes for regional co-operation which will assist these companies in meeting this challenge. However, these themes must be further developed by the industrialists in order that their concerns are better represented. All of the industrial ceramists of the seven regions will be regularly informed of progress in interregional co-operative programmes through non-confidential articles published in Euroceram News. The SMEs who are directly involved in the particular programmes will participate in meetings to formulate or adapt the programme and exchanges or even, when it is possible, to carry out laboratory or industrial trials.
Three general themes have been proposed:
Fabrication Techniques and Control
The mechanical and electrical properties of ceramics as well as their aesthetics strongly depend on the different stages of fabrication and on the reliability of production controls
Examples of possible co-operation could be in the area of better control of suspensions and pastes, the preparation of new composites by tape casting (traditional tiles with electronic sensors present in the surface or temperature controllers etc.), superplastic forming, machining etc.
The perfecting of a new product may take several months and can be very expansive. Thus, the significant problems of industrial design will also be addressed.
New Avenues of Investigation
The ceramic industry must always be open to new opportunities and developments and the manufacture of new products. Thus, this theme has been included in order to increase the levels of awareness throughout the various regions.
Most of the regions are active in the area of bioceramics which is a growing, strong market concerned with high value added products for the repair and substitution of human bone. However, fabrication of many bioceramics involves techniques similar to those used by traditional ceramic industries and the firing temperatures required are easily achieved by the furnaces used in these industries. Thus, diversification of the traditional industries into this new avenue of products can be achieved relatively easily.
Interfaces are another area of investigation that is of interest to both the traditional and technical ceramics industries. The term « interface » in this context refers to the putting in contact of two or more phases with the aim of obtaining a durable joint between a ceramic and a metal, a glass or another ceramic. If the materials to be joined have similar dimensions, one speaks of an assembly or of junctions. If however, the ceramic is much thinner than the substrate to which it is to be joined, it is more usual to talk of coatings and if the materials are intimately mixed, then the term used is composites.
Examples of applications of interfaces include contact between ceramic and metal (cermets), contact with a refractory, isolation of components in the electronic industry, insertion of heating elements, enamels and glazes, plasma spraying, anti sliding or anti friction coatings and metallic ink coatings on glass, etc.
The Ceramic Industry and the Environment
The environmental theme could be considered as « respect for the environment » by investigating ways to diminish waste (fluorine, sulphur, particles in suspension, heavy metals in enamel slurries, etc.) from ceramics industries. Certain regions are more advanced than others in this field. These regions can assist the others by sharing their experiences and allowing the others to avoid some of the problems.
The environment can also be considered as « exploitation of waste ». Such waste could come from the ceramics industry itself or from other industries. Waste products from other industries could be incorporated in certain ceramic production processes as new raw materials. Also, toxic waste could be rendered inert by incorporation into a ceramic matrix during sintering. In order to tackle these problems, it will be necessary to first quantify (volume available, constancy of quality, etc.) the « eco-raw materials » available in the partner regions and then to present the results of successful exploitation trials in order to convince ceramists to use these waste products.
Ceramics can also become components in the fight against pollution. A well-known example is the use of cordierite supports as catalytic converters now used in all new cars. Other products with reticular or honeycomb structures could also be tested in isolation applications such as fire protection, filtration, etc.
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