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Ceramic is a broad term used to describe natural and synthetic materials with mostly crystalline structure (ordered structure). They are materials made from compounds of a metal and a non-metal that are used widely for making household utensils to spacecraft, as heat-resistant material. The word 'ceramic' is traced back to the Greek word ‘keramikos’ meaning pottery, which is said to be derived from the Indo-European word ker, meaning heat. The ceramic industry covers everything from the small scale craftsman selling clay pots to the international corporation that supplies a line of semiconductors. Throughout history, ceramics has played an important role in industry and in everyday life as it was used to produce art, for storage of food and even currency, and the industry is expanding more and more with each and every major improvement in technology.
In the early days, ceramic industry manufacturers depended only on natural products, i.e basic earth and clay and soon advanced to quartz, stone and porcelain, which offered enhanced durability and strength. Eventually, they began to develop inorganic substitutes for these natural products like silicide, oxide, fiber-reinforced ceramics etc. The field of nanotechnology also opened new doors for the ceramic industry, as manufacturers seek materials that can be used in impossibly small-scale applications. Because of the strength, durability, tailor made properties, longer life, lower costs and non-metallic properties of ceramic, a large percentage of electronics goods, medical equipments and thousands of other items make use of its application. Ceramics can offer many of the advantages of metal without the thermal and electrical current transfer associated with metallic products.
Products within the ceramic industry can be classified as four basic types namely :
Ceramic Engineering alias Ceramic Technology is the branch of Materials engineering and science that deals with the properties, manufacturing, designing and applications of ceramic materials. It is the science and technology of creating objects from inorganic, non-metallic materials either by the action of heat, or at lower temperatures using precipitation reactions from high purity chemical solutions. Ceramic Engineering/ Technology also deals with the purification of raw materials, the study and production of the chemical compounds concerned, their formation into components and the study of their structure and composition. Ceramic technology is useful in many ways - to protect the internal electric boards from short circuits and other mishaps; for making innovative, ultra-fast computer systems by using ceramic superconductors, lasers, and glass optical fibers; to develop components for fiber optic cables that allow doctors to examine the inner organs of the human body.
Artists and craftspeople concerned with the creation of pottery and sculptures are called ceramicists. Those who deal with the study, research and development of the ceramic materials are termed as Ceramic Engineers/ Ceramic Technologists. Ceramic technologists are specialists who study the heat-resistant materials, their behavior, application, and use. They use the basic principles from chemistry, physics and material science for analyzing, designing, manufacturing and maintaining ceramic systems. They work with a wide variety of products, ranging from glassware and electronic components to nuclear reactors and linings for blast furnaces and jet engines. The role of a Ceramic Engineer is enormous in various branches of engineering such as Electrical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and many others. They develop different kinds of material required for Satellites, Nuclear Reactors, Commercial Establishments and Scientific Establishments and even pollution control devices. Engineers also develop heat tiles using ceramic material to protect space shuttles and the future supersonic space plane from the burning heat of re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.
Ceramic and Ceramic technology has developed over time and are being used in almost all traditional as well as advanced everyday applications. Traditional applications of ceramic technology include consumer products like dinnerware or ovenware and construction products like tile or windows, etc. Advanced applications take advantage of specific mechanical/ electrical/ optical/ biomedical/ chemical properties of glass or ceramic materials and have entered the scene over the last several decades or so. In India, the ceramics industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 15% with a lot of job opportunities. Recent advances in technology have expanded the applications of ceramic engineering.
Those who intend to become a ceramic engineer/ ceramic technologists must have an engineering degree in ceramic engineering. Various colleges in India are offering graduation (B.E/ B.Tech) and post graduation (M.E/ M.Tech) level courses. 10+2 in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics with a high percentage of marks is the minimum educational qualification for pursuing 4 years bachelors program in Ceramic Engineering/ Technology. Aspirants has to clear national or state level entrance exams or the particular institutes exam for admission. Diploma holders can get direct admission to the second year of the course. Candidates from streams like Mechanical/ Civil/ Electrical/ Chemical and Materials engineering can also become a ceramic engineer.
After graduation, students who are interested to do higher studies can join the 2 years postgraduate program (M.E/ M.Tech) in Ceramic engineering. Those with B.E/ B.Tech in Ceramic/ Chemical/ Mechanical/ Electrical/ Manufacturing or other related field can apply for master's degree. Admissions are based on the marks obtained in the graduation level. But in some institutes, the selection is based on GATE score. After post graduation, one could go for research and opt for Ph.D/ M.Phil.
Besides professional engineering degree, there are numerous polytechnics in India that offer 3 year diploma in Ceramic Engineering. Eligibility for diploma program is a pass in 10th std board exam with at least 50% marks. By doing this diploma course in Ceramic engineering, the student gets comprehensive knowledge of ceramics, their composition, process of manufacture and proper utilization, and is evaluated on his/her basis of the practical and theoretical knowledge. After completing the 3 year course, students are required to undergo 6 months training in any related industry.
Indian Institute of Ceramics conduct Associate Membership Examination of the Institute of Engineers (AMIE), which enables working people in the private and public sector, or diploma holders to acquire a Bachelor's engineering degree through distance education.
Personal Attributes Needed
Those who are interested in ceramic engineering field must have detailed knowledge of various processes and principles involved with different types of ceramic substances. They should have a strong grounding in basic sciences, analytical and technical skills, detail orientation and creativity. Hands on approach, team spirit, problem solving skills, ability to understand the demand of the market, good communication skills, ability to convey their ideas are some of the attributes needed for a good ceramic engineer.
Ceramic Engineers/ Technologists are specialists in the study of ceramic materials, their behavior, application and use. The major task of a ceramic engineer is to develop new products using existing ceramic materials. They develop methods for processing nonmetallic inorganic materials into many ceramic products ranging from glassware, fiber optics products, cement and bricks, to coatings for space vehicles, materials for microelectronics, components of nuclear fuel, and pollution control devices. Ceramic Engineers are responsible for optimizing the processes by which ceramics are produced, besides using them to design new products. Several steps are involved in the process of making ceramic products and optimizing any one of the step can increase the efficiency of the overall production process. In most cases, raw materials are ground into a fine powder and by using a formula, it is mixed with several other components to make a particular shape. It is then dried carefully and heated to high temperature.
The major work area of a ceramic engineer involves in the field of research, design, production, testing and sales.
Job opportunities are available for Ceramic engineers / technologists in both public and private sectors. Some of the job profiles available in the field of ceramic engineering/ technology are:
Ceramic ware manufacturing units, Research and development laboratories, Educational institutions etc. are some of the fields that offer great job prospects to ceramic engineers. In manufacturing units, a fresh ceramic engineering graduate can start up their career as a technical management trainee/ junior or assistant technologist. With several years of experience, they can attain superior positions like administrators, project supervisors, sales engineers, department heads, technical consultants etc. Those who delve into the field of R & D with doctoral qualification can find opportunities in laboratories and Universities.
As ceramic industry is a broad field, various other industries like electronics, telecommunications, dentistry, astronomy, automobiles, physics and chemistry make use of it. Job openings are available for ceramic engineering graduates in the said areas and their nature of work also varies depending on the field. Astronauts, dentists, and astronomers all depend on ceramic technologists or ceramic engineers to develop such varied products such as sophisticated telescope lenses, ceramic fillings for teeth, composite materials in space technology, ceramic spark plugs used in aerospace industry, etc. Ceramic engineering graduates who are interested in medical field can focus on dental amalgams, facilitate biocompatible ceramic components like ceramic carbon fiber patches which is used to restore ligament damage and so on.
Ceramic technologists can work in the nuclear field, where the ceramic fuel materials make nuclear power generation possible. Ceramic engineers can also work with physicists in developing ceramic superconductors. Ceramic engineers can specialize in producing electrical ceramic materials. Termed as dielectrical engineers, they are concerned with the production of thermal, nuclear and electrical current containments for power generation.
For getting employment in the public sector, ceramic engineering graduates have to undergo various government examinations like UPSC, PSC or SSC. Major public sector organizations recruiting these graduates are:
Other related work areas of ceramic engineers includes aircraft, watercraft, heating and cooling systems, industrial equipment and machinery, food industries, packaging science, industrial and transmission electricity, guided light wave transmission etc.
Besides these areas, those with an artistic blend of mind can work with ceramic materials to produce creative and attractive ceramic artifacts in porcelain, clay, tiles etc.
Pay scale of ceramic engineers varies with the educational qualification, job profile, work experience and the location where they work. Initial pay scale in this field may be low as compared to engineers from certain other branches. Fresh ceramic technology graduate can earn anything between Rs. 8000 to Rs. 15,000 per month. With several years of experience, one can earn more than Rs. 40,000 per month. A senior engineer can earn up to Rs 50,000 a month. Experts at management levels can earn up to Rs. 60,000/- or even more. The starting salary scale for a lecturer in a college is Rs 12,000- Rs 13,000 per month.
In the government sector, initial basic pay scale ranges between Rs. 5000/- to Rs.9000/- per month plus other perks and benefits. Life, health, and accident insurance and retirement benefits are usually offered to ceramic technologists on a contributing or employer-paid basis. Some employers also offer stock options; profit sharing plans or pays annual bonuses.
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Tagsengineering career , nanotechnology , material engineering
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