Trends for cubic boron nitride
3 September 2010
Interest in superabrasives including diamond and cubic boron nitride has been increasing over recent years as, for many applications, they offer advantages such as long life, chemical inertness, and thermal stability. While superabrasives have been regarded as premium products demanding a premium price, the costs associated with their use are falling as competition from producers, particularly in China, has intensified.
Cubic Boron Nitride, CBN, is a material with growing promise in a range of industries and applications. It is not naturally occurring having first been synthesised in the late 1950s using a high pressure, high temperature process. It uses a similar synthesis route to diamond, and as boron and nitrogen nestle close to carbon in the periodic table, exhibits many similar properties to diamond. Indeed, being second only to diamond in hardness, CBN is perceived as having a promising future and host of advantages to offer to a wide range of end user industries.
Grinding – a growth area
The material is becoming the preferred choice in many grinding operations as it helps in achieving regular geometries, better integrity on the polished surface and decreased cycle times. Fine CBN abrasive particles offer high productivity compared to conventional abrasives when used for grinding, honing and fine finishing hardened ferrous and difficult-to-machine alloys. As CBN can be used with ferrous materials, it offers a distinct advantage over diamond, and typical work-piece materials are hardened steel, hardened carbon steels, alloy tool steels, bearing steels, cast irons, superalloys and hard stainless steels.
Major application areas for fine CBN diamond abrasives are in tool and cutter grinding of high speed steels though other applications such as production grinding in the engineering, automotive and aerospace industries are now well-established.
Use of this abrasive is increasing due to its suitability for use on CNC machines. Closer finishes, structural integrity, and longer life of instruments are the advantages offered of CBN grinding that are leading more and more automakers to switch over to CBN wheels from the traditional abrasive wheels. It should be noted that CBN used in cutting tools, i.e. polycrystalline Cubic Boron Nitride (PCBN) lies outside the scope of this article and will be covered in a future study.
The main producers of CBN include Element Six in Europe; ABC and Diamond Innovations in the US; Henan Huanghe Whirlwind Group , Nanyang Zhongnan Sichuan YiJingYa Long and Zhengzhou Zhongnan Jete Super Abrasives in China ; Showa-Denko andTomei in Japan and Iljin in Korea.
The production of CBN in 2008 was 126 Million carats with approximately 36% of this being produced in Europe with North America and China the other main producing countries. Figure 1 gives the CBN world production capacities as at 2008. However Japan is still the main geographic market for CBN and is likely to remain so over the period under consideration. Figure 2 compares CBN production, with the imports (carats) and exports (carats) by major production country allowing an apparent calculation of consumption to be made.
Forecasts to 2013 suggest that from 2011 volume consumption of CBN will return to a positive growth after lower manufacturing activities from the global recession which had its impact on the automotive industry. Because of downward price pressures, in value terms, growth is more modest with forecast growth on average by 5.2% between 2011 and 2013.
CBN remains a niche market and is likely to remain a very small portion of the overall abrasives market.
This information has been sourced with permission from Abrasives Report 2009 fromintelligence-market.com