Image Credit: Custom Milling & Consulting, Inc.
Materials processing services provide mechanical or thermal processing of metals, thermal ceramics, polymers, glasses, and other materials on a contract basis. They provide services such as product formulation, compounding, synthesis, metal processing, powder processing, polymer processing, inspection testing, and process optimization.
Materials processing services may serve a specific industry or specialize in a particular application. For example, a material processing service for the aerospace industry may specialize in a service material such as nickel-base and cobalt-base superalloys. Selecting a suitable material processing service depends on the capabilities it has, the materials it services, and its processing capacity.
Types of Material Processing Services
Material processing services may be classified based on their capabilities.
- Product formulation is the creation of a specific product from the processed material.
- Compounding is the process of converting materials (e.g. resins) into a state ready to be formed into a finished product via some physical or chemical process (e.g. polymerization).
- Synthesis is the chemical formulation of products from one or more processed materials via chemical reactions.
- Metal processing is the preparation and formulation of metal materials using various types of processing equipment (e.g. casting, forging, extrusion, etc.)
- Powder processing is the blending and formulation of fine powdered materials. Specifically, powder metallurgy deals with the blending, compacting, and sintering of metals.
- Polymer processing is the chemical and mechanical processing of plastics and other polymers
- Inspection testing is the calibrating and testing of material properties based on specific requirements or accepted standards.
- Process optimization is the development of material specifications to optimize a process line or production application.
The GlobalSpec SpecSearch Database allows users to select services based on material types. These materials include various metals, plastics, papers, textiles, adhesives, abrasives, carbon, and graphite.
Processing capacity determines what type of operation the material processing service is conducting for the customer.
- Laboratory or benchtop scale means that processing capacity does not exceed a few pounds or a few gallons. Actual quantities vary based on the type of material. For example, laboratory scale quantities may be expressed in milligrams for nanomaterials andspecialized biochemical compounds. Usually, one person can easily and safely operate laboratory scale equipment. This category excludes facilities whose function is to produce commercial quantities.
- Pilot scale isa small-scale production process that is larger than laboratory scale and used to develop a subsequent full-scale process. Typically, pilot scale quantities are in the range of several drums (e.g. 55-gallon drums) orhundreds of pounds or gallons; however, quantities vary with the density and type of processed material, chemical, or product. Pilot scale facilities are better than laboratory scale facilities at simulating production processes and can be used for troubleshooting, improving, and optimizing processes.
- Production or field scale production is full scale processing. Services of this size have facilities for full commercial or industrial operation.
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