An Overview of Ceramic industry

The ceramics industry is a growing manufacturing sector in Bangladesh. The industry started during the late 1950s when the first ceramic industrial plants were established. The industry mainly produces tableware, sanitaryware and tiles. As of 2011, there were 21 ceramic industrial units throughout Bangladesh, employing about 500,000 people. In the first nine months of the 2013-14 fiscal year, Bangladesh exported about US$36 million worth of goods after meeting 80% of the domestic demand. The main export destinations are the EU, the US and the Middle- ast.[7]

Present scenario of ceramic industry:

The global ceramic industry is worth of US$20 billion. Bangladesh is perfectly positioned to expand rapidly in this sector with its high quality, cost ratio and creative human resource base. Traditionally, ceramic industry is a labor-intensive sector and companies in developed countries experience difficulties in remaining competitive due to rising labor cost and recent global financial crisis. Bangladesh, being a gas rich, low-labor cost economy and having advanced ‘bone china’ technology, is perfectly positioned to be a strategic partner in production and supply of ceramic goods.According to Bangladesh Ceramic Ware Manufacturers Association (BCWMA), there are approximately 40 ceramic manufacturers operating in this industry producing tableware, sanitary ware and tiles. A medium scale ceramic plant needs around  Taka 10 crore (Taka 100 million) in initial investment and the BCWMA sources say the present investment in the country’s ceramic industry is roughly about Taka 2,000 crore (Taka 20 billion) and this sector employs some one lakh (0.1 million) workers. The total capacity of ceramic tableware manufacturing companies is nearly 24,000 tonnes a year as of 2008, of which an average of 48 percent is exported and the remaining 52 percent is used in the domestic market. Monno and Shinepukur have the highest production capacity of nearly 60,000 pieces a day, followed by Standard ceramics with 40,000 pieces a day. According to a market study, the existing tiles factories produced 374 million square feet of tiles in 2008 and the output is estimated to grow at the rate of 17 percent in 2009 and 2010. Over the years, the ceramic industry in Bangladesh has flourished immensely and has gained recognition throughout the world. Local ceramic ware manufacturing industry is expecting a steady growth with a US $100 million return from exports by 2015 as the global market favors more shipment from Bangladesh. The total value of export earnings from ceramic ware at $38.33 million in the FY 2007-08, up by 28% from the previous year and in the last fiscal year, the earnings stood at $31.70 million. After a consistent growth in last 15 years, this sector is now in a good position to achieve the target of $100 million export earnings . To cope with the increased export demand, all major exporters, such as Monno Ceramic, Shinepukur Ceramic, and Bengal fine ceramic, have been expanding their plant (Khan 2009). Though export market of Bangladeshi ceramic industry is growing, the domestic market share of local ceramic wares is shrinking due to widespread import of low-priced foreign goods, mainly from China .[8]

Ceramics:

 Ceramics can be defined as a class of inorganic, nonmetallic solids that are subjected to high temperatures for manufacturing use. The term “traditional ceramics” refers to ceramic products that are produced from unrefined clay and combinations of refined clay and powdered or granulated non-plastic minerals – i.e.pottery/stoneware/chinaware/porcelain/etc.[9]

Manufacturing:

Raw materials:

  • Clay
  • Filler e.g. quartz (finely ground)
  • Fluxing agents (feldspar)[10]

Process:

Step 1: Milling & Raw Material Procurement – The raw materials used in the process are milled materials typically found in mining sites that have been reduced from a large size to smaller sizes or even in some cases, pulverized depending upon the end product. The idea is to liberate any impurities in the materials allowing for better mixing and forming which in essence produces a more reactive material when firing.

Step 2: Sizing – During this step in the processing sequence, the materials that have undergone the milling and procurement process must be sized to separate desirable material from non-usable. By controlling the particle size, the result will give you proper bonding and a smooth surface on the finished product.

 Step 3: Batching – This part of the process can also be known as “blending” which calculates amounts, weighing and initial blended of the raw materials.

Step 4: Mixing – To obtain a more chemically and physically homogeneous material prior to forming, the constituents of the ceramic powder is combined using the method of mixing or blunging. Most often, pug mills are the preferred piece of machinery used in this step of the process when dealing with dry mixes. It is also important to add binders or plasticizers as well. For wet slurry mixtures, a filter press would remove the water from the slurry and yield the clay body from the mix. For these wet mixtures, deflocculants and antifoaming agents are added to improve the processing of the materials.

Manufacturing process of ceramic products

Figure 8: Manufacturing process of ceramic products

Step 5: Forming – For this step, the materials such as dry powders, pastes or slurries are consolidated and molded to produce a cohesive body of whatever end product is desired. In the particular case of dry forming, vibratory compaction can be used to achieve the desired shape.

Step 6: Drying – The formed materials hold water and binder in its mix that can in turn cause shrinkage, warping or distortion of the product. Generally convection drying is the most commonly used method in which heated air is circulated around the ceramic piece that alleviates the risk of such imperfections in the final product.

Step 7: Glazing – Referring back to traditional ceramics, this step is added to the process prior to firing. Typically, the glaze consists of oxides that give the product the desired finish look. The raw materials are ground in a ball mill or attrition mill. The glaze can be applied using the spraying or dipping methods.

Step 8: Firing – Also known as sintering or densification, the ceramics pass through a controlled heat process where the oxides are consolidated into a dense, cohesive body made up of uniform grain. Some general points to remember about different types of firing end products:

  1. Short Firing Time gives you a final product that is porous and low density.
  2. Short – Intermediate Firing Time results in fine-grained, high-strength products.
  3. Long Firing Time produces a coarse-grained product that is creep resistant which means the material will not distort when under a load for an extended period of time.[9]

Problems encountered by ceramic industry and their solution:

The problems that the ceramic sector is facing in Bangladesh are as follows:

  • The industry suffers due to irregular power and gas supply. The ceramic tableware factory needs to maintain round the clock 380-degree temperature. When power voltage or gas pressure is low such temperature reduces; when the temperature falls, it takes at least 12 hours to bring it back to previous level, causing a huge loss. A low heat in any plant causes fault to color and quality. According to the industry sources, to harness power during the shortfall period they used diesel-run generators, but due to high oil prices it was very expensive. For running such high cost generators, the production cost of ceramic goods rises as well.
  • Ceramic manufacturers pay high tariff on gas compared to other sectors. Presently, average gas tariff is Taka 2/cubic metre for fertilizer factories, Taka 5.13/cubic metre for ceramics factories and Taka 3.5/cubic metre for gas-based power plants .
  • In Bangladesh there is shortage of raw materials for ceramic goods and the manufacturers are 100% dependent on import of raw materials from overseas. Hence, the government should take steps to find deposits of superior quality clay for ceramic in the coalmine region of north Bengal
  • This industry lacks high level manufacturing and industrial engineering techniques, required machinery and equipment and international standard laboratory for testing and quality control. Besides, this sector is in need of research and development effort to economies on energy cost as well as appropriate and adequate training programs to develop pull of skilled labor.
  • China gives 22.5 percent incentives to its ceramic exporters, Bangladesh gives nothing. According to industry sources, the government should promote this sector with various incentives as the value addition of this sector is about 65 percent. The industry requires fiscal support from government to give this sector an extra push to capture part of a potential global market along with meeting local demand. [8]

Future outlook :

The ceramic industry of Bangladesh could become a basic building block for the country’s construction and housing sector; however, this sector is already contributing to the country’s economic progress through export earnings, foreign currency savings and generating employment. The industry people say this is possible provided the government supports this sector with due diligence. The government has promised to extend all sorts of cooperation to make Bangladesh the hub of ceramic goods production in the world. Bangladesh government has already drawn a policy to prevent the import of low quality ceramic products having health hazard ingredients. To discourage import of tiles and sanitary ware items, supplementary duty on imports has already increased to 45 percent in place of existing 20 percent. Besides, the government has also promised uninterrupted power and gas supply for this sector. Moreover, the certain provisions of the Budget 2009-10, for instance, providing accommodation for all by 2021, would have positive impact on the ceramic industry as well. If the ceramic industry of Bangladesh can overcome the stated limitations, it has every potential to grow and become a big foreign exchange earner for the country with its dazzling products in the era of globalization. [8]

 References:

1. http://www.madehow.com/Volume-1/Paint.html

2. https://www.essentialchemicalindustry.org/materials-and-applications/paints.html

3. https://coatings.specialchem.com/selection-guide/pigments

4. Habashi F (1993) A Textbook of Hydrometallurgy (2ndedtn). Métallurgie Extractive Québec, Québec City, Canada

5. Habashi F (1996) Pollution Problems in the Mineral and Metallurgical Industries, Metallurgy Extractive Quebec, Quebec City.

6. https://www.oatext.com/Ilmenite-for-pigment-and-metal-production.php

7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceramics_industry_in_Bangladesh

8. Ceramic Industry of Bangladesh: A Perspective from Porter’s Five Forces Model-Nusrat Jahan Volume– V, Issue– 02, July-December, 2010

9. https://solutionsinmotion.clevelandvibrator.com/eight-steps-of-ceramics-processing-and-industrial-vibration/

10. https://www.slideshare.net/hzharraz/ceramics-32994025

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