An abrasive is a material which molds or provides finishing to a work piece through a process which includes buffing, grinding, cutting, as well as polishing. Abrasion typically depends on the difference in the hardness of the material and the abrasive (with the latter being the harder of the two). Unlike regular abrasion where any two solid materials that repeatedly rub against each other tend to wear away, superabrasives possess the kind of hardness that enables them to stay usable for a longer period of time.
On the basis of hardness, the top two superabrasives include diamond and cubic boron nitride (CBN). Industrial diamonds used as superabrasives are exceptionally hard materials. However, they display several technological limitations. For instance, when a diamond comes in contact with a ferrous alloy such as steel or a nickel superalloy, the resulting formation of carbide leads to its abrasion. Also, a diamond-containing tool can only be used at moderate temperatures and on non-metallic materials or non-ferrous alloys. Since CBN does not exhibit any difficulties in terms of being able to retain its hardness in a wide range of temperatures, it is preferred over diamond abrasives, especially while machining ferrous materials and superalloys.
Superabrasives find applications related to industrial operations such as turning, cutting, buffing, drilling, boring, grinding, finishing, honing, sharpening, and super finishing. Diamond is primarily employed for grinding cemented carbide, glass, ceramics, and hardened tool steel and cubic boron nitride for hardened steel and wear-resistant superalloys.
Orthopedic implant manufacturing creates opportunities for grinding machines. Joint reconstructive surgery includes knee, hip, and shoulder procedures, all of which involve orthopedic implants and associated instrumentation, which typically require grinding during their manufacturing processes. With the orthopedic implants industry expanding every year, the competition among manufacturers of these components is rising as well. The right machine coupled with the CAD/CAM software are the tools needed to effectively respond to the needs of this market. At the same time, manufacturers are increasingly moving toward harder materials such as cobalt chromium alloys for knees and other parts, which can be machined in one go with added ease. The joint reconstruction sector witnessed significant technological advancements in the past decade. A new trend emerging in the field of knee arthroplasty is the development of patient-specific implants. With the use of 3D scanners and the sculptural computer-aided design (CAD) technology, patient-specific implants can now be designed and manufactured with higher efficiency and at a lower cost. Use of CBN tools, especially in grinding machines in metal processing and the manufacturing of orthopedic implants in the medical industry, propels the market.
Based on product, the market for superabrasives can be segmented into the diamond and cubic boron nitride segments. End-users of superabrasives include machinery, electrical & electronics, transportation, metal fabrication, construction, medical devices, and others. Superabrasives can be employed in the following forms: loose, coated, and bonded. They are available as powder, mesh, inserts, and wheels.
The market for superabrasives is fragmented, with several companies operating in the market. It was dominated by Asia Pacific due to the presence of numerous manufacturers in the region, followed by Europe. Demand in Europe is predicted to be higher than that in North America and this trend is anticipated to continue over the forecast period. Latin America and Middle East & Africa constituted comparatively minor shares in the global superabrasives market.
Key players operating in the superabrasives market include 3M, Element Six, Sandvik AB, NanoDiamond Products, ILJIN DIAMOND CO. LTD., Asahi Diamond Industrial Co. Ltd., Saint-Gobain, DuPont, SuperAbrasives Inc., Show Denko K.K., and Tomei Diamond Co. Ltd.
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