What has been your organisation’s biggest achievement in 2018/19?
The past year has seen us redouble our efforts in all product areas and this had led to a notable broadening of our customer base. Technical ceramics, in particular, have the potential to provide many engineering solutions and we have been collaborating closely with new customers to hone a number of component designs, using materials such as high purity alumina, silicon carbide in its various forms, and steatites.
What will you be showcasing at Ceramics UK?
We will exhibit products from across the IPS Ceramics portfolio. This includes mullite-cordierite kiln superstructures and primary and secondary kiln furniture (one of the most comprehensive ranges available anywhere in the world); advanced cordierite products; and technical ceramics components…plus a few surprises for visitors to the show!
What technologies or materials do you specialise in?
The predecessor companies to IPS Ceramics were collectively recognised as one of the world’s leading group of cordierite kiln furniture suppliers and this remains an important part of our business. These products, which are absolutely essential to operational efficiency in high-temperature environments, are supplied to ceramic kiln operators all over the world. In the past few years, we have rapidly developed our technical ceramics portfolio, using materials such as alumina, silicon carbide, aluminium nitride, silicon nitride, zirconia, steatite etc.
If visitors should know one thing about your company and experience, what would it be?
Collectively we have over 200 years’ experience in the ceramic industry with successful global trading – but we are not ones to rest on our laurels. Throw us a challenge.
What might surprise people about your work and applications with advanced materials?
Those who know us primarily for, say, our large extruded batts might be surprised to see us working on a tiny, laser drilled piece of alumina the size of your fingernail; conversely, the company buying custom-cut alumina tubes might do a double-take seeing our team build up a whole kiln car in silicon carbide.
What sets IPS Ceramics apart from its competitors?
We’ve never just sold products; we aim to deliver solutions. We are set up with a vastly experienced team, good communications network, a willingness to listen and practical aids such as in-house rapid prototyping.
What can you tell us about your expansion in the USA?
The USA has always been an important market for IPS, and I have spent decades visiting customers there. With the increase in the technical ceramics business stateside, as well as growing interest in alternative kiln structure and support technologies, the time was right in early 2016 to establish IPS Ceramics USA. The vice president, Mike Jackson, originally comes from the UK ceramics industry but has now lived in the USA for many years. Our President, Sukhjinder Singh is also based in the USA. Since establishing IPS USA we have seen an increase in business of 30% and still growing.
IPS Ceramics is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. How are you marking this important milestone in 2019?
Whilst its 10 years since we did the management buy-out we must remember that we have far more years’ experience in the industry than just 10 years. Ceramics UK itself will provide a great opportunity for us to celebrate our 10th anniversary but given our international reach we will also be marking the occasion with customers, suppliers and colleagues in North America, Europe and Asia. Additionally, we have a couple of things up our sleeve that can’t be mentioned!
Ceramics offer many advantages over alternative materials, what are the most exciting applications you have seen recently?
That’s right – in terms of thermal, chemical, mechanical and electrical performance, ceramics are often superior. They are clearly answering the need for reliable, durable, lightweight, efficient and cost-competitive components in industries reliant on fast-moving technologies, such as automotive, ultra-high temperature, aerospace, energy etc.
We are also showing a range of our new products which are Silicon Carbide heating elements used in various furnaces where high-temperature firing is required.
You are renowned for the quality of cordierite kiln furniture items; what are some of your flagship products across this range?
Whilst we continue to offer our standard range of cordierite products to our customers, we are constantly developing light weight more energy efficient products that sit along side our standard range. An example of this is our new range of lightweight web cranks currently be extensively used by a local company in Stoke on Trent. We will however always continue to supply the standard products used worldwide such as an adjustable range of primary kiln furniture superstructures together with a wide range of secondary kiln furniture such as setters and cranks to name but a few products.
Phil Green, Sales Director at IPS Ceramics Ltd