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How Porcelain is Made?

Author:    Source:    Date: 2016-08-04 19:20:45

The term porcelain refers to a wide range of ceramic products that have been baked at high temperatures to achieve vitreous, or glassy, qualities such as translucence and low porosity. Among the most familiar porcelain goods are table and decorative china, chemical ware, dental crowns, and electrical insulators. Usually white or off-white, porcelain comes in both glazed and unglazed varieties, with bisque, fired at a high temperature, representing the most popular unglazed variety.

The primary components of porcelain are clays, feldspar or flint, and silica, all characterized by small particle size. To create different types of porcelain, craftspeople combine these raw materials in varying proportions until they obtain the desired green (unfired) and fired properties.
Although the composition of clay varies depending upon where it is extracted and how itis treated, all clays vitrify (develop glassy qualities), only at extremely high temperatures unless they are mixed with materials whose vitrification threshold is lower. Unlike glass, however, clay is refractory, meaning that it holds its shape when it is heated. In effect, porcelain combines glass's low porosity with clay's ability to retain its shape when heated, making it both easy to form and ideal for domestic use. The principal clays used to make porcelain are china clay and ball clay, which consist mostly of kaolinate, a hydrous aluminum silicate.
After the raw materials are selected and the desired amounts weighed, they go through a series of preparation steps. First, they are crushed and purified. Next, they are mixed together before being subjected to one of four forming processes—soft plastic forming, stiff plastic forming, pressing, or casting; the choice depends upon the type of ware being produced. After the porcelain has been formed, it is subjected to a final purification process, bisque-firing, before being glazed. Glaze is a layer of decorative glass applied to and fired onto a ceramic body. The final manufacturing phase is firing, a heating step that takes place in a type of oven called a kiln.
    

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