Sourcing Complex Quartz Components

Fused quartz is extensively used in a wide range of applications. Yet, the successful sourcing of more complex quartz parts often requires a combination of technical support, finishing capabilities, and availability of the right raw materials.

The unique thermal, optical, and mechanical properties of quartz glass make it ideal for use in a wide variety of applications where other materials are problematic.

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When the product has a complex geometry, must meet tight tolerances, or requires very high purity, it becomes more important to source custom quartz products from a specialist. Credit: Technical Glass Products (TGP)

Properties such as hardness, chemical purity, resistance to high temperatures and corrosion, and electrical insulation—to name a few—make structures composed of fused quartz ideal for various industries. These range from semiconductor to fiber optic and photovoltaic (solar) cell manufacturing, specialty lighting, and laboratory ware.

Because the properties of fused quartz vary in degree or values, achieving the optimum performance characteristics from a quartz component depends on the material, fabrication, and finishing techniques that are applied. When the product has a complex geometry, must meet tight tolerances, or requires very high purity, it becomes more important to source custom quartz products from a specialist. TGP is one that that offers design and technical services, as well as the necessary production capabilities.

The following are some basic considerations that can help simplify the sourcing of complex and other custom-made fused quartz parts.

Verify component requirements

“Our customers are astute regarding their applications, but it can be important to verify what properties of fused quartz are important to them,” says Christine Murphy, executive vice president, technical sales at International Ceramic Engineering (ICE), Worcester, Mass. “For instance, if the application is laser equipment, then reflectivity of the quartz is an important property. But to the semiconductor industry, high purity and excellent high temperature properties make quartz tubing an ideal furnace chamber for processing silicon wafers.”

ICE specializes in the manufacture and fabrication of advanced ceramics, including fused quartz. They also offer extensive component manufacturing capabilities from prototype to production quantities. Most of the fused quartz pieces they provide come from Technical Glass Products (TGP), Painesville, Ohio, a quartz fabricator and raw material distributor of quartz flat stock, rod, and tubing.

According to Rick Ricciardo, a partner at TGP, quartz fabricators are often asked to provide technical assistance and close collaboration with a customer’s engineers from design through completed fabrication.

“We often deal with engineers who have multiple degrees, yet it is very important to them that we can validate the material

selection and other specifications for their applications,” says Ricciardo. “For example, an engineer might send us a component that had already been made out of silicon carbide or aluminum ceramic that cracked due to thermal expansion issues, which quartz can overcome.

“In another example, a customer may request a part that has unnecessarily tight tolerances, so we advise them on design modifications that can lower costs and speed delivery. Sometimes we can save a customer significant time and money by suggesting an off-the-shelf solution, such as labware, rather than fabricate a custom structure.”

Validate finishing capabilities

Machining and other operations for finishing quartz parts are critical, particularly when working to achieve complex shapes. ICE purchases both standard parts and co

mplex parts from TGP made to near-net shape. These custom blanks are then finished at ICE, if necessary, using the firm’s sophisticated in-house machining capabilities.

“Most of our customers do not have in-house machining capabilities for fused quartz,” says Ricciardo. “Although finishing quartz offers latitudes similar to finishing metals, it usually requires diamond tooling, as opposed to a standard cutting mill. Cutting or drilling with a diamond tool is more painstaking, takes longer and the tool is much more expensive. With our equipment, we can fabricate and finish an almost infinite number of shapes.”

Quartz blowing and molding capabilities

Comprehensive quartz parts suppliers such as TGP offer quartz glass blowing capabilities for prototypes or short runs of custom products. In some cases hand-blown parts are combined with machined parts.

“We generally require no minimum quantity order,” Ricciardo says. “If a customer wants a prototype or just a few pieces, we’ll often blow them free-hand, provided the shapes permit using that technique. But if it is a complex shape or the customer wants 10 or more pieces held to exact dimensions, then we might use a graphite mold to keep the quartz pieces as close to identical as possible.”

When a graphite mold is used, the tolerance range is normally down to 0.005 in., according to Ricciardo. That tolerance would apply to exacting specifications such as those required for semiconductor ware and medical ampoules.

Consider reduced lead times

The inventory of fused quartz is one of the big issues today because availability has a direct impact on timely shipping. Many major raw material suppliers, including Momentive, Philips, Heraeus, and Qsil, often have long lead times and steep minimum orders. A certified distributor, such as TGP, serves as a critical middleman to the market by stocking raw material in-house, with no minimum order requirements

“Because it impacts turnaround time, we work to maintain the largest stock of any fabricator-distributor in the country,” says Ricciardo. “This includes hard-to-get materials such as synthetic-grade quartz. Also, we stock customers’ finished products on the shelf so that we can ship a specified amount every month, or keep a specific type of raw material available to reduce lead-times and eliminate rush charges.”

About Technical Glass Products

Founded in 1990, Technical Glass Products is a nationwide fabricator and distributor of fused quartz and borosilicate glass. The firm prides itself in offering a comprehensive raw quartz inventory, technical product assistance, and its capabilities of meeting the industry’s most stringent standards and tolerances.

For more information, contact Technical Glass Products, 881 Callendar Blvd., Painesville, OH 44077; Phone: (440) 639-6399; Fax: (440) 639-1292; Email: tgp@tgpohio.com; Web site: http://www.technicalglass.com/