Dense and near-net-shape fabrication of Si3N4 ceramics
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With silicon nitride significant progress has been made in order to search for fully dense, strong, reliable structural ceramics to find wide use in applications at high temperatures which are allowing new and innovative solutions to component design problems. Taking into account that more and more ceramic components based on Si3N4 are being used in the aerospace and automobile industries, it is a great challenge to fabricate such complex-shaped components with high reliability and with defect-free microstructures such as pores, inclusions or any other inhomogeneity at acceptable costs. On the other side, the high hardness Of Si3N4 ceramics is almost always cost prohibitive to shape components by hard machining. It is therefore great effort exhibited in the development of near-net-shape fabrication processes that can produce complex-shaped components with a minimum of machining as well as to minimize the number and size of microstructural defects within design limits. In this review, t...he fabrication of near-net-shape Si3N4 ceramics is given in detail. All kinds of these techniques (injection molding, gel-casting, robocasting, mold shape deposition, rapid prototyping) and their advantages and disadvantages are explained. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.