The Most Frequently Asked Questions on Refractories Answered

The Most Frequently Asked Questions on Refractories Answered
Refractories play a pivotal role in the everyday operations of almost all types of industries that deal in manufacturing. Each manufacturing process that is heat-intensive calls for these essential ceramic materials. Some of the most important industry verticals today including the Iron & Steel Industry, Aluminium Industry, Glass Industry, Power Generation Industry, Refineries, Petrochemicals & Chemicals industry, and Cement Industry cannot even imagine surviving without refractory products.
In a nutshell, whether the road that we use every day, the medical tools and equipment that we need, the ambulance that we use to carry patients during urgencies, the wastes that we need to dispose of, or the medicines that we consume when ill, all are possible just because of refractories manufactured and supplied by the leading producers of ladle refractory products.   

Let’s take a concise look at what refractories actually are 

Refractory products are materials that can combat decomposition caused by extreme heat, any severe chemical attack, and even pressure of any type. The products are capable of retaining their strength, original shape, and form even when they are exposed to extremely high temperatures. Refractories are:
  • Polycrystalline
  • Polyphase
  • Inorganic
  • Non-metallic
  • Porous, and
  • Heterogeneous. 

Refractories are composed typically of nitrides, oxides, or carbides of the materials listed below:

  • Silicon
  • Aluminium
  • Magnesium
  • Calcium
  • Boron
  • Chromium, and
  • Zirconium.
As per the definition given by the ASTM C71, refractories are non-metallic materials containing all those special chemical and physical attributes that make them ideally suitable for applications wherein the environments are exposed to more than 1,000 °F (811 K; 538 °C) temperatures. Refractory products find applications in the following:
  • Furnaces
  • Kilns
  • Incinerators, and
  • Reactors. 
They are also utilized to create different types of crucibles and molds for the casting of glass and different other metals. Refractories are also used for surfacing flame deflector systems that are a crucial part of rocket launch structures. The metal casting industry is the major consumer of around 70% of refractories produced. 

Types of refractories based on fusion temperature (Melting Point)

Based on the melting point, refractory products are classified into three types: 
1. Normal refractories that have a melting point of 1580–1780 °C (e.g. Fire clay)
2. High refractories that have a melting point of 1780–2000 °C (e.g. Chromite)
3. Super refractories that have a melting point of > 2000 °C (e.g. Zirconia).

What are the primary purposes behind using refractories?

Refractory materials manufactured and supplied by the leading producers of ladle refractory products protect highly expensive manufacturing frameworks that produce a wide range of metals and materials. The primary purpose behind using refractories lies in the attention to creating a safe and sound working environment where both men and machines can operate well without any harm. Refractories make the working conditions ideal despite the extreme heat generated in the environment.  

How are refractory products used?

As far as the use of refractories in the steel industry is concerned, they are utilized as consumables following a single-use policy. It is up to the refractory to what extent it works in a particular setup or condition. They can keep working up for some days to a few weeks. After their serviceability comes to a close, they need to be replaced immediately otherwise the production of steel will stop with immediate effect.  
When it comes to industries other than steel, refractories are used during the construction of new plants. In such plants, the requirement for refractories generates on an ongoing basis with timely repairs. Timely repairs are necessary otherwise the performance of the refractories would come to a halt. Therefore, constant supplies of refractories are imperative for the smooth functioning of the industries that include:
  • Steel
  • Cement
  • Glass
  • Metals
  • Pulp
  • Chemicals
  • Waste and other plants.

What role does the refractory industry play in value creation?

As far as the role of the refractory industry in value creation is concerned, it is crucial, pivotal, and all-important. Everything including industrial machinery, construction, packaging, and even manufacturing would come to a halt if the constant supplies of refractories are stopped. 
As far as the cost of refractory products is concerned, it lies below 3 percent, and 1 percent of the cost of producing these products. But well-optimized applications across segments can have an influence of up to 20 percent on the product cost of the customers.
Be it manufacturing or applications, all types of refractories are generally non-toxic and can be easily recycled after long-term use. This way, they encourage sustainable applications including reuse as a refractory product again, as nutrients for the agriculture industry, as processing aids across industries, and as building materials. 

What is the size of the refractory industry?

As per the data available, in the year 2018, the market size of the refractory industry was around USD 30 Billion. Industry experts are of the view that the industry would register a growth of 4% annually between 2022 and 2025. What will drive the refractory market in the next 3-4 years is the demand from the following industries:
  • Aerospace
  • Electrical
  • Automotive
  • Glass, and 
  • Cement.
Over the past few years, the manufacturers and suppliers of refractory products in India have earned a formidable reputation on the international level by providing their diverse customers with customized products as per the exacting requirements. The use of technology, constant research and development activities, the desire to innovate, and the willingness to offer the best value for money are what put these Indian refractory manufacturers and suppliers on the cutting edge. 

Concluding Remarks 

Taking innovation to 1200°C and beyond, RHI Magnesita is among the leading manufacturers and suppliers of supreme quality refractory products. The company has the largest number of locations around the world. Right since the beginning, the company has been providing its customers with innovative and reliable products and services with the most robust supply, and quality assurance. The company has a high level of geographic diversification with shipping in more than 125 countries worldwide, 12,000 employees, and 28 principal production sites. As of now, the company is a single refractory solutions platform offering the industry’s most comprehensive product and solutions portfolio.