Ceramic materials are finished primarily by abrasive machining processes such as grinding, lapping, and polishing. In grinding, the abrasives typically are bonded in a grinding wheel and brought into contact with the ceramic surface at relatively high sliding speeds. In lapping and polishing, the ceramic is pressed against a polishing block with the abrasives suspended in between them in the form of a slurry. The material removal process, here, resembles three body wear. In all of these processes, the mechanical action of the abrasive can be thought of as the repeated application of relatively sharp sliding indenters to the ceramic surface. Under these conditions, a small number of mechanisms dominate the material removal process. These are brittle fracture due to crack systems oriented both parallel (lateral) and perpendicular (radial/median) to the free surface, ductile cutting with the formation of thin ribbon-like chips, and chemically assisted wear in the presence of a reactant that is enhanced by the mechanical action (tribochemical reaction). The relative role of each of these mechanisms in a particular finishing process can be related to the load applied to an abrasive particle, the sliding speed of the particle, and the presence of a chemical reactant. These wear mechanisms also cause damage to the near ceramic surface in the form of microcracking, residual stress, plastic deformation, and surface roughness which together determine the strength and performance of the finished component. A complete understanding of the wear mechanisms leading to material removal would allow for the design of efficient machining processes for producing ceramic surfaces of high quality.

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