Ceramic blades are a relatively new product. Developed for processes that originally required round rotating blades where down time to change them was an issue to the production line, the longer run time of ceramic blades improved efficiency.
Ceramic blades in industrial processes developed, both in materials and complexity of design, spilling over into commercial kitchens and finally into households for everyday use.
Blades for scalpels and Stanley knives and a whole range of industrial blades are now available but the strengths and weaknesses of the blades require careful consideration against cost and life span compared to their steel counterparts.
Ceramic blades are non-magnetic which can be a problem in food industries where magnets are used to safeguard produce from metal fragments and possible pieces of snapped blades. But in areas around magnetic fields where a lose blade can become a danger they come into their own.
On one hand, ceramic blades are harder and last longer in use compared to materials that are more prone to blunt metal blades such as fibreglass. On the other hand, ceramic blades are more prone to impact and if dropped can break. Furthermore, if a process involves cutting or slicing, ceramic blades have an advantage on life span but if the process involves levering or contact with metal surfaces or any hard object then the blade life can be reduced.
The use of ceramic blades increased when Sushi chefs started promoting them mainly because they did not taint the delicate fresh fish which some metal knives did. The use of ceramic knives peaked with over 20M sold a year mostly for the home kitchen where people endeavoured to emulate their favourite TV chefs.
The blades did have some issues where the radial curve on many designs varied and did not lend themselves to diamond grinding by automatic systems. The best response to this was a manual grinding approach using skilled grinders to apply the finishing touch.
Geoff Randle, Precision Ceramics Business Director, comments …
“From a personal point of view I have used ceramic knives in my kitchen for about 10 years and the 5-year-old knife I currently have has a number of small chips on the blade, mostly as a direct result of my miss handling and dropping the knife. The blade remains sharp enough to cut a very soft tomato into very thin slices. My earlier attempts to use a ceramic knife against all recommendations and mostly by forgetting it was ceramic and using it on inappropriate surfaces such as glass and levering the blade instead of just cutting, led to early failures.
Ceramic knives can only be re-sharpened with a diamond tool, so a 5-year blade life without sharpening is pretty impressive.
The foodstuff I have found most troublesome to cut is cheese. The cutting edge works well but as the highly polished blade cuts through the cheese, it creates a vacuum like condition and the cheese becomes firmly stuck to the blade.”