Learn about the contents of the INSIGHT MDT files on these pages. To visit your personal MDT building page click here ( you can also click the Download MDT link at the top of the INSIGHT page).

INSIGHT ceramic chemistry software program from Digitalfire maintains chemistry data for ceramic materials in an XML database file that it loads into memory at startup. These files are called MDT files (Materials Definition Table files). The one included with INSIGHT contains about 250 materials (INSIGHT supports a maximum of 500). It includes generic materials plus popular name brand materials, mostly from North America. Following are some factors that determine why certain materials have been excluded:

-A minimal number of colorants are included for several reasons. First, much less in known about how they affect chemistry and fired properties (like thermal expansion) so cluttering up formulas with them impedes study of the relationship of the base glaze with fired results. Second, since they are normally added to glazes in percentages necessary to achieve specific colors regardless of chemistry, their amounts in the chemistry is often meaningless in this regard. Third, including alot of colorants in a materials database greatly increases the number of oxide columns, these unnecessary columns clog reports and list boxes.

-Some opacifiers are not included for several reasons: First, like colorants, the weight percentage needed to opacify recipes to the desired degree is well known and fine-tuned by experience regardless of what chemistry calculations might indicate. Second, although we do have a thermal expansion value for zircon (but not for tin oxide) it is difficult to say how meaningful it is in calculating the thermal expansion it imposes since it does not disassociate and interact in the melt as do the other oxides.

Third, opacifiers like zircon impose certain properties, like glaze toughness, on the recipe level because they do not dissolve in the melt (they are simply hard and resistant to abrasion).

-Materials like binders are normally organic and completely burned away during firing so they have no impact on chemistry and are therefore no included.

It is important to remember that just because a material cannot be found in INSIGHT's local database, this does not mean it cannot be entered into recipes. Any material can be entered, ones which it cannot find simply do not impact the calculated formula.

You can add your own materials in several ways (discussed below), so you are free to handle the database the way you like if you do not agree with the above logic. There is one circumstance where you might want to add more materials to your database. INSIGHT needs a cost for each material in order to accurately calculate the cost of a recipe. Thus, you can add materials and specify only the cost, it is not necessary to include the chemistry. Another alternative is to use the INSIGHT Overrides and Typecodes dialog to enter all your materials and costs.

It is possible to edit and maintain the MDT file provided with INSIGHT using the materials and oxides dialog the program supplies (the files store material chemistry as formulas). It is also possible to maintain an MDT file externally in a CSV file using Microsoft Excel (INSIGHT can also read the CSV format). CSV files store material chemistry as analyses. There is a video on the Digitalfire website on how to do this.

However the Digitalfire website has an MDT download page (for logged in level 2 INSIGHT users) where you can maintain your own custom MDT by choosing an existing starter and adding materials from the thousands defined on the site. The site also stores material chemistry data by weight (analyses) rather than by molecule numbers (formulas). Material data is available for generic materials as well as name brand derivatives of them. You can rename materials (to translate to another language or to use the chemistry from one material under another name). There is a search tool to find materials by name, type or chemistry. The first step to compile the content of an MDT is to select a starter MDT. Ones are available for different areas of the world as well as specific industries or disciplines. After deciding what materials to add or rename you click to compile the file, then click to download it and put it into your documents/insight folder where INSIGHT can see it. The MDT download page has instructions and a link to a video on how to do it.

The chart below marks generic materials, these are materials that do not have a specific manufacturer, they are universal in the ceramics industry, they have theoretical formulas. It is evident from the chart that some MDTs need to have more materials added. It is true that you can add any materials you want to your custom MDT, however we want to have an optimized starter list for each. If you would like to suggest any additions to a default list please contact us.

The article 'Be Careful When Altering the Materials Database in Insight' (link below) has more information on this.

By Tony Hansen

See Also

  • How to Add Materials to the Desktop Insight MDT

    It shows in detail how to add materials to INSIGHT using the INSIGHT materials dialog, using CSV materials files and Microsoft Excel and building a custom materials file at

  • Desktop Insight MDT: Adding a Material

    This video was made for a specific customer, but is of general interest to anyone having problems with adding materials to the Insight MDT or encountering what they perceive as problems.

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