Ceramic tiles may present some issues during their manufacturing process. Most of them do not have an origin in the process itself, but in the raw materials used in the production line. A proper control in the raw materials and in the process will minimize the potential risks of producing second class materials.
In a competitive market like we have in ceramics in the last years, globalized, with common solutions to the standard production issues, differentiation in costs is the only way to remain competitive. So, how much could we save?
Decorative ceramics are characterized by fast firing cycles with values below 30 minutes in some countries. Of course this is not the standard value, but it gives an idea of how well adapted these kilns are to fast firing. At the same time, being one of the main polluting points in decorative ceramics manufacturing process, lots of efforts have been dedicated in order to reduce CO2 emissions, as well as some other highly pollutants (NOx, HCl, HF, heavy metals, Sox, VOCs, among others).
The next challenge in the horizon will be automation, though a lot of improvements have been done in order to bring self-regulation and high optimization of the full firing process.
Decoration in ceramics has experienced a number of changes in the last decades. We have seen some hand-made decoration replaced by automated systems when higher production rates were demanded. Flat screens evolved to automated rotating screens, allowing higher production rates and better application results. With an intermediate solution based on gravure silicon rollers, most of the factories today are using inkjet technology.
The last week of September you could visit two of the most exciting Ceramic exhibitions in the world. This year, we visited both Cersaie and Tecnargilla and we could appreciate some interesting trends in the clay and the decorative tile market.
For many years, bentonite has been introduced in ceramic bodies to enhance plasticity in an economic way. However, its use in ceramics is not only bringing advantages but also some inconveniences related to its ability to increase plasticity. Its layer structure is responsible for these properties.
New aesthetics aligned with new technical requirements in the extrusion of ceramic bodies are demanding a new approach when it comes to additives’ requirements. In the past, lubrication and proper rheology were highly appreciated, but today there are other properties that should be taken into consideration if defects such as cracks, laminations, scumming, etc. can’t appear along the process, mainly due to the higher technical requirements of the raw materials.
It has been agreed by a lot of people that this edition has been the best so far, at least along this century. Lots of new products, designs and all of them below a new sustainability umbrella that is the new flagship of the industry.
Bentonite has been used in ceramics for many years due to the way it performs in terms of plasticity and workability. Nonetheless, there are some alternative approaches that may ease its replacement, as they show some undesirable side effects when introduced into formulations.
The pressing stage is one of the most demanding in the production of ceramic bodies. Therefore, gaining any improvements here is directly translated into savings along the production process. These improvements will help to optimize the total costs of the manufactured products by reducing losses whilst improving the quality of the shaped materials.