The last 20 years, “the world of ceramic” has been working on creating ceramics of the future. What does not satisfy specialists in traditional ceramics? They are not satisfied with the core characteristics – strength and durability. Traditional ceramics are created by decorating the ceramic base with dyes and glazes. To put in simple terms, it is a wooden or metal base, which is painted with a paint-primer, then covered with a second layer and a protective final layer. Lack of strength and high water absorption of the ceramic base – it absorbs water and is damaged by temperature fluctuations – make the product more vulnerable to severe climate conditions and limits its use to indoors only. Moreover, the decorating layer of dye and glaze does not have sufficient strength and gets erased in areas of high human traffic.
For these reasons, a new type of ceramic tile was created in Italy in the 90’s. The inventors of the technology called this tile Gres Porcellanato. The key technical characteristics of this ceramic significantly surpass those of the traditional, natural marble and granite. Raw materials, technology and equipment used in the production of porcelain stoneware are more sophisticated and expensive than in case of traditional ceramics. Can you imagine that enriched natural materials (i.e. clay and feldspar) must be grinded to be transformed into a homogeneous creamy mass to then be completely dried out almost to the state of flour? Afterwards, the resulting substance is colored, mixed, compressed and burnt. Yet, it is absolutely worth it: after three hours in the kiln, we obtain a material that the nature itself has tried to create for centuries, but has never succeeded.
So, what is the ‘Ceramics of the Future’?
Ceramics of the Future – an authentic ceramic granite, in which design is created exceptionally by mixing natural ceramic powders without the use of glazes. The first precursor of ceramics of the future was traditional “salt and pepper” porcelain, which began to be manufactured in our country in 2000’s. Yes, ceramics of the future has been created then, with the “salt and pepper” tiles falling within this definition due to their technical traits, but the problem of decoration has not been resolved – its creators could not make it beautiful. As a consequence, the “salt and pepper” porcelain has gradually assumed a solid position of a ‘ceramic brick’, and now serves as an essential material at any construction site.
In case of ceramics of the future, decorative design is created by applying high pressure to powders, pre-colored with natural dyes, and subsequently burning the compressed mass under high temperatures. In other words, a pattern is created by pressing color powders into a tile body. Owing precisely to this technique, the design is renowned for its longevity: the pattern that has been “injected” this way cannot be erased nor destroyed, which applies not only to indoors, but also to outdoors environments. Innovative digital technology developed in the last several years allows to create decorative patterns and to guarantee ease of their replication for the following production batch.
Excellent strength characteristics of the ceramics of the future, thanks to the recent technological advances, have allowed us to enter the world of big sizes – today we can produce tiles up to 1200×3000, with thickness of 6 mm to 20 mm. The 1200×1200 format has become a realistic industry size and is produced on a mass scale in Europe, and now also in our production plant in Russia.
With the high level of modern designs and the wide variety of sizes, we can now take a step forward, towards other spheres of application for ceramics of the future, in which traditional ceramics cannot be used.