The raw materials used in the manufacture of tiles is extremely important - Different minerals used in different quantities result in tiles of varying properties and characteristics.
Each raw material is ground to a specific particle size. Milling is important in maintaining consistency through the manufacturing process.
Specific quantities of each raw material are mixed with water to form a liquid slurry of evenly distributed minerals.
The liquid slurry undergoes a complex process of drying. The slurry is heated, cooled, sprayed at high pressure and cyclonic-ally separated until a fine powder is formed. This process is designed to remove moisture from the mixture.
The fine powder is hydraulically pressed in a mould by a weight of up to 40 tonnes. At this stage the tile has taken shape.
For tiles requiring surface decoration or protection, a glaze is a applied in one of four ways.
Bell Glazing - Continuous, even flow of single colour glaze.
Screen Printing - Ink is applied through a mesh screen in patterns or shapes. This method can be inconsistent and is not efficient for reproducing pattern multiple times.
Rotocoating - An engraved roller applies ink as the tile is rolled through. This method can result in weak colour definition and is quickly being overtaken by;
Inkjet Printing - Much the same as a home desktop printer, inks are applied at extremely high speed and precision by a digitally controlled print head. This method is the most accurate, consistent, cost efficient and adaptable.
The minerals within a tile must be subjected to extreme heat to bind together, Porcelain tiles are subjected to heat in excess of 1200 Degrees Celsius, resulting in properties such as extremely low water absorption and resistance to chemical attack.
The rectifying process involves grinding the edges of the tile to create a square, straight and consistent edge. This allows tiles to be installed closer to each other, reducing the need for grout and creating a much more appealing surface.