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MSI finds ‘window of opportunity’ with recycled glass

By Nicole Murray

Screen Shot 2017-07-13 at 5.00.54 PMOver the years, floor covering manufacturers have incorporated recycled materials into their products—the most common examples including used tires repurposed for rubber flooring; old wood panels recovered from dilapidated barns or railroad ties re-milled for rustic-plank flooring; and sawdust captured from woodworking operations that is then converted into MDF fiberboard for laminate flooring planks.

MS International (MSI) continues in that tradition with the launch of Urban Cool, a new line of wall and flooring tiles made from recycled glass with various textile prints and marble looks available in beige, light gray, dark gray, white and brown.

“Urban Cool now has 12 stunning items made from crushed glass powder that is mixed with a binding agent and then printed with ink-jet technology,” said Emily Holle, director of trend & design national marketing, MSI. “The collection features 2-inch hexagon, interlocking patterns and 2 x 4 subway tiles.”

By using recycled glass as a source material, MSI is able to repurpose components that would otherwise go to waste. Beyond the environmental benefits, this newly launched product has limitless capabilities to accommodate any style because of the surface’s recycled glass texture, according to the company.

“The printing technology applied to the surface offers a unique look not found elsewhere in the marketplace,” Holle said, citing potential applications in kitchens and bathrooms. “These items will make calming back splashes, gorgeous shower floors and great accent details when paired with shower tile.”

MSI expects Urban Cool will retail between $14.99 and $19.99 per sheet. Merchandising aids are also available for stocking dealers. These include grouted boards, materials and instructions. “Most retailers will choose to sample these new mosaics in a 12 x 12 grouted board mounted on a wall or an ‘A’ frame—all of which are available to ship now,” said Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, MSI.

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Ceramic: Next-gen digital printing technologies unlock tile’s potential

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.15 PMDigital printing has helped to change the tile industry by providing manufacturers with limitless designs that mimic what is trending amongst consumers. Whether it’s natural stone, cement, marble, slate or wood looks, digital printing offers consumers the looks they want, the ability to put it where they want and at a desirable price range—all of which ultimately benefits the specialty retailer.

Case in point is Confindustria Ceramica, which finds digital printing to be one of the key technologies used in Italian ceramic tile production. “When it was first introduced, it could only guarantee satisfactory results for certain materials, but it can now be used successfully for any kind of product,” said Vittorio Borelli, chairman. “Its role has been further strengthened by the emergence of the second major innovation in ceramics, that of large-format panels and slabs, given that digital technology is essential for decorating these products.”

As technologies continue to advance, manufacturers from all over the globe are developing newer visuals and textures. Some of the newer design trends Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing Emser Tile, has noticed include Moroccan and Spanish looks, as well as antique visuals that mimic handmade tile. The main development she sees focuses on the manufacturer’s ability to customize products. “Another trend we’re seeing is the ability to create art on tile. Artists are now doing renderings and it’s being reproduced on tile. All of that is great to do now that the technology allows for it. I think in general we’re seeing a lot of customization.”

Haaksma explained that the new customizable features of tile are a bonus for specialty retailers, especially those who have designers or customers who want to create their own images. This trend lets tile take on higher-end looks with greater nuances, not only among tiles but customers as well.

Other tile manufacturers, such as Dal-Tile—the parent company of Marazzi, Daltile, American Olean and Ragno—are also creating more sophisticated products with the help of next-generation digital printing. “The evolution of printing technology has led to manufacturers being able to create unique patterns and designs on individual tiles, similar to the natural materials, like wood or stone, which we are replicating with high degrees of authenticity,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing.

Part of Dal-Tile’s digital printing technology includes what the company calls “Reveal Imaging.” As Mattioli explained: “[It] is our state-of-the-art digital printing process that produces realistic color, detail and veining that is unique on every single tile for a look that’s virtually indistinguishable from natural stone. Digital printing technology is giving us—as well as other tile manufacturers—a competitive advantage over other flooring categories.”

Beyond the ability to recreate various designs and patterns is the ability of the new technologies to apply different materials to the tile. For example, the innovations at Crossville allow its digital printer to manufacture gloss, matte and luster glaze effects on its tiles, according to Craig Miller, R&D director.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.40 PMMS International (MSI) is also incorporating newer printing technology that enables a quicker production process. “Digital printer manufacturing companies, such as Kerajet from Spain, recently developed an inkjet printer that will be able to apply both glaze and ink in one step,” said Paulo Pereira Jr., senior merchant porcelain. “Since these cutting-edge digital printers can apply both enamels and solids simultaneously—besides the basic graphic effect—products can also incorporate other effects such as metallic, shiny or anti-slip effects in the same, one-step application.”

In that same vein, advanced technologies employed at Emser Tile are allowing the manufacturer to incorporate ink-jet printing deeper into the surface. “It’s not just a print sitting on top of the surface, but it actually becomes ingrained into the bisque,” Haaksma said. “So then the patterns and the colors are now infused into the tile itself.”

Overall, newer printing technologies are allowing manufacturers to innovate throughout the entire production process. For Borelli, this includes “image acquisition techniques that allow for ever higher levels of definition; increasingly powerful graphic design software capable of processing the images; more precise and high-performance print heads; and the development of suitable ceramic glazes.”

Retailer benefits
While next-generation digital printing provides manufacturers with benefits, it ultimately helps specialty retailers sell tile product at higher margins, according to tile executives.

These new technologies are enabling the consolidation of flooring products including wood, laminates, natural stones, etc. “For specialty retailers the requirement for training their sales team goes down as product lines are consolidated,” MSI’s Pereira said. “In addition, it enables more individualism for customers in the design process as the amount of choice significantly increases.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.09 PMWith the help of digital printing, consumers can also get high-end looks and high-performance flooring—both of which are available through porcelain tile at a much more affordable price. One example of this is found in tile that resembles natural stone. “[Natural stone] continues to gain strength in the market, but it is not suitable for all applications,” Emser Tile’s Haaksma said. “So you can get the realistic stone look with the performance, durability and affordability of porcelain. This way you can put it in a kitchen countertop, or wet space where you wouldn’t usually want to put a stone.”

Higher margins are available to retailers courtesy of the attractive characteristics made possible through digitally printed tile. “These types of products are letting retailers expand their margin dollars by drawing more consumers to their showrooms to buy products that were once unimaginable for a typical homeowner,” Mattioli explained.

Homeowners, industry expert say, are often inspired by botique hotels, spas and hospitality spaces they encounter through traveling. “In the past, the durability concerns and price points of rare stones and marbles prevented many consumers from bringing these gorgeous high-end looks in their own homes,” Mattioli explained. “However, through Dal-Tile’s Reveal Imaging technology, our brands are able to offer the visuals of rare stones and marbles in a tile product. This lets consumers have the look they love with the performance that real-life activity and real life budgets demand.”

For Confindustria Ceramica’s Borelli, higher margins are attainable by comparing past and present products. “All you have to do is compare these products with those that were available just five years ago to appreciate the progress that has been made. But it is crucial for retailers to communicate this value to their customers so that they are prepared to pay a premium for ceramic products that stand out in terms of innovation, technology and technical characteristics.”

Digitally differentiating
Most digital printing technologies are not proprietary—meaning manufacturers are often using similar machinery to produce hundreds of different products. When it comes to differentiating digitally printed tile, most manufacturers keep a close eye on developing trends to extract key details that will be unique to their product lines.

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 3.26.04 PM“While digital decoration technology is capable of creating products with superior technical characteristics, it does mean the same plant solutions are being adopted across the entire Italian ceramic industry,” Borelli said. “What really sets companies apart is their stylistic choices, their use of graphic designs, colors and surface textures.”

Crossville aims to differentiate itself from other tile manufacturers by blending traditional printing technology and ceramic material effects with digitally printed images. “We call it a ‘digital-plus’ approach that allows us to create looks that are unique to Crossville products and are not replicable,” Miller explained.

For manufacturers such as Dal-Tile and its associate brands, differentiation comes from not only creating differing designs, but also from developing multiple products. “The vast array of tile offered by our brands provides every customer with a solution for every challenge they may face,” Mattioli explained.

 

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MSI opens new innovation center

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.30.28 AMAtlanta—MS International recently opened its new innovation center here, a state-of-the-art, 20,000-square-foot space within a 150,000-square-foot warehouse that supplements its 200,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse five miles down the road.

The new building reflects the enormous growth the company has been experiencing over the past decade. In fact, according to Manny Llerena, director of sales and marketing, the company has grown its sales at least $100 million each year for the past five years and is on target to surpass the $1 billion mark this year.

The new innovation center houses the entire MSI marketing team, 18 strong and growing. This includes graphic designers and the digital marketing and product development teams. “The idea was to create a space that was exciting, where you would want to come to work,” said Emily Holle, creative director. “It’s beautiful, comfortable and inspiring. It’s a cool space and shows off much of our product.” The space also includes a training area that doubles as a break room. As well, a creative library space—where MSI designers can design the next wave of product—offers a plethora of natural light. “Here our designers can track home décor trends.”

But it all wouldn’t be possible without MSI’s exponential growth, which Llerena attributes in large part to a philosophy of being affordable and accessible. “We find the best-looking products from around the world. We are low cost from the manufacturer to the retailer. That whole idea is allowing us to expand the market as opposed to taking a share of the market.”

He added that success begins with the product itself. “We are sourcing the latest products, trends and technologies, and are leading in styling and bringing them in at affordable prices. We make even the high-end products very affordable.”

After posting sales of $920 million in 2016, MSI fully expects to eclipse the $1 billion mark in 2017. That will be achieved in part by virtue of four or five new branches, bringing to 27 the total number of locations in the U.S. To support this growth, the company hired 280 new employees last year and projects to bring on the same number or more this year.

“We want to work with many of the large retailers and help them grow their tile business,” Llerena said. But MSI will be very selective regarding its retail partners. “We are looking to grow with retailers who have dedicated themselves to this category. Ceramic is a difficult category to manage.”

At the same time, MSI also hopes to bring more retailers into countertops, a business that generates approximately half of MSI’s total sales. “With the excitement around quartz, it is easier for the retailer to get involved in the category. They don’t have to show a tremendous number of slabs in the warehouse. We can help them by joining them up with our fabricators.”

MSI will be exhibiting at Coverings with a bevy of new products. Llerena says they all respond to five trends:

  1. A focus on the wall. “Today, one out of every five sales is a wall tile sale. People are getting tired of paint. They are using wall tile to replace paint.
  2. A continuation of lineal looks. “They are a little softer, more water color lines running through tiles.”
  3. Black and white combinations for floors and walls.
  4. Outdoor spaces. Taking tiles that can work indoors and coordinating them with outdoors.
  5. Creative floor/wall tile combinations.
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Ceramic: Producers continue to master digital imagery

Crossville’s Lindsey Ann Waldrep and HGTV’s John Gidding pose in front of the company’s new display system.

Different looks, shapes, sizes also take center stage

By Louis Iannaco

Volume 26/Number 19; February 4/11, 2013

Once again, advancements in manufacturing techniques seized the day at Surfaces as ceramic and porcelain tile producers were all about the techno-pop. With state-of-the-art technology, tile manufacturers have been able to make any surface look exactly like a different material. Whether it’s slate, travertine or marble, things don’t always have to be what they appear when it comes to ceramic and porcelain tile.

Utilizing techniques such as digital imagery/ink jet printing, tile producers created numerous looks for the perusal of Surfaces attendees. From rectangular planks to even larger formats than in previous years, ceramic players offered their customers something new, better or different. Continue reading Ceramic: Producers continue to master digital imagery