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Ceramic: New formats, designs emerge

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By K.J. Quinn and Nicole Murray

 

Several of the industry’s major players have invested significant capital and resources into the development of next-generation tile flooring and wall products. Judging by the introductions making their respective debuts at various markets this winter, those investments are paying off.

On one hand, advances in digital printing are enabling producers to introduce head-turning formats and designs. At the same time, technological breakthroughs are helping suppliers improve performance and durability. “We are constantly evaluating our technologies, always looking for new ways to improve our product offerings,” said Gianni Mattioli, executive vice president, product and marketing, Dal-Tile. “Our digital printing techniques allow us to create tile that is so realistic, most customers cannot discern between what is tile and what is the natural surface we are imitating.”

Emerging formats such as large slabs are providing a broader canvas for many of these new designs. At Surfaces, Dal-Tile showcased its Panoramic porcelain series available in a 10 x 6 format. Then there’s the Industrial Panoramic series, which comes in four colors, and the Elemental Panoramic series, which comes in seven colors. Tiles for the new collections are available in varied thicknesses including 12mm for countertop applications and 6mm, which is more suitable for the floor or wall applications.

“We had to go bigger because people’s kitchen islands are growing larger and their surrounding counters have larger wrap-arounds,” said Roy Viana, Dal-Tile’s director of slab and natural stone. “Within this collection alone are color and texture options for just about any look to be achievable along with the durable and long-lasting benefits of porcelain.”

Another hot trend in porcelain tile is thinner looks. One of the most significant advantages of thin tile is the ability to be offered in much larger slabs than traditional tile, according to Barbara Haaksma, vice president of marketing, Emser Tile. “Grout lines are the bane of everyone’s existence in the industry. The monolithic look that comes with larger tiles allows for [rooms] to look spacious and, therefore, much more appealing.”

Vance Hunsucker, national sales manager, tile and stone, Shaw Floors, also cited the new tile’s ease of installation. “Gauged porcelain slabs take less time to install since they are manufactured in large pieces and don’t require the same intensity in terms of grouting and cutting that’s inherent with traditional tile formats.”

New designs in products such as porcelain slabs are offering even more incentives for homeowners and specifiers to choose tile for more than just showers and backsplashes. “We see convergence of designs appealing across both commercial and residential,” said David Koenig, vice president and general manager, Crossville Studios, the tile maker’s distribution division. “Porcelain slabs are starting to come into the market and will continue to gain market presence over the next two to three years.”

Aesthetic enhancements
High-definition printing is completely transforming the category, allowing manufacturers to supply consumers with high-quality floor tiles that resemble natural materials. Image resolution, observers say, is integral to creating products with superior characteristics in terms of detail, color fidelity and graphic designs.

The digital printing process has become so sophisticated that manufacturers are creating tiles that vary from piece to piece, much like the real products.

A case in point is Marazzi’s Urban District BRX collection, which closely resembles brick but is actually ceramic tile. Exuding the look of handcrafted bricks, the Urban District BRX line is inspired by 19th century Chicago brick, so realistic consumers will be hard pressed to tell the difference.

One natural look that remains strong in commercial and residential flooring is wood, thanks to the introduction of new graphics and sizes. Longer, wider formats in wood visuals are becoming increasingly popular, Shaw’s Hunsucker said, a trend that is in line with hardwood flooring. “There appears to be a transition away from 6 x 24 formats, which are quickly becoming more of a commodity product within the market.”

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Mannington Select reinvigorates LVT with new visuals

Calhoun, Ga.—With new visuals in wood, stone and abstract patterns, Mannington Select LVT brings a tremendous selection of pattern options, a broader range of colors and compelling color coordination across product platforms. All of this, combined with a new premium construction, elevates Mannington Select to the pinnacle of the Mannington Commercial LVT product offering.

The collection offers a color update to existing wood patterns, including Chatham Oak, Princeton Cherry, Barnwood Plank and Mountain Pine. The design team also added new wood species such as a stylish and modern maple, a dark antique walnut, a distinguished classical walnut, and an oak option with softer graining available in less traditional, more neutral colors.

The resulting wood offering brings more choices informed by today’s trends—rustic looks as well as clean and modern aesthetics.

Mannington Select stone and abstract products were also updated. New stone visuals include a fine-grained, foliated slate that has a layer of pearl ink in the print to give depth. Crete features a soft linear striation with a unique grit-like texture. Among the abstracts, Celestial is a captivating linear pattern with warm and cool color play which highlights a pearlescent glow.

Select features an advancement of Mannington’s Quantum Guard Technology: Quantum Guard Elite. A multilayered technology, engineered to offer scratch resistance with best-in-class dimensional stability, advanced stain resistance, superior impact resistance and clean cutting during installation. Its easy, no-polish maintenance significantly reduces overall lifecycle cost and total cost of ownership.

The products are certified under FloorScore, approved as CA01350 compliant and recognized in LEED. Mannington Select LVT is manufactured in an ISO 9001 and 14001 registered manufacturing facility. With the addition of the new performance related features, Mannington Select offers enhanced warranties. Those new warranties include a limited 20-year commercial warranty and limited 20-year quantum guard elite warranty.

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Ceramic: Digital printing advances boost realism in visuals

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

By K.J. Quinn

Groundbreaking production technology is one of the greatest factors impacting the evolution of ceramic and porcelain floor designs. Vendors are pushing the envelope to reach new aesthetic heights and still satisfy consumer demands for in-style products.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.58.14 AM“Through digital printing, we are able to scan in virtually any image and reproduce that image on tile, just like scanning and printing a picture,” said Massimo Ballucchi, Dal-Tile’s director of product design. “We can develop ceramic tile that looks exactly like the natural surfaces but still features the benefits of tile such as durability, cleanability and high performance.”

Digital printing capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds the past three years as tile producers discover new mediums to apply to ceramic and porcelain surfaces. “Advances in the style and number of print heads [allow] for a more defined graphic and provides more channels and opportunities to combine different colors and glazes to create different textures,” said Sean Cilona, director of marketing and product development, Florida Tile. “Advancements are now allowing cleaning and maintenance to be done more easily and efficiently.”

The digital decoration process can be controlled by a sophisticated robotic eye system that can “read” the molded face of the tile to automatically apply specific decorations and finishes, so the visual matches the texture. “Pairing these new embellishment capabilities with powerful laser scanners in the production line allows for some of the most sophisticated collections of tile ever seen,” said Ryan Fasan, technical consultant, Tile of Spain. “Read: ‘When there is a cleft in the structure, we can print a shadow there to enhance it.’ The same is true for the luster and metallic effects.”

The end result is the creation of visuals that mirror the look and feel of many natural materials. “As the technology is improving, the tiles are able to take on the look of the natural stone or wood they are trying to emulate,” said Katie Peralta, owner, Triton Stone Group of New Orleans, Harahan, La. “The inkjet technology allows porcelain and ceramic to appear as if it was real marble.”

Vendors such as Dal-Tile report making record investments, which allow the company to efficiently produce tile that meets the aesthetic demands of its customers while further differentiating its products. “We are now able to produce such high- definition visuals that capture the exact look of whatever we are trying to achieve that even industry professionals cannot discern what is tile and what is the natural surface we are imitating,” Ballucchi explained.

While digital printing techniques are unique to each collection and technology, the dominant factor in this type of production is speed to market. “From development to launch, the speed to market of a new product has been greatly reduced while at the same time providing a more realistic and varied product than we have ever seen before,” Cilona said.

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.58.20 AMAll of this adds up to enhanced aesthetics at lower production costs, savings that can be passed along to consumers and end users. “The advancements have come a long way, and I really love some of the new introductions that have been presented to me recently,” said Heather Elko McCanna, IIDA, LEED AP, Lambert Architecture + Interiors, Winston-Salem, N.C.

The porcelain tile panel category is an excellent example of how the category is enhancing its value to residential customers. “It’s taking us to new levels in terms of aesthetics and possibilities for creative applications in residences, as well as installation efficiencies,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing, Crossville. “Porcelain tile panels are generously proportioned—upwards of 1 x 3 meters, which means they cover lots of surface area with minimal grout lines for sleek, sophisticated looks.”

New trends emerge

Many advancements in color, pattern and texture were displayed last September at Cersaie in Bologna, Italy. “The trends we discovered were consistent in their emphasis on texture and a continued focus on brilliantly conceived high profile designer collaborations,” said Kristin Coleman, marketing representative, Ceramics of Italy.

Tiles that mimic the look of natural stone, cement, marble, slate and wood are trending. “I see the continuation of stone-like looks moving from more classic calm marbles to more complicated stones that can be a hybrid of a slate and quartz, or even mixes with cements and plasters,” Cilona added.

Encaustic cements are expected to remain in vogue for smaller format floor tile, as patterns allow for both repeating designs that read as macro graphics, or are frequently used in a mix of decorative patterns. “Ceramic trend combinations in design have also been successful,” said Bob Baldocchi, chief marketing officer/vice president sales support at Emser Tile. “Mixing trends such as a wood look with a concrete look in a contemporary color palette and collections of sizes would be an example of this.”

In addition to stone, wood looks were prevalent at Cersaie, as tile makers added their own twist and utilized production methods to create a new typology of floor and wall coverings. “Some are inspired by exotic woods, offering a beautiful, sustainable alternative to rare hardwoods such as Kauri,” Coleman said, “while others recreate the warmth and imperfections of wood in 2cm outdoor pavers, large thin slabs, kaleidoscopic patterns and three-dimensional tiles that are virtually impossible to achieve with real timber.”