Ceramic Tiles Get Personal
June 18, 2008
Spain’s ceramic tile industry is evolving and updating itself by always looking for the latest technological advances and developments in research with a view to applying them to their end products. On the whole, it is the sector itself that develops the leading edge technology to innovate with solutions that are more individualized.
Digital printing technology has advanced considerably in the past few years, with Spain as one country that has taken this trend of printing on ceramic tiles to new heights. Within this trend, major research and development has taken it a step further to the category of true personalization.
The industry is spearheading this aesthetic trend by facilitating the design of unique, á la carte spaces and thus creating a direct influence in cutting-edge interior design and architectural circles.
The client’s freedom to choose the color, shape, finish and even the design they want on the tile means that there are infinite possibilities and extreme versatility when using ceramic tiles.
The technology that the ceramic tile industry has developed enables décor to be applied directly onto porcelain by means of a four-color inkjet process that in turn enables photographs or any other kind of graphic element to be printed on 100% of the tile to create a mural-like effect. The high specifications of the ceramic, fired at 1120ºC, remain unaltered while the technology produces high definition, realistic images. The product can be used in any space, on floors, on walls and façades of houses, entrances, corridors, living rooms, terraces, bedrooms, kitchens…basically anywhere the client wishes. A client just needs to provide the image or graphic design they wish to use or choose from one of many ready-made designs.
Another personalization example is the application of digital printing in triple-fired tiles, mainly decors and special pieces. The main feature of these particular products is color, as the previously fired and glazed tiles can be digitally printed with intense, real hues. The Spanish manufacturers that offer this product also offer customers an integral design and development service designed to involve the end user in the production process, while affording the assistance of the technical and other teams that might be necessary from the creation of the graphic idea to its realization as a finished product.
The technology linked to ceramic tiles is key in being able to offer the end user this unique opportunity to design and tailor the appearance of the ceramic tile to their own requirements while preserving the material’s essential properties of durability, reliability, resistance and versatility.
Still in pursuit of personalization and having explored printing images and designs onto ceramic tiles digitally, some of Spain’s tile manufacturers are offering the possibility to design tiles with specific shapes and finishes that are different from existing series or anything in catalogues. This has led them to personalized shapes and designs by means of hydraulic cutting. Several manufacturers are already working on this solution and novel technique with a view to broadening the scope of ceramic tiles.
Also, in the context of designing unique ceramic tiles, the Spanish industry has captured the spirit of artisan workshops used to produce custom tiles for specific projects. This was a custom widely embraced by Modernism and that now, thanks to new technology, can be applied industrially. Inspired by the great genius Antoni Gaudi’s designs and applications of ceramic tiles, Spanish manufacturers remain at the leading edge of creativity in the field with tiles tailor-made for specific projects. Two examples are tiles used to cover the Spanish Pavilions at the World’s Fair in AICHI, Japan in 2005 and the 2008 International Expo in Zaragoza and those used in the project that won the 6th Ceramic Tile in Architecture and Interior Design Awards.
All these examples show the Spanish ceramic tile industry’s dynamics, its ability to evolve and its efforts to satisfy all needs, not just technical, but aesthetic as well. Thanks to personalization, ceramic tile has yet another advantage to offer architects and interior designers in terms of its properties and applications.
For more about tile produced in Spain, contact Tile of Spain Center at the Trade Commission of Spain, 2655 Le Jeune Road, Suite 1114, Coral Gables, FL 33134; call (305) 446-4387, or visit www.spaintiles.info.