Metaltec Innovations produces metal tiles that exhibit three-dimensional texture to create a stunning visual counterpoint to otherwise smooth surfaces. Photo courtesy of Metaltec Innovations.


Many metallic collections on today’s market are now available in larger formats and muted textures - making them ideal for walls and flooring in large commercial applications as well as contemporary-style living spaces. Shown is the Neolitic series by Eliane. Photo courtesy of Eliane.

Continual advances in technology for product lines such metal and stone-look tile offer inspiration for new designs.

Designers and homeowners alike are always looking for fresh ideas to add the “wow” factor to their designs. As a result, tile manufacturers continually raise the bar for the development of new collections in ceramic, porcelain, glass and metal tile. And while strength and durability usually are a priority when choosing a materials palette, aesthetics also come heavily into play during the selection process. For this reason, tile collections hitting the market today are sophisticated and stylish - inspiring innovative design applications.

One area of tile production that continues to evolve is metal tile. Metallic finishes are considered to be chic and elegant, and are ideal as an accent material. Pairing decorative metal trim pieces with a field of porcelain or natural stone is a subtle way to stir up a design. Whether muted or polished, metallic pieces can accessorize any interior space.

Moreover, metal tile lines are being presented as bigger and bolder. Many of the metallic collections are now available in larger formats and muted textures - making them ideal for flooring in large commercial applications as well as contemporary-style living spaces.

“We are seeing metal tile being used in a multitude of applications - from murals to wall art and sculptures to lighting fixtures to decorative tiles - in both high-end residential and commercial designs,” said Fritz Keck, Managing Director of Metaltec Innovations in Irwin, PA, adding that he has definitely witnessed a growing popularity for metal tile in recent years.

Each piece created by Metaltec Innovations is built in layers from metal power, allowing artists the flexibility to create complex geometric shapes and patterns that would be impossible to duplicate with traditional machining methods, according to Fritz Keck, the company’s managing director. Photo courtesy of Metaltec Innovations.

“The material used in metal tiles is a stainless steel bronze alloy, and it is very versatile in that it can be finished in many ways - such as brass, copper or gold, just to name a few,” said Keck. “Our technology expands the market even further - bringing three-dimensional texture to create a stunning visual counterpoint to otherwise smooth surfaces.” Keck went on to explain that Metaltec Innovations can produce one offs, custom projects or mass production.

“We are pushing design and manufacturing boundaries to a new level to create a finished product that is truly a fusion of creative genius and technological know-how,” he said. “Using our sophisticated 3-D direct metal printing process, our artists are able to produce fully functional metalwork projects from CAD drawing in a matter of days, instead of weeks or months. Each piece is built in layers from metal power, allowing artists the flexibility to create wonderfully complex geometric shapes and patterns that would be impossible to duplicate with traditional machining methods.”

And because the patterns and textures on the metal tiles are almost countless, they can really be used to devise truly unique designs.

Another area where tile manufacturers have really excelled is in the processing of stone-look tiles. Products such as the Nitra series by Azuvi are created with digital ink-jet printing technology. Photo courtesy of Azuvi.

Replicating the qualities of stone

Another area where tile manufacturers have excelled is in the processing of stone-look tiles. Each year, new lines are introduced, and they appear to be more and more authentic. While the beauty of natural stone cannot be questioned, and the material has been used in designs for centuries, there are some consumers who worry if it will stand up in certain applications such as wet and high-trafficked areas. Stone-look tiles provide a perfect solution for those who desire the rich characteristics of stone without the maintenance concerns.

The beauty of natural stone lies in its random veining and varying color. Because the material is extracted from the earth, each piece of stone possesses its own unique traits that cannot be duplicated. As a result, many manufacturers use an advanced processing method to achieve a high-quality stone-look porcelain tile.

Stone-look tiles provide a solution for those who desire the rich characteristics of stone without the maintenance concerns. Photo courtesy of FloorGres.

This process of manufacturing porcelain tile that mimics the look and feel of natural stone involves using digital ink-jet printing technology to develop a realistic look - with no two identical patterns. Due to the breakthrough in technology, numerous stone-look tile collections are introduced each year, and they continue to become more sophisticated and more difficult to distinguish from natural stone. Digital ink-jet printing allows tile manufacturers to produce tiles that resemble the appearance and textures of materials such as slate, marble, limestone and travertine. Using different finishes on the stone-look tiles further contributes to the overall authentic aesthetic of the pieces.

As long as tile manufacturers continue to invest in research and development, each year consumers will be “wowed” with an increase in the innovation of metal and stone-look tile collections as well as many others such as glass and decorative porcelain and ceramic pieces. Advancement in technology remains the key to producing new trends in tile and influencing design.