In this issue of TILE, the benefits of technology are obvious more than ever. It is amazing to consider how much has been gained in the tile production process in recent years, and to think it won’t stop here. It is exciting to imagine what’s on the horizon.jenn2013_body.jpg

The topic of the Trend Report, which begins on 26, is “high-definition inkjet printing.” As one industry expert states in the article, it is estimated 90% of tile manufacturers are currently using this process for making tile. This results in limitless possibilities of tile patterns and textures. It is amazing to me how authentic some of these tile lines are to natural materials such as wood and stone.

When wood and stone looks were first introduced years back, to be honest, I didn’t understand why someone would choose the replicated look on tile over the real material because it didn’t look real. Many of the stone-look tiles would look exactly the same, which is not the case with natural stone. But today is a totally different story. The veining and color variation of stone-look tile appears authentic, and high-definition inkjet printing allows for no two tiles to be the same. The grain and knots found in the wood-look tile are also unbelievable. Technology has made it possible to achieve the aesthetic of natural materials but with the durability and easy maintenance of porcelain tile.

And while touring the exhibition hall at Coverings this past spring, I was able to view many of the latest products that have been developed due to advances in technology. In addition to replications of wood and stone, there are tile collections now that have the appearance and feel of concrete and some are now even blending looks such as stone and concrete together for a unique aesthetic. Also, textures are more refined and there are a variety of new shapes and sizes. Thin porcelain tile is also a hot subject. The Coverings Product Round-up (page 46) shows just some of the many new introductions that were on display during the show.

In addition to TILE, I have also worked on Stone World Magazine for many years, and recently became the editor. In some of the forums I have attended lately, it’s interesting that the subject of porcelain and Cosentino’s Dekton are being brought up now too. A few fabricators have said they are just starting to experiment with cutting these materials. Many of the fabricators participating in these discussions believe that this is the beginning of something big. They see the benefits of using these materials in certain applications.

As you will read in the Trend Report, technology is allowing tile manufacturers to do things that they couldn’t before, and new developments will only continue to surface. “Looking ahead, there will be more suppliers of digital printing that will be approved by the various digital printing equipment manufacturers for use in their machines, thus expanding the spectrum of color that can be achieved on a tile,” said Marianne Cox, director of brand marketing for Marazzi USA. “Also, manufacturers of digital printing machines will continue to find ways to combine other printing technologies with their machines in order to create even more sophisticated products that closely emulate not only natural stone looks, but also textiles, woods and other visuals that benefit from depth of color and sophisticated graphics.”

I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to see what comes next.