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Manufacturing technology in porcelain and ceramics is improving all the time, particularly with respect to producing larger sizes and effects such as wood and natural stone. But often what people think are ceramic tiles are actually porcelain tiles, especially those in very large sizes. More and more porcelain tiles are being manufactured because one of the main differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles is that porcelain is stronger and more stable when fired allowing for a more consistent product especially in the larger sizes. But whatever type, size, colour or pattern you select you can be sure that good quality ceramic floor tiles will enhance your home by creating practical, yet beautiful contemporary spaces.
Porcelain tiles are fired at high temperatures creating a hardwearing tile that is suitable for many different purposes. Tiles can be left in their unglazed state after firing giving usually a very natural finish or they can be glazed and digitally printed which gives unlimited design opportunities. Ceramic tiles also have these design possibilities but are generally used for the smaller sizes. Because of the enormous range of colours and patterns that can be manufactured in either porcelain or ceramic there will be a tile to suit your needs be it contemporary or traditional.
If you need some inspiration to help you make the right choice take a look at some of the gorgeous wall tiles and floor tiles in our gallery then simply call us on 01923 248 531, or email [email protected], so we can help you re-create your favourite look in your own home.
During the manufacturing process, after the initial firing, a glaze made from liquid glass is applied to the top surface of the tile and it is fired again at high temperatures to create a non-porous surface in a variety of colours and designs. Tiles have traditionally been the most commonly used tiles for both walls and floors in residential areas but increasingly glazed porcelain tiles have been taking a larger share of the domestic market as well as being used in commercial buildings, both have many attributes that make them so popular, such as:
For some years now, the majority of European ceramic tile manufacturers have been working towards ensuring that their manufacturing process is as environmentally friendly as possible by recycling, minimising energy use, reducing waste and using “green” materials. And the more recent trend for digitally printing designs on tiles is also proving to be an eco-friendly production method because the process produces so little waste compared to more traditional printing methods. For traditional printing on tiles, a manufacturer would have to have up to 200 different inks available to produce the desired colours and do large print-runs to make the process cost-effective and keep the cost of individual tiles affordable for the consumer. This led to a high degree of wastage for the less popular designs, but for the digital printing process only 4 different colours (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) need to be used to produce the same range (or gamut) of colours – in fact, these are the same 4 colours that are used in a domestic inkjet printer.
The basic technology behind printing tiles on a commercial scale is the same as that for a home printer but the commercial printers are of a much higher quality and the inks are specially formulated, pigmented inks specifically for printing onto ceramics. The printing machines need to be able to handle the 3-dimensional nature of a tiles; although only a single 2-d flat surface is printed on, the tiles themselves can vary in thickness. The decorated tiles are required to be kiln-fired at very high temperatures so the nature of the inks must both be able to withstand the high temperatures but also retain the colours after firing.
Some manufacturers are producing thousands of different designs digitally and because they need only produce a certain design to meet demand (often known as “on demand” printing) there is very little waste. It also means that it is easier to produce a substantial number of limited edition designs, which offer customers not only greater choice but also a higher degree of exclusivity as print runs are smaller.
This ability to print on demand at a reasonable cost also opens up the possibility of having an entirely unique tile design created or a high-quality, unique mural – something that would previously have been expensive because it would have to have been hand-painted.
Traditional methods of printing on ceramic tiles such as screen printing and digital transfer are still being used by some companies but direct digital decoration is looking set to take over entirely from these conventional processes as it proves to be a cost-effective and reliable method.
So if you are considering your options for a patterned tile or thinking about having a unique mural created for your swimming pool or for your bathroom using ceramic wall tiles then digitally printed tiles could be the perfect answer. Major manufacturers continue to implement print quality improvements to their digital printing capability and it is the fastest-growing segment of the ceramic tile industry.
Ceramic tiles have been used for thousands of years as a decorative material in homes and public buildings. With their wide range of colours and designs they can be used almost anywhere to enhance the decoration of a space and, of course, to create a durable, water-resistant barrier in bathrooms and kitchens.
They were first used in the Middle East and many ancient examples can still be found there. Examples were also common in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, but it wasn’t until the 11th century that they started to become available in Northern Europe. Their beauty and their strength has made them popular choices for walls, floors, fireplaces and kitchen worktops right up to modern times.
Because ceramic tiles are available in a wide range of colours and designs they have remained popular in Europe for hundreds of years and can be found in both very old buildings as well as ultra-contemporary buildings from this century. They have also been used further afield in India, China and the temples of Thailand.
Ceramic tiles are produced by moulding a pliable mixture of clay, minerals and water into a tile shape. The tiles are dried and then fired in a kiln at temperatures anywhere between 1,000 and 1,300 degrees Celsius. The temperature at which they are fired depends on the exact type of clay used. Once the tiles have been fired they can be glazed in a range of colours and designs and are then fired again to further strengthen the tile.
They can be left unglazed but are then only available in the natural colours of the original clay, but in the UK many Victorian houses still retain exterior paths and internal floors in beautiful geometric patterns of unglazed, encaustic tiles. Encaustic tiles are ceramic tiles with an inlaid pattern made from clay of different colours designed to retain the pattern even when the tile surface is subjected to wear over many years.
So ceramic tiles are an ancient product still made using the same basic technique as thousands of years ago but with modern technological advances they continue to be used in modern times for a variety of applications both domestic and commercial. The original tunnel-style kilns have been replaced with roller kilns and firing now takes place at much higher temperatures; two changes that have made the manufacturing process faster and also increased the strength of the end-product.
During the Renaissance period Italy established itself as a premier tile producer through the efforts of many artists who decorated ceramic tiles and that reputation still exists today. In the late 20th century the Italians also developed the manufacturing process that produces porcelain tiles, which are even more durable than ceramic tiles and practically fully waterproof. The colour and pattern is present throughout the whole thickness of porcelain tiles so wear and chips are less noticeable.
There are a number of other countries that are today major manufacturers of both porcelain and ceramic tiles including Spain, Turkey, Brazil and China although Italy remains the major producer of tile manufacturing equipment.