History shows us that crises often inspire innovation. Tectonic shifts in demand and supply spur the emergence of new technologies and changes in behavior. Innovative companies will emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis.
Therefore, innovation is more important now than ever. New business models and products must be brought to market even faster to remain successful in the future. Since important ceramic tile exhibitions have been canceled or postponed several ceramic tile manufacturers are not planning to introduce new tile collections in the coming months as the last product innovations presented at Cersaie 2019 could not be sold as planned due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
On the other hand, with the same current technologies used by all ceramic companies it is has become more and more difficult to come up with something really new and innovative to diversify from others, attract more customers and get out of pure price negotiations and maintain margins.
Also the current discussions about differentiation through more colors ending up to working with as many as 12 to 14 color bars in a printer will not help to differentiate and to get out of the current product flattening (appiattimento), as this is all based on existing technologies every other ceramic tile company can adapt and copy very quickly within few weeks. In addition, it only adds costs to the final product without that the end user recognizes a clear and immediately visible added value. At the end this will only complicate the whole product development, file preparation, color management and production and if these additional colors are not used on a regular basis, the inks will expire and possibly damage the print heads adding unexpected costs.
Therefore to really differentiate you from other ceramic tile companies and keeping up with the aesthetical and haptic of other alternatives, such as LVT, it is now the right time to look at really innovative technologies offering new important design possibilities with a clear added value such as synchronized digital structure printing with Durst Gamma DG to create new innovative & stunning tile designs.
With the new, revolutionary Gamma DG technology you can again strongly diversify yourself from other manufacturer and flooring materials by creating completely new and innovative tile collections not possible with current traditional equipment and therefore remaining unique for a longer period of time.
Printing structures digitally and precisely in perfect match with the décor is a long-cherished wish of the tile manufacturers and needed to fight against the claims of luxury vinyl tile manufacturers offering this important feature.
With this new technology ceramic, resp. porcelain cannot only be digitally printed with high- resolution patterns to mimic texture, but true 3-dimensional options are now possible to mimic stone to look like marble, granite, limestone and others.
The complete digitalization of the glazing lines has long been a wish of all tile manufacturers in order to make the entire production process more
flexible and cost effective. On the one hand the optimization and reduction of batches to optimize sale
and storage with guaranteed repeatability, while on the other hand new possibilities for the development of innovative products in the tile sector with an
unlimited number of structures in perfect match with the décor to imitate nature.
What is still missing is a technology for the digital printing of structures that are created in a fully synchronized way following the decors. This would allow the entire production process to be controlled digitally without exchanging or adjusting mechanical parts when changing products, regardless of batch size. A development that Durst has been working on and will soon digitalize this missing, traditional part of tile production.
The future True Digital Tile Manufacturing process includes the following essential digital production steps:
1. Flexible, variable-size, variable-thickness slab and tile pressing equipment used in combination with a flat mold, full digital control and production of the desired tile size. This technology has already been in use for several years.
2. Durst Gamma DG Single Pass Digital glaze printing system with patented Durst RockJET™ print heads for digital printing of variable structures on the tiles using ceramic glazes with particle sizes >45 micron and high viscosities. This is currently in the final stage of field test at two well-known Italian tile manufacturers.
3. Durst Gamma XD Single Pass Digital Decor Printer with standard piezo print heads for printing the graphics with pigmented ceramic inks in perfect match and synchronized to the variable structures printed with Gamma DG. This allows manufacturers to create new innovative products with a naturalness not possible up to now with traditional production technologies. This can be especially important with wood or stone decors.
4. True ceramic color management system Durst-ColorGATE CMS designed and optimized for the special conditions and requirements of the tile industry. This offering facilitates high flexibility, long-term repeatability, and a strong reduction of downtimes during product changes and the ongoing reprinting of the product collections over time.
5. Durst Gamma DG Single Pass Digital Glaze Printing System for digital finishing by wet application of special materials for aesthetic and functional effects.
Current commercial piezo print heads are designed to handle inks with particle sizes below 1 micron, and some large drop print head can go as high as 2 microns while maintaining a reliable jetting behavior. However, jetting fluids with even larger particles (>3 microns) with the limitation to have those inks formulated with relatively low viscosities – required by such piezo print heads – becomes difficult to assure a reliable operation due to the sedimentation behavior with larger particle sizes.
Essentially, the current design of piezo print heads cannot be scaled up to work with large particle sizes in combination with the needed much higher viscosities to keep such “heavy” particles in suspension, and to hold up printed structures on the media.
Therefore, this part of the ceramic tile production process has still remained traditional due to the non-availability of a print head technology designed for jetting fluids with large particle sizes (> 45 microns) and high viscosities.
In order to digitize this large portion of the ceramic tile business, several years ago, after revolutionizing the ceramic tile decoration by introducing the first single pass digital printer, Gamma 60, Durst started a development project to develop and manufacture such a revolutionary print head for dimensional printing (digital structures) for water based
ceramic glazes with large particle sizes (> 45 microns) and high viscosities not available before.
Innovative and seen as the next big revolution in ceramics Durst currently has two (2) installations of Gamma DG single pass printers with this print head technology in operation.
Durst Revolutionary Digital Structure Printing
Durst True Digital Glazing technology for printing ceramic glazes is seen as the next and even more important revolution in the tile sector after digital decoration.
At the heart of this innovative production process is the RockJET™ print head technology developed and built by Durst specifically for Durst Gamma DG. The Durst Gamma DG is the first high performance single-pass printer for digital glazing/printing of structures on flat ceramic tiles instead of creating the very limited and repetitive structures that do not follow the decoration by means of press molds.
Thanks to the water-based ceramic glazes with large particles (> 45 microns), high viscosity, and application rates of up to 1kg/m2 it is possible to produce even very strongly emphasized structures. This revolutionary technology with a very high resolution and richness of detail, proving high reliability and production flexibility in industrial applications, is very impressive.
Gamma DG has a modular design and can be configured in width and number of glaze printing series according to customer requirements with the possibility of being further expanded later.
To create structures digitally and precisely in perfect match with the décor is a long- cherished wish of the tile manufacturers. This technology allows one to imitate wood, stones, and marble to be even more lifelike, and thus to achieve a decisive added value in the products and to develop and produce new, unique and so far not possible, innovative designs with visually captivating and tactile effects. In addition to the impressive print quality, the tiles can also be printed simultaneously with two different glazes, for example matt and glossy.