Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Innovation, possibilities and technology in ceramic tile

This past week I attended an event in Boston that was hosted by Tile of Spain which showed the advances that have been made in ceramic tile. At this event, there was also an opportunity to gain a CEU credit but I was interested in learning more about the possibilities and innovations that were coming along and how they related to architecture.

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Ceramic tile has some unique changes coming along the way due to advances in technology that make things possible that just a few years ago would have been science fiction. One of these advances is the use of ink jet printers.

Ceramic tile that looks like wood
Is it wood or tile?

Now just by looking at the photo above, can you tell if this is ceramic tile or real wood? You probably guessed by this article that it is tile but look at what can be done now.  We can now have a product that looks like wood but wears like tile. These industrial printers can be used for many types of tile and are not limited to only wood patterns.  One of the manufacturer's stated that certain tile that they made could be placed in high traffic lobbies and still retain it's appearance for over 20 years or more. That's value!

Events such as these further our thinking and here Ryan Fasan, is speaking about the advances that have been made with the ceramic tile industry. Have you heard about ceramic tile that can be feel cool on a hot day yet be warm to the touch on cooler days? It's real and will be coming to market soon. No more saying that tile won't work in the bedroom because you don't like the feel of cold tile  when you get up.

Ryan Fasan speaking at Design within Design, Boston
Ryan Fasan- Tile and Stone specialist and Tile of Spain consultant speaking about the advances in the ceramic tile industry. He can be found on Twitter @Tile_Trends

There were also discussions on how ceramic tile can be used to create green spaces on buildings by providing shading as well as by being aesthetically pleasing to the viewer of the structure. Ceramic tile also offers an ecological long term choice over other materials in it's ability to withstand the elements and still look great over time.

A modern building using ceramic tile to provide a stylish exterior using sheets that are larger than previously thought possible.
Another area that will be seeing expansion is the use of robotics in 3D tile production as a way to create varying textures that couldn't be duplicated before and some wonderful possibilities for mosaics.  Presently work is being done with robots to read a design and create the pattern with tile through advanced computer programs.  All of these are in the beginning stages but lead you to wonder what will be possible in the future.  Where could they be used?  How will my project stand apart from the others?

New textures

Looking for color?

We will be seeing pieces that are thinner and larger with so many possible uses. What about sheets that are 3' x 10' in size?

Larger pieces with various textures and designs that reflect the light in new ways  to add stunning visual appeal.

Another advancement that we will probably seeing is more customization in tile.  The photo below is made from a picture and that picture is then set onto the tile using ink jet printers.   Here there are many individual tiles that are combined to make a total picture.  A photo this large would be great for a commercial project but what about sending a photo to a company of a flower scene or something that you personally wanted for a black splash or shower and having that printed up on tile.  You would have a totally custom installation and this technology already exists and is just a matter of time before it is affordable to a larger audience.

One use of inkjet printers on a large scale piece. Individual customization for the retail trade can't be far behind.

What possible innovations would you like to see in the future? How would you use them in a future project? Will they be ecological and appealing? Every day the possibilities grow!

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