Ceramic technology is currently undergoing radical changes in terms of digital effects and materials. Given that ceramic products are created by combining textures, contrasts, sheen, reliefs, etc, through the addition of material, it is clear that synchronised application of digital materials can provide added value. The latest technological developments unveiled by Esmalglass-Itaca in late 2016 aimed to extend these benefits with its Digital Effects and Digital Materials families of products, which add material textures, contrasts, sheen and relief to further enhance ceramic products.
The Digital Effects series is designed to work with current printheads and combines excellent physical stability with optimal performance. It consists of materials that complement digital decoration to create special effects. These include cerium- and zirconium-based whites, gloss and matt effects, lustres, metallic effects, sinking glazes and glue. The last of these – digital glue – is particularly significant due to its rapidity of action and ability to achieve a wide range of effects. It is sufficient to load the digital glue into the printer and subsequently use any type of dry application device. This allows all kinds of grits and granules to be applied and synchronised with the design, producing unlimited combinations of effects and finishes. It is possible to apply effects ranging from matt to gloss, opaque to transparent, lustres, metallic, coloured, etc, and to create micro-reliefs and non-slip textures.
The Digital Materials series is designed for use with new high-discharge printheads capable of working with application weights well above 100 g/m2 and even 1 kg/m2. These products are water-based and have a particle size of more than 3 µm. This larger particle size is directly linked to the ceramic effect that can be obtained. Digital techniques can be used to apply the same quantities that are currently applied using bells, flat screen-printing machines, rollers and other applicators. They are also significantly cheaper, a critical factor in high-weight industrial applications. These two factors have further contributed to the goal of creating a totally digital ceramic production process.
The Digital Materials family comprises a wide range of products, including a matt white, a clear matt, a satin clear matt, a crystalline, a metallic and a lustre. These materials can be used to create any kind of surface covering comparable to those obtained with current methods but with all the benefits of digital technology.
Both families of materials are developed for application on any type of product, including porous single firing, porcelain, stoneware, double firing, etc. All components are formulated to achieve optimal technical and aesthetic characteristics in line with today’s requirements while at the same time guaranteeing the maximum colour intensity of Esmalglass-Itaca pigmented inkjet inks.
Another innovation in Esmalglass-Itaca’s Digital Solutions family is a new set of cost-effective inks. These have more intense colours, resulting in greater luminosity, lower ink consumption and cost savings. This may all sound a bit geeky but, believe me, you’ll really notice the difference when you first encounter tiles featuring these advanced decoration technologies.
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, August 2018