Continuous improvement: How engineering excellence generates aesthetic advancement www.DiaryofaTileAddict.com’s Joe Simpson takes an in-depth look at the new Surface Area zone at InstallerSHOW.

Surface Area is a space designed and curated by tiling experts, where installers, retail buyers, and specifiers can experience the latest innovations in tiling, worktops, and surface coverings.

This area will explain how continuous pressing, and digital decoration, are driving progress in the tile market. Installer SHOW tasked me with creating a surface innovation feature that would explore cutting-edge manufacturing techniques that are turbo-charging innovation in ceramic production.

While it may not be possible to cover every innovation in just 16 tile ranges, this informed selection will demonstrate everything from digital dust deposition in 20mm exterior tiling to embossed-in-register designs using sinking inks, seamless marble-effect worktops, and continuous pressed ceramic wallpaper.

A major focus will be on porcelain worktops: a whole new class of surface materials built on a step-change technology: continuous pressing. Production systems – such as the market-leading Continua+ from Sacmi – can now achieve uber-efficient, accurately managed manufacture of ceramic slabs and tiles.

The PCR is the core machine of such a system: it performs continuous compaction of the incoming powder layer, using two motorised belts with converging axes and a set of intermediate drive rollers. By forming porcelain pieces without using a traditional press or mould, this technology ensures maximum flexibility in terms of size and thickness.

What’s more, by seamlessly integrating the powder forming phase and subsequent digital decoration, continuous pressing can achieve high quality texturing and unrivalled surface shine. The powder-on-belt deposit system can feed plain colour powder, or a mix of four coloured powders, either as a full-body deposit or as a surface layer.

Ceramic materials – such as micronised powders, glazes or flakes – can be deposited over the entire slab surface to add further decorative and textural sophistication

A digital decoration system offering controlled surface application of powders on a Continua+ line allows worktop manufacturers to apply different types of ceramic powder without any restrictions on particle size distribution or colour. It combines the flexibility typical of digital systems with the freedom to use the materials typically used by the ceramic industry. The DDD lets manufacturers create a broad range of graphic effects, hues and decorations that enhance ceramic surfaces, and thus boost the aesthetic quality of the finished products.

At InstallerSHOW, visitors can see and feel the latest worktop surfaces from three of the very best; The Iris Group’s Sapienstone, Neolith, and Coverlam from Grespania. I’ll be on hand alongside Jane Addis every day to explain just how these market leaders have achieved such sublime surface sophistication.

Surface Area will also have a great selection of smaller tiles, and 3D ceramic pieces.

RAK Ceramics, one of the most important global tile and bathroom brands, will feature its Luce portfolio of translucent tiles. These tiles allow seamless passage of light. Ideal for a dramatic hotel reception or a seductive bedroom headboard, this is very much a surface technology of the future.

In another technological leap, Italian contract tiling giant Casalgrande Padana will feature its innovative thermoformed showerbase. Careful application of heat and pressure post-production allows the creation of seamless shower bases with a 2° fall, that perfectly preserve the seamless look that is so captivating in today’s high-end bathrooms.

Showcasing the sector’s green credentials, Alusid and Parkside will introduce Mas, a new tile body that does not require atomisation, and so is ultra energy efficient.

Europe’s largest tile manufacturer, Pamesa, can be seen at InstallerSHOW, showcasing the iconic Pietra di Gre range. This highly popular stone-effect in Bianco, Crema, Perla, Grigio, and Mixed colours typifies how today’s tile manufacturers have harnessed digital decoration to produce natural simulations that are even better than the materials that inspired them.

Pioneering Spanish brand, Arcana, will offer a similar design insights with the rich and seductive Parallax and Layer collections.

Wood effects, one of the great success stories in ceramic tiles over the past decade, will be represented by Crisacer’s Woodlay line. Here the attraction lies in the authentic grain detail, sophisticated patterns, and seductive colour options.

Traditional small-format tiles are making a real comeback right now. One of the true pioneers in this sector, well known for their artisanal vibe, hand-made looks, and effortlessly beautiful patterns, are Nanda Tiles. They will be showcasing a curated selection of their most recent collections at Installer SHOW.

VitrA, the sector-leading Turkish brand, will demonstrate the unrivalled versatility of ceramic tiles with its Color 2.0 range of plain RAL coloured tiles in various modular formats. VitrA will also flag up the All Round system which offers a set of special pieces that allow users to achieve a total tiling solutions around worktops, up-stands, and other 3D objects.

One of UK’s best known retail tile brands, Fired Earth, will present its Nina Campbell Collection. Surface Area visitors will be able to see for themselves why this range was recently judged UK Floor Tile of The Year at The Tiling Association Awards 2024.

Natucer, the Spanish extruded tile pioneer, will offer up a breathtaking selection of shapes, glaze effects, and surface textures: all in small formats. Natucer provide proof positive that one end of the ceramic tile market remains totally faithful to tiling’s roots.

Finally, adding a touch of glamour to proceedings, Dune will be showcasing its metallic-effect tiles produced using PVD technology.  PVD – physical vapour deposition – is a rare and beautiful technology that allows soft and sensuous metallic effects to be applied to a tiled surface.

Head over to Surface Area and let us show you the design impact of digital glues and granilla, or help you enjoy the dynamic alchemy of reactive glazes.

To make sure you get the best of the experience, QR codes will give access to downloadable information. The aim is to help attendees explore the outer limits of ceramic technology, and to fully appreciate the commercial potential of these exciting and innovative materials.

The Surface Area attraction will be located on stand 4C18 at InstallerSHOW 2024 and forms part of the wider Installer Kitchens & Bathrooms event. Installer Kitchens & Bathrooms is set to debut at InstallerSHOW 2024, offering a blend of technology, tools, innovation, and inspiration for attendees. This new addition will provide a packed content programme across two theatres, aimed at bringing the industry closer through education, knowledge sharing, and networking opportunities. It is backed by a number of organisations including the BMA, BiKBBI, NKBA, AMDEA UK and the Unified Water Label, as well as a host of leading manufacturers.

Joe Simpson is a renowned tile expert whose writing is featured in publications around the world. His website, Diary of a Tile Addict, offers valuable insight into all things tile-related.

Register for your free ticket to InstallerSHOW 2024 here.

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