Factory-fresh ceramic tiles

factory_bicyclesLast week, Tile of Spain invited 12 architects, designers, and journalists to Spain to show off the country’s innovative ceramic tile manufacturers. We spent three days in Valencia, visiting booths (or “stands,” as they say in Europe) at Cevisama, the tile show.
   We also toured two factories in the Castellon region, Spain’s center of tile manufacturing. One makes tiles with powdered ingredients that are formed in high-pressure molds. The other factory forces soft clay through an extruder, and the tiles are cut to size. Processes like ink-jet printing and drum rollers lay down textures, patterns, or images on the tiles before they are glazed and fired. Manufacturers turn out products that look like wood, marble, wallpaper, photographs, and, well, ceramic tile.
   The manufacturing process is impressive, but so are the factory buildings themselves. Skylights brighten (without shadows) the warehouses and factory floors. The day of our tour was chilly and I was expecting to warm up inside, but the 2,000+ F ovens are so well insulated that the heat does not radiate to visitors. The buildings are so vast that employees move around by bicycles. I was expecting to find benches and benches filled with hunched-over grandmothers painstakingly hand-glazing ceramic tiles.  Not so. Abuela must have been sunning herself at la playa. These factories are heavily automated (check out the videos). I swear that our delegation was larger than the day shift.
   In later posts, I’ll show you some new tile designs. —Jim Carper

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