Ceramic tiles are one of the oldest tiling products, decorating homes and buildings around the world for several millennia. Ceramic tile production has, however, evolved over the centuries with advanced technology incorporated into modern processes for more consistency and aesthetic appeal.

TFO describes one of the common ways of ceramic tile production.

Step 1 Raw materials for ceramic tiles

Raw materials required for making ceramic tiles include white clay, talc, sand, feldspar, illitic and kaolinitic clay, dolomite and calcite. Once quarried and refined, these materials are brought to the manufacturing plant and stored separately.

Step 2 Mixing and forming

The raw materials are mixed in specific proportions by weight with the specified mixture achieved by varying the speed of each conveyer before the master conveyer gathers all materials together for the next process. The mixture is carried into a storage tank and then fed into a series of mixing tanks with water and ceramic pellets to form a liquid material called slurry.

The slurry is fed into an atomiser and sprayed through the nozzle; assisted by a current of hot air, the slurry becomes airborne and quickly dries to form atomised powder. This powder is released in measured quantities into a tray, which distributes it evenly into a mould. A large hydraulic press applies a force of 300-400kg/cm², turning the powder into a solid mass by high pressure and residual moisture. Formed pieces are dried further to remove most of the remaining moisture. This guarantees that the product will come out of the kiln with a consistent quality, free of physical weaknesses or defects.

Step 3 Glazing

A glaze is essentially a glass-like substance applied to the surface of a tile by varying methods such as spray, waterfall, screening or dry glazing. Serving both practical and artistic purposes, the glazing and screening processes render aesthetic beauty, water repellence, durability and hygienic properties to the tile. A roller screen applies the design and colour with an extra roller screen added to the line to achieve greater design variation. Various test runs may be required before characteristics such as the quality of finish, trueness of design and colour definition achieve acceptability.

Step 4 Firing

Following the application of the glaze, the tile is fired in a kiln. Among the different types of kilns available, the roller hearth kiln is considered the most efficient for its outstanding temperature uniformity, cleanliness and heat efficiency with temperatures reaching as high as 1190 degrees Celsius. The firing process solidifies the glaze and removes all residual moisture in the ceramic tile, completing the manufacturing stage.

Step 5 Quality Check

Quality is ensured by putting the finished product through a series of inspections to check for any flaws. Both mechanical and manual methods are employed to check for calibre, shade and quality, with this information used to sort and box the ceramic tiles accordingly. Boxes are then labelled with the quality, shade and calibre specifications and placed on the appropriate pallet ready for dispatch.

TFO offers a broad range of ceramic tiles available at Sydney’s lowest prices.