The Technology of Tile
Tiles have been used inside and out as a decorative and protective material for thousands of years. Across walls, floors and even ceilings, ceramic and porcelain tiles offer an inherent beauty…and their beauty is as varied as the buildings they adorn.
Tile offers a tactile experience as quintessential as its physical beauty. You know what cool tile feels like under your feet…you can imagine caressing the smooth surface as you brush your hand across a tile wall.
Today’s tile offers more in design and textures than in all the history of tile, and that’s entirely because of the new technologies behind tile production. Tile has been used for thousands of years, yes…but it has never seen so much advancement in its manufacturing in such a short period of time.
- Updates in the technology of tiles have opened the floodgate to new designs.
- Updates have made tile more durable.
- Tile is also now easier to clean and more hygienic.
We connected with our friends at Arizona Tile to talk about the technology of tile and share some of the most remarkable updates on how it’s manufactured today. We turn to Arizona Tile for every project we do, and this view into their manufacturing process was a reminder of the exquisite standard of quality that attracted us to them in the first place…
First…how is tile made?
Understand the high-level steps in making tile before digging into what’s changed in the technology of tile…
- Raw materials are mixed together with water. A sandy consistency is reached.
- Moisture is removed until the optimal consistency for pressing is reached.
- The tile mixture is then pressed to form tiles of the right shape and size.
- More moisture is removed from the materials inside a dryer during curing.
- Printing and glazing then takes place.
- Finally, tiles are fired in a kiln that reaches well over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Changes in Printing Technology
If you think you’ve seen more tile designs recently than ever before, you’re right. Printing technology has changed in extraordinary ways in the last 17 years.
Before 2006, traditional glazed porcelain designs were made using analog technology. This type of glazing required a glazing cylinder to follow a design as varied as the size of the cylinder itself. This technology allowed for up to 12 different screens.
In 2006, digital printing was introduced. Digital printing was first printed at a density (or definition) of 180 dots per inch, and using only three inkjet colors (blue, red and yellow). If that doesn’t mean anything to you, just see what comes next…
Digital printing was the first major shift in tile designs. With digital printing, suddenly manufacturing allowed for up to 75 different screens.
HD printing started in 2014. This raised the density of printing to 480 dots per inch. New inkjet colors have been progressively added, too, including white, grey, black, purple and more.
The variety of porcelain tile designs made possible with printing advancements led to most of the tile you see in our gallery in this article. Printing technology has continued to advance even more recently, too. In 2022, 3D printing was implemented. Not only does production vary more in color, but in texture, adding extraordinary 3D effects…
Large Format Tiles
Large format tiles have grown in popularity in recent years. Is it a trend? Not in the traditional sense. Large format tiles have surged because they represent a new tile format made possible only recently.
About a decade ago, a totally new production technique was developed for making tile. Tile used to be pressed in a mold. Today, it’s pressed instead on a free-moving belt. This allows for the possibility of increasing the sizes.
The biggest advantage to large-format tile is that fewer tiles mean fewer grout joints. Grout joints are the weakest point of a tile design, and they’re the place where grime builds fastest. By increasing tile size and reducing the number of joints, tile designs today provide better hygiene and durability.
Large-format tile designs are also gorgeous…
A New Kind of Anti-Slip
More types of tile today offer anti-slip surfaces. In the past, anti-slip tile was made by adding an abrasive material to the tile surface before it was fired. The mineral used, corindon, would cause some of the tiles to lose their “perfect match” to the color of their regular versions. This was especially true for darker colors.
However, applying corindon worked. It was what could be done at the time.
Today, anti-slip tiles are made by adding a glass-based graining to the surface instead. This allows the beauty of the tile to shine through. The color of anti-slip tile is maintained and magnificently matches its indoor version. The texture of the anti-slip surface, too, is a little softer to the touch than previous corindon-based anti-slip tile…
Today’s tile production plants made it possible to nearly double the yield of tile produced. One single line can have an output of 90,000 square feet of tile per day, compared with 50,000 square feet on traditional lines.
The raw materials used in new kilns are more expensive today, however the cost of improved materials has been offset by these higher production volumes. This has created a better supply chain simultaneously with a superior product.
Combined with these other advancements in tile-making technology, this has led to a massive reduction in certain manufacturing defects like warpage or shading problems.
Overall, these technologies of tile have reinforced a timeless industry. The end result for homeowners has been a seemingly endless selection of tiles for the bathroom, the kitchen, and the outdoors.
Get inspired looking through our tile gallery—and get in touch to discuss your design dream today!!