Stone wholesaler International Stones, supplying the country from its base in Sheffield, has added the porcelains of Italian manufacturer Florim Ceramiche to its range.
The bright and tidy yard at the Sheffield premises of International Stones is now also home to the Florim Stone range of porcelain slabs, manufactured in the Sassuolo ceramics district in Modena, Italy.
International Stones Directors Mat Bacon and James Bentley spotted the eye catching material at the Cersaie exhibition in Bologna last year and have since entered into partnership with Florim Ceramiche, which has been producing porcelain for 50 years.
With a worldwide workforce of over 1,400 and a turnover of more than €400million, Florim Ceramiche is well known for its expertise in the hard surfaces market and its other high-end brands that include Floor Gres, Rex, CEDIT-Ceramiche d’Italia, Casa dolce casa-Casamood, Cerim and Casamood.
It operates state of the art production plants and distribution companies to service its partnerships in Europe, Asia and the USA, together with flagship stores and single brand showrooms in the world’s top design districts, making the company motto, ‘Made in Florim’, familiar to those in the hard surfaces market.
The Florim Ceramiche production of the material is, Mat explains, unlike the traditional pressing method using a piston. “This manufacturing process is far more efficient as the material is in constant movement through every part of the process.”
The raw material travels on a conveyor and is pressed between two cylinders, which also give it the desired surface texture – velvet, matt, natural and so on. This single continuous piece is then cut to the required length and dried to reduce moisture in the mix from around 7% to 1-2% so that it can be fired.
The surface of the slab is treated in preparation for decoration, carried out using a high definition digital printer. The slab, which at this stage is still soft, is then fired in a 170m long kiln to 1200ºC. As it cools it gains its essential properties – UV resistance, heat resistance, structural strength, stain resistance... all the qualities that make it versatile in its application for both interior and exterior use.
The final step is to attach the mesh to the back of the slab for extra resilience. This makes it easier for the fabricator to cut and safer to transport.
With two new factories in the past six years, Florim Ceramiche has invested €400million on building these premises with its Industry 4.0 factories hosting two 170m kilns. There is 120m of tunnelling 12m high to take raw materials to the plant and a 650m2 decorative glass façade.
These plants mark the latest step in the company’s innovation strategy. Its intention with the Fiorano Modenese factory was to create a “hub of technology and automation dedicated to processing and logistics for the oversize slabs”.
When Florim Ceramiche started production in 2014 it was one of the first companies to manufacture the large format slabs, which are more than 3m x 1.6m. The super-sized format opened the door to some of the most prestigious designs in the world.
The two factories today are linked with advanced technology in place to produce the large format slabs in Mordano, with further processing in Fiorano Modenese, where the slabs are then packaged and shipped. The two sites are highly automated and operated by sophisticated software, humanoid robots and LGVs (Laser Guided Vehicles), all fully integrated with communications systems designed to reduce delivery times and improve the customer service experience.
Florim’s long term plan is to continuously improve the product quality, process and sustainability of its operations and to introduce Florim Stone to the UK. The company is extremely optimistic about its collaboration with International Stones, which stocks more than 150 materials and operates an open-door policy for customers to make their selection from those materials.
Mat’s decision to expand the range comes from an understanding that, as he says, “the market is demanding diversification to sintered material and Florim Stone allows us to grow with the trend”.
He continues: “The quality and the appearance of the digital printing complements our iQ (quartz) and the natural materials we import, broadening the work surface choice and opening the door to bathrooms, facades and high transit floor applications.”
International Stones has gone from four to 10 staff and with a live stock list including the latest Florim Stone online at www.istones.co.uk International Stones offer a ‘fabricators guide’, showroom stands, free showroom material and test slabs of Florim Stone to customers.
Interested? Call Mat or James on 0114 285 5717 for more details.
Pictured below is the huge Florim factory in Italy where Florim Stone is made. It is porcelain stoneware that explores new applications.