The earliest known example of ceramic tiles being made and used was in 4th millennium b.c. Egypt. From there, the trend spread outward through Africa and the Middle East, reaching Europe around the 10th century a.d. and to our tile shop in Perth today!
As one of the more affordable tiling options available, ceramic is a popular choice among customers buying tiles in Perth. While they can still easily be handmade just like they were hundreds of years ago, advances in manufacturing now also allow them to be mass produced by specialised machines.
For both handmade and industrially manufactured tiles, a tile body must be mixed. This body is made from clay, which can now be produced with a mixture using the dust of pulverised rocks or even recycled material such as post-industrial glass, instead of having to source it from a riverbed.
After this first step in prepping the material which will make the tiles, the process begins to shift depending on the production process.
Tiles produced by hand are shaped by hand-rolling the clay. The clay must be flattened to an even thickness, and this is achieved by either pressing the clay out within a wooden frame or using a roller machine. After this step, the tiles are ready to be cut to whatever shape is desired using wire or shaped metal die.
In a ceramic tile manufacturing facility, the clay body will be flattened and cut evenly by machines.
An option called dry pressing places the clay body in molds and evenly compacts it at a high pressure Another method extrudes the clay through a mold in the desired tile shape, then slices the tiles evenly with a wire cutter.
In both process, the unbaked clay, or greenware, is then dried to remove any moisture that may cause it to crack later in production.
After the greenware has been dried, the decorative accents that make each tile unique can be applied.
Glaze is the glossy finish on the top of tiles. It can be layered onto the greenware before or after a first firing. Many ceramic artisans prefer to glaze ceramic as bisqueware, which is unglazed greenware that has been fired once.
Glaze can be painted, sprayed, or rolled with hand tools onto the ceramic tiles, generating about 50 pieces per day that are ready to be fired.
Industrial machines apply glaze to the cut tile blanks with a variety of machines.
Primers are applied to the tiles as they pass under a steady, curtain-like stream of glaze along a conveyor belt. After this step, additional glazes that may react with the primer or produce different decorative effects are applied.
Machines such as glaze slingers, glazing drums, disc sprayers, or even inkjet printers expedite this step in industrial settings. All together, these types of machines can glaze around 2,000 square feet of tile each day.
Clay must be heated to harden into tile, and to bring out the colours of a tile’s glaze. The ovens used for this process are called kilns.
Handmade ceramics are made in smaller batches using smaller kilns than the industrial process. Periodic kilns with a singe oven door are the most popular type used in smaller production studios and production rates are limited by their size.
Large scale tile manufacturing sends glazed tiles through a roller oven or other style of continuous kiln. This specific conveyor style kiln can heat up to 4,000 square feet of tile on its 125 meter journey through the oven.
Similar to firing practices in the hand-made process, shuttle kilns may also be used, but they are less efficient than the roller oven.
After the tiles have been fired and cooled, they are ready to be shipped out to stores such as our tile shop in Perth. Contact us online or stop in to one of our locations to see the new styles we have in stock today.