Almasorra, Spain and L’Alcora, Spain – Electronics For Imaging’s Cretaprint® Hybrid, the Alfa de Oro-awarded technology for inkjet ceramic decoration with both solvent and aqueous inks, has been validated for its productivity and quality by one of the world’s leading ceramics companies, Azuliber. The L’Alcora, Spain-based tile manufacturer installed the first EFI™ Cretaprint printer operating with water-based inks as a beta unit more than a year ago. Today, that printer is successfully operating in Azuliber’s regular manufacturing line.
Fernando Javier Tomas Badenes, EFI deputy general manager for building materials, said of the landmark installation, “It is key for EFI to propose technologies that work with total reliability in the highly demanding ceramic manufacturing environment. In fact, the Cretaprint Hybrid approach aims to help our customers adopt the future technology in tile inkjet printing.”
Azuliber Sales Manager Fernando Palomo declared, “As soon as we learned about EFI’s new technology for ceramic decoration, we knew we wanted to try it.” When asked about the experience and results, he added, “I can say clearly that it works. We have manufactured our existing products with new water-based inks without any issue, and obtained a perfect finished product.”
The EFI Cretaprint Hybrid solution includes digital glazing and aqueous inkjet printing. One of the drivers behind this new technology is the positive environmental impact on the ceramic tile manufacturing process, both in reducing consumed resources (glazes, water and energy) and in reducing emissions and other waste.
Sustainability is very important at Azuliber, a company that has implemented different environmental initiatives, such as the ceramic industry’s first closed water circuit, cogeneration of electric power and solid waste recycling. Azuliber produces 25,600 kb/h by cogeneration, using hot air in turbine atomizers. It also has a complete recycling program, providing a sludge and ceramic suspension collection and reuse service to more than 30 companies in the industry. The service handles 187 million kg every year.
Innovation as a strategy
Azuliber’s production operation showcases the market viability and value possible with the migration from solvent to aqueous ceramic inks. According to EFI’s Tomas, “Sustainability and technical improvements coming from a better integration of tile manufacturing processes are key drivers in the development of Cretaprint Hybrid technology. However, we understand that a technology will only be fully implemented in the industry when it proves to be cost-effective.”
Regular manufacturing at Azuliber with EFI Cretaprint Hybrid printers is providing real-world proof that it is a robust and efficient solution able to decorate standard ceramic pieces out of large format slabs.
Founded in 1972, Azuliber has an established legacy in tile manufacturing while, at the same time, maintaining a track record in innovation. This year, the company won its third Alfa de Oro award for the development of a ceramic-polymer composite with advanced noise absorption properties – an innovative new solution Azuliber co-developed with Neos Additives and BestTile. “We firmly believe in the technical and decorative possibilities of tile ceramics,” said Palomo, “and we are proud to be part of a Spanish ceramic cluster that is a leader in creating high value added products that are also very competitive.”
The EFI Cretaprint Hybrid printer, which allows tile manufacturers to migrate from solvent to water-based ceramic inks, is in full operation at Spanish ceramics company Azuliber.