This proposal has been prepared subsequent to an indepth study of the present state of the European Ceramic Industry and the forces that are influencing its standing as the recognised centre of world ceramic production. The European Ceramic Industry is under constant debilitating attack from low cost foreign imports from the likes of China and the Far East which has resulted in the closure of many long established factories in the European Community. Factories which have survived have done so by: a) Investing in high tech automatic machinery to reduce production costs and.... b) by concentrating on European style and design excellence. The proposal made in this document, will revolutionize the design printing process, having the effect of reducing the total manufacturing cost of a decorated ceramic article, by a significant 10% Traditionally most ceramics were decorated by ceramic decal, which is the most flexible and sophisticated method available. However, due to increasing costs the percentage decorated by this method has fallen in recent years to 50% and less in some cases. Foreign imports are favoured by low cost inhouse decal production which has added considerably to the problems facing the European Ceramic Industry. The decoration stage accounts for 50% of the total manufacturing costs of ceramics in Europe. Where decals are used they represent half the cost of decoration. As decal costs have risen, due to outdated, slow and labour intensive production methods, their use has declined in ceramic decoration. Although cost reductions are essential to combat fierce competition, the effect has been to undermine the advantages of traditional skills and design innovation which were the hallmark of European ceramics by using cheaper and sometimes crude methods of decoration such as direct printing and their inbuilt limitations. This proposal is to develop a new rotary printer and U.V. drying system, capable of increasing decal productivity ten fold, whilst at the same time halving the present cost of multi colour decal production. The new system will be more cost effective, printing a greater number of colours (ten to fifteen) which will reintroduce traditional skills and at the same time offer substantial cost reductions. By combining the rotary printing technology used in the paper and fabric industries, with the latest ultra violet and catalytic drying processes, continuous wet-on-wet printing for ceramic decal, is achievable. Substituting the new gravure technology for silk screens provides much finer tones, registration and consistency. In addition, reduced preparation time will allow European factories to respond rapidly to customers market demands, and remove the necessity of holding high stock levels. Furthermore, the technology to be developed, will eliminate the high level of toxins emitted from solvent based compounds used in current production methods reducing environmental impact by 90% It is envisaged that further development would be undertaken by the Industrial SME's after completion of this project to design a full scale ten to fifteen colour production system prior to manufacture and subsequent exploitation. A return investment of 1 year is expected following implementation of commercial exploitation. Current printing methods using flat screens, produce 800 prints of 1 colour per hour, needing 1 day drying time before the next colour can be applied, (with heavy losses due to registration problems and paper shrinkage etc} The proposed rotary printer by comparison will produce 34000 completed 10 to 15 colour decal sheets every hour. (One rotary machine is equal to 20 conventional machines).
Funding SchemeCRS - Cooperative research contracts
82152 Planegg / Krailling
ST12 9ES Barlaston - Stoke-on-trent
B70 6LY West-bromwich
ST6 2ET Burslem - Stoke-on-trent
ST1 3QS Hanley - Stoke-on-trent