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SLIM: Strong, Lightweight and Indestructible Marble

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SLIM (SLIM: Strong, Lightweight and Indestructible Marble)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-05-31

SLIM project regards a ground-breaking method that allows the manufacturing of very thin layers of marble (1 mm or less) to be coated with preformed inner cores made of composite materials and resins in order to produce strong, flexible and lightweight marble for uses in areas of construction and others, such as luxury eyewear frames.
The most common uses for marble globally are as tiles for both interior and exterior uses. However, marble’s main disadvantage is its weight, as it has a density of 2,700 kg m-3. In order to provide the required strength, it is manufactured in thickness average of 3 cm, which hinders its application for a number of purposes that require lightweight materials. Furthermore, as it is extensively heavy, it requires high installation and transportation costs and due to the required thickness, the cost of natural stone is high compared to other thinner alternatives.
Therefore, reducing the weight of natural stone by manufacturing thinner slabs will allow wider application of marble as a material for the construction not only of flooring and cladding but also of other designer products as well as using less raw material which will allow us to preserve global natural stone reserves for the future.
The main objective of this project is to ensure that BUDRI SPA meets the technical, commercial, regulatory and financial requirements for the successful industrialization and mass commercialization of SLIM eyewear. Due to its innovative production techniques, BUDRI SPA is achieving a series of predetermined objectives which allow us to offer to the end-users:
- unique products (due to marble veining) fully customizable, with the possibility of choosing color, pattern of marble and design of frame;
- unrivaled weight (less than 40 g, weight that is comparable to that of a pair of glasses made with more traditional material), strength and durability;
- environmentally friendly (efficient use of natural resources since the raw material comes from the cut-offs of the inlay projects, which differently would be thrown away; eliminating the use of man-made plastics for certain products is beneficial to the environment; reducing the weight of natural stone by manufacturing thinner slabs will allow wider application of marble as a material but in the same time using less raw material which will allow us to preserve global natural stone reserves for the future).
SLIM eyewear is entirely covered of marble, except for the lenses and the parts which ensure the mechanical functionality of the eyewear (e.g. hinges, nose-pads, etc.). The process to obtain such a final product is long and technologically challenging.
During the first period, the work involved a series of activities such as:
- study and in-depth analysis of the raw material (marble), base of our product, with classifications of the various types of materials with their recurring features and criticalities;
- definition and optimization of the preformed inner core constituting the reinforcement of the marble structure and, more in general, of the coupling between the two materials;
- development and optimization of additional components and/or surface treatments to be combined with the marble raw material;
- creation and execution of a series of procedures and tests for the verification of the finished product;
- definition and optimization of the production process, both in terms of eyewear assembly line and improvement of machining operations and/or CAD/CAM programs;
- improvement of the production process with the introduction of an Anthropomorphic Robot used as a high precision automatic work center;
- creation of a quality control system, as well as the achievement of the CE certification for the Medical Device/ Personal Protective Equipment.
These points have been further investigated and optimized during the second period enabling us to pave the way towards mass production of SLIM eyewear.
For example, further improvements have been applied on the surface treatments and in the production cycle with the introduction, for example, of CAM polishing programs with ad-hoc tools to obtain a better finish with a consequent reduction of the subsequent manual phases. Furthermore, it is important to mention the additions made to the quality management system to avoid some of the unforeseen risks that emerged during the project (especially regarding the verification of possible non-conformities on some of the purchase components).
In addition, noteworthy is the continuous research aimed at improving the production process, not stopping at the mere introduction of the anthropomorphic robot, but also at the evaluation of alternative production cycles that involved other machines already present in the company such as the Breton CONTOURFIVE NC700 work center for the first phases of obtaining semi-finished products.
In the second period, the activities carried out focused on finalizing the following additional objectives:
- definition of a solid and reliable chain of suppliers (from packaging, to components and various tools) that could guarantee the maintenance of a product of high quality and reliability as SLIM eyewear;
- support from various technological suppliers that allowed us to respond to some of the problems that arose during the project;
- market analysis and strategies that would allow Budri to build solid relationships with potential customers and distributors (high brand optics, boutiques, etc.) and to exploit different communication and dissemination channels (website, e-commerce, participation in fairs and events and other promotional activities)
- analysis and strategies with a special focus on the Asian region (Korean and Japanese markets, Hong Kong and Singapore, but above all the Chinese market), for which a specific market study was carried out, focused on deepening our knowledge in the potential but also the substantial differences with which we shall deal when approaching it.
SLIM project will impact the natural stone market by opening a number of emerging markets for the natural stone industry, including the luxury eyewear market.
In these 22 months of SLIM project we have acquired a high know-how on the properties of the stone material brought to very low thicknesses, a know-how that has opened the doors to various projects regarding other items such as watches, pens, accessories for bags and more in general components for the luxury sector. All objects that customers are asking us to reproduce or cover in thin stone material.
Similarly, the SLIM project has given us the opportunity to explore different types of materials, supports and bonding techniques. The thin marble, in fact, cannot be used alone but must be appropriately coupled with materials that give it a certain mechanical resistance. This is the the innovative concept in which the SLIM eyewear is based.
The knowledge on the various support materials and the various glues/resins acquired during the project can now be reused also for the production of other articles based on their specific application sector and needs.
Last but not least, we must remember the progress made in the search for a protective treatment for sweat, studies that are allowing us to protect marble even in applications different from those of the glasses. The know-how acquired during the project in the study of various protective treatments can also be transferred to applications such as kitchen tops, tables, floors, etc.
SLIM eyewear_Inlaid model
Donatello Unisex Optical Eyewear in Nero MontMartre Marble
Bernini Woman Sunglass in Rosso Levanto Marble