A marriage of natural stone and technology

May 6, 2002
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The stone, sand and cement are mixed together, and the mixture is vibro-compacted in a vacuum packing process, which Baghin explained results in a notable decrease in porosity. The mixture sits in a mold for one day for its first curing, and then the resulting tile is automatically removed from the mold.
The agglomerate stone production at Agglo Baghin S.p.A. in Treviso, Italy, is a combination of natural stone and technology. Using natural stone remnants from the quarries of Italy, the company produces its cement-based agglomerate - dubbed Ecostone - with high-tech machinery from Breton, S.p.A. The result of this process is a material with similar characteristics to cut stone, but with virtually no impact on the quarries themselves.

The equipment, known as the TerastoneR system, was developed by Breton, which has been working in the agglomerate stone market since the '70s. Agglo Baghin produces tiles in two standard sizes, 40 x 40 cm and 60 x 60 cm, as well as stair treads, skirting, borders and custom work. The standard thickness for a 40- x 40-cm tile is 15 mm, although a 9.5 mm can be achieved when a polymer resin is added.

The standard product mixture starts with natural stone materials, which comprise the bulk of the formula. Two or more different sizes of stone pieces are used, and the stone is often brought in from quarries in Northern Italy, such as Botticino. The stone is mixed with cement and marble or silica sand, which allows for complete depth of color and a higher compression strength, according to Luciano Baghin, president of Agglo Baghin.

The white Portland cement used in the mixture has a rating of 52.5, which is higher than the 32.5 standard rating and allows for "absolute consistency of color," Baghin explained. Moreover, the cement is mixed with a minimal amount of water (with a water/cement ratio of 0.28-0.32). The low percentage of water results in optimum performance of the finished product in outdoor applications, where the adverse effects of freeze/thaw cycles are minimized.

The product is comprised of natural stone remnants in two or more different sizes, which are mixed with cement and marble or silica san.
The stone, sand and cement are mixed together, and the mixture is vibro-compacted in a vacuum packing process, which Baghin explained results in a notable decrease in porosity. The mixture sits in a mold for one day for its first curing, and then the resulting tile is automatically removed from the mold.

Once the actual fabrication begins, the process starts with two 4-head Levibreton calibrating machines. The material is calibrated on one side, then automatically flipped over and calibrated on the opposite side. The material is then polished on a 15-head Levibreton polishing machine, and chamfered on all four sides to ensure a completely rectified tile.

The tiles then move through a unit to remove all water from the surface, and then a water and oil repellant is automatically applied to the material when specified. The finished Ecostone tiles are automatically removed from the production line and packed in wooden pallets that are lined with styrofoam so the tiles do not make direct contact with the wood.

Typically, the plant can produce 10,000 square feet of Ecostone in a single 8-hour shift. Because virtually all of the operations in the plant are automated, the seven employees in the facility are mainly involved in overseeing quality control.

The Ecostone product line is broken into four basic groups: Granito, which is intended for surfaces that require high resistance to wear with an refined aesthetic; Marmo, which is made from classic marble products; Venezia, which is formulated using selected river stones in various pastel color shades; and Quarzo, which is made of aggregated quartz.

In addition to its standard line of Ecostone products, Agglo Baghin also has the Suprema line of Ecostone, where bits of glass, shells or lapis are added to the materials mix for a more upscale appearance.

A total of 60% of Agglo Baghin's production is exported to markets around the world, including the U.S., where it is represented by Vincenzi Stone of Winchester, MA.

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