Processing a world of stone
March 25, 2011
Founded by Nicola Bagnara in 1948, Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. began operations as a monument producer and quarrier of porphyry in the area of Bolzano, Italy. Today, the company has developed into a major international stone supplier, as it processes slabs, tiles and architectural stonework using the latest equipment and technology.
While the company’s corporate headquarters are in Bolzano, it also has two slab storage facilities, a block storage facility and a processing plant in Verona, Italy, as well as a block storage facility near Carrara, Italy.
Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. reports that it offers over 600 natural stone materials from five continents - including some available exclusively through the company. According to Niko Bagnara, Managing Director, materials with shades of brown, beige, white and gray are currently selling best. Among the stones processed are American materials such as Silver Cloud granite from Georgia, Black Canyon onyx from Arizona, Stony Creek granite from Connecticut, Bethel White granite from Vermont and American Black granite from Pennsylvania.
The company’s state-of-the-art resin and slab polishing plant in Verona was developed six years ago, and it is equipped with automated machinery from Breton, S.p.A. of Italy. After blocks are cut into raw slabs, they are calibrated on a Levibreton KCP calibrating machine with 10 working heads. They then enter a large oven, which can hold 40 slabs at one time, to remove all moisture from the slab. Resin products from Tenax S.p.A. of Italy are then automatically applied, and a vacuum chamber forces the resin deeper into the stone. More resin is then added to the surface, and netting is applied to the back of the slab as needed. The slabs then move into a second oven to speed the curing process.
After the slabs come out of the oven, they sit for one day before being polished on a Levibreton KG 3000 polishing machine with 21 heads. Polishing abrasives are supplied by Adria, while the brushes are supplied by Tenax. These brushes are used to create a variety of unique surface finishes, including the “Caress” finish and “Silk” finish, which have been popular with customers. “These finishes are often used for projects,” Bagnara explained. An example of this can be found at Farris Bad Spa Hotel in Larvik, Norway, which used materials with the Caress and Silk finishes, as well as polished and bushhammered finishes. (See “Norway hotel takes pride in local granite,” April 2010 Stone World.)
Among the advances in resin treatment, Nikolaus Bagnara has begin using Glaxs, a new resin technology from Tenax. Considering the fact that sun and heat tend to yellow resin-treated material - which can be particularly evident on white or other light-colored materials - Tenax’s R&D Department developed a new product that offers guaranteed long-term transparence. The Glaxs resin has undergone a series of aging tests according to ASTM standards. According to Tenax, these results have shown a strong yellowing of epoxy resins, while the Glaxs resin has confirmed resistance to yellowing with high transparency. The product also has low environmental impact, Tenax reports, as it contains no solvents, is not corrosive and does not release irritating fumes.
The Glaxs resin is applied in the same manner as a traditional resin - after the honing application is completed.
Additionally, Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. has implemented up a digital slab-scanning system from Mapascan, where every slab is electronically scanned. The size is recorded, and every irregularity is noted in an electronic inventory. Prior to storage and shipment, a thin sheet of film is applied to protect the slabs.
In addition to slab processing, the facility also houses a large warehouse area for finished slabs. “We stock a lot more now, because our customers don’t like to stock as much as they used to,” Bagnara said, adding that it offers mixed bundles to its clients.
In terms of sales, Nikolaus Bagnara S.p.A. has been seeing a rebound, and it reports that after a 7% decline in revenue for 2009, sales for 2010 rebounded back to the level they were at in 2008, which it characterized as a “good” year. “The U.S. is going again, but we are not reliant only on that market,” Niko Bagnara said. “Central Europe is coming back, and we are also seeing activity in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Canada.”
Looking to the future, Bagnara is predicting an uptick in business. “I’m positive, especially for higher-end materials,” he said. “We are fortunate to not be in the low-end market, because it is just a price issue, and the quality there is not as important.”