Fabrication case study: Producing slabs from blocks
The fabrication process starts with blocks quarried from the company's quarries throughout Brazil. A typical block is 11 cubic meters, measuring 2.75 meters wide x 1.7 meters high x 2.4 m deep. These blocks are processed on one of two gangsaws from Cimef, a Brazilian firm, and the company is currently in the process of installing two additional gangsaws from Gaspari Menotti of Italy.
A standard block typically produces slabs measuring 280 x 160 cm. The 2-cm-thick slabs are produced for the domestic market, while the 3-cm-thick slabs are produced for export markets, including the U.S.
The rough slabs are taken from the gangsaws to the inside of the fabrication plant, where they await processing on a Breton slab polisher from Italy. Automated slab handling equipment runs on rails at the start of the line, delivering individual slabs to the polishing line with vacuum attachments and then tilting them into place.
The polisher itself has 19 heads, following by four buffing heads. The coordinates and type of material is programmed into the control panel, and an alarm sounds when the abrasives need replacement. The polishing head needing attention is indicated on the control panel, and an operator quickly changes the abrasives as needed.
After polishing and buffing, the slabs are automatically unloaded from the line, and then lifted with an overhead jib and prepared for shipment. Domestic slab shipments are typically delivered via truck, while slabs destined for export markets are placed within a wooden frame and loaded into containers for shipment by boat.
The company, which has 45 employees, will have a production capacity of 8,000 to 9,000 square meters of slabs per month with the four gangsaws in place. To offer its customers a complementary product line under the same roof, it also produces non-calibrated tiles and cut-to-size work at its facilities in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, and it may invest in a complete tile line in the future.