The Margraf group of companies, which is based in Chiampo, Vicenza, Italy, can trace its roots back nearly a century, and over the years, the organization has supplied some renowned architectural projects, such as Michael Graves' Humana Building in Louisville, KY, and Philip Johnson's IBM Tower in Atlanta, GA. But following the industry trends has been a key to the company's long-term success, and it has recently made a broad step in the rapidly increasing slab market. Working with local machinery and resin manufacturers, it has established a state-of-the-art facility for automatically resining and polishing marble slabs.

The new facility features the latest generation of honing and polishing machinery from Simec as well as two double vertically stacked driers that hold 100 slabs apiece. During the production process, slabs are first honed on a Simec NP 2100 RX, which has 12 heads. The slabs are then dried to remove all moisture, and then Tenax BB 10 epoxy resin with 1825 hardener is applied. Slabs are then sent into another drier to speed the curing time, and then the slab is automatically flipped and Tenax Makor polyester resin is applied as needed.

In addition to the resin, the line also applies reinforcement netting to the back of the marble slabs as needed. Final polishing is done with a Simec NP 2100 NX, which has 20 polishing heads. Before leaving the line, the slabs are also treated with liquid wax for protection during handling.

To maximize space and efficiency, materials are transported around the new facility with a very advanced conveyor system, and slabs are also transported underground.

The processing line can process 4 to 5 meters of stone per minute, and the company typically produces 3,000 square meters of slabs and 1,500 square meters of tile per day. However, the production total can be twice that figure if required by the marketplace, and last year, Margraf had a period of three months where it was processing 6,000 to 7,000 square meters of stone per day. Although 150 people work for the company, only six workers are required in the new factory, due to the high level of automation present.

The greatest challenge in starting the new venture was removing the old equipment while also increasing production, explained Silvio Zompero of Margraf, who said the company had to increase sales and make the changeover at the same time. Overall, it took six months to become adept at using the machinery.

Margraf has always specialized in marble, and it is investing in more colors and exclusives from white and red varieties to exotic onyx. The addition of the resining plant bolsters this philosophy by allowing the company to enhance the technical characteristics of brittle and fragile stone varieties.