With the widespread popularity of mosaics and tumbled paving, the fabrication of small-format stone units has become an important sector of the industry. And while some smaller shops rely on basic equipment such as rip saws, others have put together automated fabrication plants, with machinery that can produce small-format as well as standard tile products.

As with many sectors of the stone industry, many pioneers in small-format stone fabrication are located in Italy. Many of these companies established themselves as a fabricator of standardized products, and adjusted their production to include specialized pieces to meet todayns trends. The following is a look at two of these companies, which are located in the historic stoneworking area of Brescia, Italy.

This Levi Tunisi tile line at Ariete Marmi produces a total of 300 square meters of material in an 8-hour shift.<

Ariete Marmi

Founded 30 years ago as a quarrier of Botticino marble, Ariete Marmi has established itself as a supplier of tumbled stone as well as semi-finished, small-format stone products, which it sells to fabricators. The founder of the company, Sergio DiBiasi, moved into blockcutting 17 years ago, selling marble strips. And while the company still quarries Botticino marble, it has continually increased its focus on the fabricating plant. The equipment was updated 10 years ago, and an even more significant investment was made last year, when the company purchased a complete specialty small-format products line from Levi Tunisi.

Equipment on the line includes the Model LTLC40/3TD2 and Model LTLC40/2TD2 gauging machines as well as two Model LT 251/500 saws for cutting strips into tiles. When processing the strips, the stone is calibrated on both sides to ensure even thickness and to remove all swirl marks from the circular diamond blade. The most popular format for Ariete Marmi is 10 x 10 cm, but the machines can also produce smaller sizes if needed. The standard thickness is 2 cm for flooring and 1 cm for walls.

The fabricating process starts with small and medium-sized blocks, and a blockcutter is used to cut the blocks into strips. These strips then move onto the line. First, one side of the stone is calibrated and pre-polished (honed) with the Model LTLC40/3TD2, which features three diamond heads and two abrasive heads. The stone is automatically flipped over, and the other side is then calibrated and honed with the Model LTLC40/2TD2, which has two diamond heads and two abrasive heads. After being calibrated and honed, the stones are then cut into the desired size on the multi-disc Model LT 251/500 saws.

Once fabrication is complete, the stone products are automatically lifted from the line and palletized with Ferrari and Cigarini transport and palletizing equipment. The factory employs a total of 10 people, with three workers on the small products line, which produces 300 square meters of material in an 8-hour shift. A total of 70% of the companyns production is semi-finished, while 30% is completely finished. Currently, Ariete Marmi is working one shift on the production line and two shifts for blockcutting.

DBG Marmi & Graniti also operates a Levi Tunisi tile line, which automatically calibrates and hones both sides of the stone strips.

DBG Marmi & Graniti

The production plant for DBG Marmi & Graniti lies only a few hundred yards from Ariete Marmi. Established in 1963 as a quarrier of Botticino marble, the company began manufacturing 12- x 12-inch marble tiles, and it began producing tumbled stone seven years ago. And although some material is processed on a line that had been converted from standard tile production, the bulk of production comes from a Levi Tunisi line, which was purchased within the past few years.

Typically, blocks are cut into strips on a blockcutter, and the strips then move onto the Levi Tunisi tile line, which includes the established equipment for calibration and honing. Strips are first processed on the Model LTLC40/3TD2, which calibrates and hones one side. Then, after the strips are automatically flipped over, a Model LTLC40/2TD2 machine calibrates and hones the other side. The pieces are then cut into the desired sizes.

In addition to small-format tiles, DBG Marmi & Graniti produces mosaic pieces, which are automatically cut on a Levi Tunisi multi-head saw. Prior to running through the machine, the stone is placed on a pre-made mold, which is configured to produce the desired dimensions of the mosaic pieces.

The company sells both finished and semi-finished products. In addition to standardized products, it fabricates custom-designed work, such as residential bathrooms. Also, the company produces custom items such as stair treads, window surrounds and moldings with a Levi Tunisi LT 157 edging machine, which creates intricate edgework for these pieces.

A total of 22 workers are in the plant, and DBG Marmi & Graniti produces 700 to 800 square meters in an 8-hour shift.