Although the recession is over, the marketplace for natural stone remains extremely competitive. Worldwide capacity for slab production is greater than ever, so even as international consumption of stone increases, individual companies are fighting harder than ever for their share of the business. As a result, successful stone producers are becoming more specialized as they focus on adding value over producing in volume. An example of this is Girasole Pietre Naturali srl, which is based in Volargne di Dolcé, Verona, Italy. Using some of the most advanced resin technology in the field, the company has given itself a competitive edge by processing new and different stones than what is typically found in the industry.

Girasole specializes in exotic, high-end materials, such as onyx and unique varieties of marble, limestone and travertine. “The large-quantity business is down, but we’re seeing many high-quality, high-standard houses, where people are coming here with their architects and selecting material,” explained Enrico Barbessi of Girasole.

Processing of many of these materials is now possible due to an epoxy resin product from Tenax that is applied to the blocks before a single slab is cut. Without the application of this product, many of these stones would not be available to the marketplace, as they could not even be cut into slabs. “These are materials that would be impossible to work otherwise,” said Barbessi, who added that the company also achieves a higher yield from each block, with less waste.

Once the treated blocks are cut into raw slabs, they are processed on a standard resin-treatment and polishing line. The resin-treating process includes large-scale driers and applicators, and much of the equipment was developed in house. For certain exotic materials, resin is also applied by hand so that workers can give attention to specific areas of each slab as needed.

Girasole is continually testing new resin formulas and applications, and it works to use specific epoxy resins with certain materials. It is also working with a special combination of resin and fiberglass netting that allows the company to produce ultra-thin slabs measuring as small as 1 cm thick for full-sized slabs and 5 mm thick for 3- x 2-foot pieces. This process allows the company to offer large panels of exotic materials that can be backlit.