Neolith, created by The Size in Castellon, Spain, is a sintered stone that has seen increased popularity in the U.S. due to its versatility. While the material feels new to a lot of people, the sintering process has been around for a while. It is a method for creating objects from different types of powders, including the mineral, metal and ceramic variety. As such, sintering has been traditionally used for manufacturing ceramic objects, but there are common applications found across many industrial fields.
“It is basically the process of using natural materials in powder form and processing them, usually under heat, pressure, or both, to create a desired product,” said Mar Esteve Cortes, Neolith director. “In the case of sintered stone for building products, natural materials are ground to a powder and subjected to specific heat and pressure to produce the desired end results.
The composition of the material
Neolith requires special/different tools as it is made from natural, raw materials that are produced at very high temperatures and under extreme pressure. Due to these special characteristics, the tools that are used have to be different.
When cutting Neolith, the fabricator must use blades built for sintered stone slabs. Bridge saw, waterjet and CNC speed feed and water rate are well explained in Neolith’s technical manual on kitchen countertops available on its website: https://www.neolith.com/en/zona-de-descargas/#manuales-tecnicos.
“When doing edging on Neolith, the process is very similar to the one for natural stone,” said Cortes. “There are really no large differences and you can use similar tools for edging to the ones used for natural stone.
Due to the process that is used to create thin, lightweight and very strong sintered stone panels, it may lead some people to mistakenly think that the finished result is the same as porcelain ceramic tile. However, there are real differences that become evident just by comparing the characteristics. While traditional ceramics might have one characteristic in common with sintered stone, no single ceramic product possesses all of the characteristics, including stain, scratch, chemical and heat resistance that sintered stone does.
“These characteristics come about in part because sintered products are made from selected natural minerals that are different than those which make tile,” said Cortes. “The combination of powdered minerals with a minimal amount of water is referred to as ‘compact’, which densifies first under pressure and then becomes nonporous during firing at temperatures just below the melting point of the minerals. The powder particles thus sinter and bond together due to the applied pressure and heat, which force all surfaces of the particles to be directly connected to all of the surfaces of the adjacent particles, creating a very dense and strong end result.”
Due to its all-mineral composition, sintered stone has high heat and fire resistance, while its density makes it virtually waterproof. It has a porosity less than 0.09 percent, meaning no sealers are required.
Variety and versatility
Sintered stone panels are available in a wide variety of colors, finishes, and textures to suit a range of room and building types. “From a design standpoint, the surface of sintered stone can provide the look of stone, tile, wood, smooth, or textured surfaces. However, it is lighter in weight than many other materials, coming in at only 1.1 to 1.5 pounds per square foot for a / -inch-thick panel,” said Cortes. “For those who maintain the buildings or properties in which Neolith is specified, they find the dense, nonporous surface easy to clean, including the removal of graffiti so the appearance and color are maintained over time.
“Even harsh chemicals aren’t a problem to use as sintered stone is chemical resistant,” Cortes went onto say. “The material has even been shown to be hygienic and suitable for food contact, which has also led to its use for countertops and food-handling surfaces.”