Italy Awards Top Prize to Spanish Instituto de Tecnología Cerámica (ITC)
The Italian Trade Fair Tecnargilla 2012 featured, for the first time, the Prizes for Technology Transfer, called the Ceramic TTD Awards.
The event was attributed to the best and most innovative ceramics-related research projects with an industrial scope. The TTD initiative was sponsored by ACIMAC, the Association of Italian Manufacturers of Machinery and Equipment for Ceramics, and ISTEC–CNR, the Institute of Science and Technology for Ceramic Materials, the only CNR (Italian National Research Council) research structure that offers training programmes specifically devoted to the comprehensive study of ceramic materials. These organisations seek to bring the world of research into contact with industry and, thus, to disseminate research results and innovative proposals by researchers towards companies, with a view to pursuing collaborative undertakings for future businesses, joint ventures, technological co-operations, or the implementation of ongoing studies and research. Within the frame of Tecnargilla 2012 a total of 27 innovative technologies were submitted for the Ceramic TTD Awards. The submissions were debated and studied by a jury comprising Prof. Paolo Zannini (Chairman of the Italian Ceramic Society, on behalf of ISTEC–CNR), Bruno Zauli (Director of R&D, Patents, and Research Financing of the SACMI Group, on behalf of the Rimini Trade Fair), and Giuliano Guerrieri (expert on ceramic technologies and materials on behalf of ACIMAC), until the three best submissions were chosen. ITC/ES had the honour of winning First Prize for its control technology for presses used in ceramic tile manufacture. This innovative development provides automatic control of the pressing process in ceramic tile manufacturing facilities, keeping bulk density constant of the industrially pressed ceramic tiles. The control system is currently installed in more than 25 facilities worldwide. The importance of the system lies in the fact that, as numerous research papers have shown, bulk density determines ceramic tile behaviour during production in addition to the technical and aesthetic characteristics of the end product, particularly in regard to tile dimensions.The control method customarily used is discontinuous, manual, and uses mercury, making it inefficient and involving occupational health risks. The ITC system is continuous, automatic, and limits the use of mercury by enabling pressing pressure to be continuously regulated, based on measurement of the clay moisture content, so that tile bulk density remains constant. Both the method and the control system have been patented. The system developed by ITC reduces production problems, because keeping tile density constant reduces in-line tile breakages, decreases curvatures in the end product, and enhances tile surface appearance, etc. The system enables production of ceramic tiles that are exactly alike. With current control systems, producing ceramic tiles that are exactly alike is a matter of luck, which makes it necessary to measure, sort, and store the tiles according to sizes. The usual control methods often lead to production of between 3 and 5 different sizes in a given lot. The new control system reduces the space required for storage, simplifies store management, and enhances customer service by eliminating complaints and claims stemming from defects of dimensional stability. Second Prize went to a study by a group of researchers from the University of Trento on modelling, numerical simulation, and optimisation of the forming process of ceramic powders, while Third Prize went to the company Keracromia® for the development of a technology for the optimisation of ceramic digital production.