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Energy Efficiency and Brand Building Dominate the Ceramic Agenda

Brand building and product design came to the fore at the China International Ceramics Technology, Equipment, Building Ceramics & Sanitaryware Exhibition as companies vied for market share in this highly environmentally-aware sector.

Photo: Guangdong Dowstone Technology: Hard-working glazes for a more robust finish.
Guangdong Dowstone Technology: Hard-working glazes for a more robust finish.
Photo: Guangdong Dowstone Technology: Hard-working glazes for a more robust finish.
Guangdong Dowstone Technology: Hard-working glazes for a more robust finish.

Technological innovation and energy efficiency were very much the order of the day at the recent China International Ceramics Technology, Equipment, Building Ceramics & Sanitaryware Exhibition. This year, a number of the big name exhibitors also demonstrated a renewed focus on brand building and product design as the key elements in winning market share in this difficult and highly competitive market.

Energy Saving Innovations

Technological innovation, energy efficiency and environmental protection are now common development goals across the ceramics industry. In line with this, enhancing the performance of ceramics manufacturing equipment performance was a priority for many exhibitors, with a number of them keen to highlight just how much potential customers could shave off their energy bills.

One exhibitor determined to take a technical lead was Guangdong's Foshan Boffin Mechanical & Electrical, attending the show to launch its Magical Grinding System (MGS). The company's stand featured a model of the MGS system, complete with a primary motor, a main reducer, a lubrication station, a screening system and a feeder. The system has been designed to bring together a variety of manufacturing techniques and procedures into a single unit.

According to Li Beirong, the company's Project Manager, the MGS' energy-efficient ceramic material grinding process is a sign of just how seriously Boffin takes environmental protection. The traditional ball mill technique takes a considerable time to complete, making it inefficient and entailing both excessive power consumption and high costs. Li maintained that, as the MGS can mill more quickly, this reduces the grinding time to eight hours, compared to the 12-18 hours required for traditional milling. The MGS system is also more cost-effective, with power consumption savings of over 25%, and materials savings – such as ball media and ball lining – of more than 25%. Overall, the annual power consumption of the MGS is said to cost less than Rmb2 million, compared with the Rmb10 million costs associated with traditional milling machines.

Photo: Foshan Boffin’s Magical Grinding System in miniature.
Foshan Boffin's Magical Grinding System in miniature.
Photo: Foshan Boffin’s Magical Grinding System in miniature.
Foshan Boffin's Magical Grinding System in miniature.
Photo: Streamlined production model from Foshan Boffin.
Streamlined production model from Foshan Boffin.
Photo: Streamlined production model from Foshan Boffin.
Streamlined production model from Foshan Boffin.

Yan Sujing, Boffin's Deputy General Manager, said that its products are now in use by a number of well-known mainland ceramic enterprises. He added that a company in Foshan passed the energy efficiency assessment of the Foshan Municipal Quality Supervision Bureau after using the MGS, having demonstrated an energy saving rate of 39%.

Another exhibitor keen to highlight energy saving and environmental protection was Foshan Huaxin Ceramics Machinery. This year, the company was promoting its kiln production line, which includes a wide-body roller kiln, three chain hoists and five panel flash dryers. Huaxin's technical representative, Li Gong, said that the equipment had already demonstrated an outstanding performance in terms of energy conservation. Its five panel flash dryers, for instance, when compared with other similar products on the market, use around 30% less energy.

Beauty and Strength

The glaze used in ceramic products clearly affects their appearance and durability. This is especially important when it comes to daily use items, such as dinnerware and tiles. Having an appealing look that can withstand the daily assault from dishwashers and foot traffic can increase the value of ceramic product considerably. Accordingly, in the exhibition's colour glaze, raw materials and refractories sections, exhibitors showcased a wide variety of hard-working glaze.

Guangdong Dowstone Technology has a number of such products on show, including its diamond glaze, pearl enamel and non-slip ink series. According to Yu Tengda, the company's Sales Representative, Dowstone works with a number of overseas creative consultants and can provide designs for a number of different products, as well as a customised service based on a customer's specific demands.

Photo: Dowstone Technology’s luster glaze series.
Dowstone Technology's luster glaze series.
Photo: Dowstone Technology’s luster glaze series.
Dowstone Technology's luster glaze series.
Photo: Kehai Ceramic Technology’s ink-jet opaque frit.
Kehai Ceramic Technology's ink-jet opaque frit.
Photo: Kehai Ceramic Technology’s ink-jet opaque frit.
Kehai Ceramic Technology's ink-jet opaque frit.

The company's metal ink series is said to have a high level of acid and alkali resistance, while its stable glazed finish helps objects to retain a just bought appearance. Stain and abrasion resistant, it is suitable for use in high-traffic public places. The skid ink series, meanwhile, combines organic and inorganic nanotechnology and has been tested in accordance with European standards to a high non-slip performance level. Its light ink series, by contrast, uses a special 'high-frit' formulation, with bright glazed finish, a delicate surface and fewer pinholes.

As with Dowstone, Foshan Kehai Inno Ceramics Technology offers a variety of glazes. The company has also developed and launched an ink jet zirconium white frit glaze, an innovation tailor-made for the climate in Guangdong.

Established in 1996, Kehai focuses on the development, production and marketing of high-quality ceramic glazes. Deng Jianzhong, the company's Vice-president, said that the advantages of inkjet zirconium white frit glaze lies in the smoothness it delivers across ceramic tile surfaces. Due to the vagaries of the climate in the Guangdong region, the tile's thermal expansion coefficient is lower than that required in the more northerly regions.

According Deng, the market is currently highly competitive. In view of his company's comparatively slow year-on-year growth in 2015, it has looked to improve the quality of its products by upgrading its production techniques.

Building Brands, Improving Service

This year, brand building was a focus for many exhibitors at the show. Enhancing brand awareness and building a comprehensive after-sale service system have now become priorities for many in the ceramics sector.

In line with this, Li said that, against the backdrop of a very competitive market and a weak economy in the mainland, Huaxin had optimised its internal structure, strengthened its product design capabilities and improved its product services.

Now, from pre-sales to after-sales, Huaxin offers support to its customers. This includes providing information about installation and commissioning, as well as offering a life-long after-sales service. The design and service offer can also be customised in line with individual customer requirements.

As with Huaxin, Boffin attaches considerable importance to after-sales service. According to Project Manager Lee, when a customer places an order, the company will send technical personnel over to take measurements and then design the installation to match the requirements of the customer's site. The company will plan the entire production line layout, install and commission the equipment, and follow up on the actual operation process, as well as providing a one-year warranty.

Photo: Huaxin’s five-panel flash dryer.
Huaxin's five-panel flash dryer.
Photo: Huaxin’s five-panel flash dryer.
Huaxin's five-panel flash dryer.
Photo: Xing-Yuan Machinery’s automatic powder electromagnetic separator.
Xing-Yuan Machinery's automatic powder electromagnetic separator.
Photo: Xing-Yuan Machinery’s automatic powder electromagnetic separator.
Xing-Yuan Machinery's automatic powder electromagnetic separator.

Explaining the company' offer, Deputy General Manager Yan said: "The users of MGS tend to be large ceramic enterprises, an inevitable consequence of the operating cost considerations. We also design grinding systems suitable for small and medium ceramic enterprises and provide a service customised to their requirements."

A variety of specialised equipment was also on display in the exhibition. In the case of Foshan Gaoming Xing-Yuan Machinery, it had on offer an automatic electromagnetic powder separator with lower power consumption, and a high gradient magnetic field. Additionally, the system also has the facility for an even distribution of the magnetic field, while also maintaining a good deferrisation effect.

Guangdong DHN Industrial, meanwhile, debuted its continuous ceramic ball milling system, with the entire production process enclosed and fully automated, ensuring the milling workshop remains free from dust pollution. Equally impressive was Guangdong Jin View Ceramic Energy Saving Technology's new wide-body kiln flue gas system. This sees gas flowing in the channel towards the kiln head – the reverse of the product movement – in order to achieve the gradual heating of products, while making full use of residual heat to reduce energy consumption.

The 2016 China International Ceramics Technology, Equipment, Building Ceramics & Sanitaryware Exhibition was held at the China Import and Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou from 27-30 May. According to the organisers, this year's event attracted more than 600 exhibitors from the mainland as well as in excess of 100 overseas companies.

Xing Bin, Special Correspondent, Guangzhou

 

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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