Layman report

E.W.G. is a clean new technology for the
decoration of all kinds of ceramic surfaces,
from flat to textured. This technology involves a
minimal use of noble raw materials, eliminates
the production of waste and reduces water and
energy consumption substantially.
E.W.G. Project has been realised in the
Runway laboratories, with the help of funding
from the European Community LIFE scheme.
he Envi
s a
concrete award gladly bestowed on
our firm in acknowledgement of the
effort we have always focused on
adopting high-level technology for an
ever more innovative and better life.
Con il contributo
dello strumento
finanziario LIFE
The environmental problem
The most significant environmental issue in the decoration of trims for the ceramic industry concerns the handling of glazes, in particular the vast production of non-reusable
Ceramic glazes are made up of one or more frits, other insoluble raw materials prime and
soluble organic and non-organic additives, which are added in small quantities to optimise
rheological behaviour. In the case of coloured glazes, these components are supplemented
with a fundamental component: colouring oxides, i.e. physical mixtures of metal transition
oxides, or solid solutions thereof, which give the vitreous compositions the colouring required.
A large number of heavy metal oxides are used in the formulation of the majority of glaze
components, which release ions that are become potentially harmful for living creatures on
contact with water. What is more, during glazing line cleaning operations, large amounts of
water come into contact with the glazes, which then has to be purified. The resulting tons of
wet sludge, which must be disposed of appropriately, increases the amount of nonreusable production cycle waste.
The extent of the environmental problem is heightened by the high frequency of glaze
changes during production, which - for trim pieces –involves extremely short runs of 200300 pieces. At present then, apart from the waste produced by each colour change, which
totals 100 litres of colour per application machine, a further 10 kg of sludge is turned out by
each machine due to the treatment of the washing water.
Further environmental problems originate from the use of excessive quantities of glaze for
each application, which –for products with textured surfaces in particular - reaches 40%
due to preferential deposition of glaze in the cavities.
A further problem results from the huge amount of glaze lost via dust clouds: although this
does not translate into a direct dispersion of the glaze into the atmosphere, these clouds of
dust lead to a loss of resolution in the decoration design, which makes the product noncompliant, thereby increasing waste still further. This is why the defect rate of decorative
pieces with textured surfaces is often above 6%, while for flat pieces it is under 1%.
Summing up then, decoration generates huge quantities of waste, composed essentially
of liquid glazes, wet sludge and processing waste. The quantitative incidence of this
waste on the total product is particularly high in the production of trim pieces, wherein
colour changes are frequent and glaze application is difficult. Energywise too, the preparation of huge amounts of glazes, all of which will not be used, represents a major waste of
Objectives attained
The objective of the project was to develop a new appliance for glazing flat and textured
surfaces (in haut- and bas-relief).
This goal has been reached through the completion of the technical phase of the E.W.G.
Application of this new equipment will result in:
a total elimination of waste, brought about by the specific use of the raw materials;
glaze use reduced to the bare minimum during decoration (depending on the design),
including three dimensional pieces;
no more dispersion or wastage of oxides and pigments;
the production of faultless material, thereby eliminating waste caused by defects.
Results obtained
with the contribution of the LIFE
financial instrument
Attaining the project objective has allowed us to obtain the following results:
A substantial decrease in the glazes used per product unit. That has translated into:
Abatement of waste originating from glaze wastage (by approximately 94%)
Reduction in the waste caused by poor image quality (by approximately 8%, equal to
over 500,000 pieces per year)
Application of the glaze in layers with uniform thickness, even on sloping or concave/
convex surfaces, without creation of excess deposits. This results in further savings in
glazes (approximately 80% in an average batch) and the elimination of losses due to
clouds of oxide and pigment dusts.
A reduction in direct energy consumption (by approximately 76% due to the lower levels of
power required) and in indirect consumption (approximately 80% less because smaller
amounts of glazes need to be prepared)
A proportional reduction in the consumption of non-renewable raw materials in glaze preparation (approximately 80% less) and of the water used to transport the glazes
(approximately 84% less).
Il Progetto E.W.G.
with the contribution of the LIFE
financial instrument
The E.W.G. Project was launched in October 2004 and its technical phase was completed
successfully in May 2007. It has demonstrated the feasibility of an environmentally sound
process for the decoration of trim pieces, including textured ones, which could replace
standard decoration methods effectively. Almost three years of effort has resulted in the
excellent results outlined above.
The core of the innovation is a rotating cylindrical element which acts as an intermediary
between the decoration application machine and the surface to decorate. First of all the
cylinder takes up the design and removes any meshing flaws caused by the pixels; next,
the high level of deformability of the material of which the cylinder is made ensures only the
exact amount of glaze required is deposited, without the
work piece undergoing any stops. This way, the quantity
of glaze necessary is kept to a bare minimum: at full
speed, 2 litres of water head is needed, as opposed to
the 100 used with conventional systems.
In more detail, a controlled feeder applies the glaze to
the decoration roller (shown in red in the photo). This
roller features a metal cylindrical frame with variable calibration, onto which a special decorating screen or a micro-etched polymeric sheath is fitted.
The transfer roller (shown in white, underneath the
decorating roller) features a special polymeric compound
structure, with high deformation properties, protected by a
thin layer of wear-resistant material. Performing a dual
function, the superficial layer protects the elastomer underneath and, thanks to the low wettability, facilitates the
formation of droplets of glaze, according to the glaze pixels on the decorating roller screen. These droplets are
much more spherical and less polygonal than those at the
decoration output, and so assure high resolution images.
The two rollers counter-rotate at the same peripheral speed, which ensures there are no
changes in the geometry of the design which is transferred, on contact, from the decoration
roller to the transfer roller and then, lastly, to the trim piece transiting on the belt underneath. When applying the design to the piece, the transfer roller deforms on contact, wrapping itself around the entire exposed surface of the piece, thereby decorating both the concave parts and the sloping surfaces.
Subsequent passages in similar machines, supplied with different coloured glazes, complete the design
by superimposition, maintaining the
colour shades which will then be
developed during the glaze firing.
The belt moves at the same speed
in some cases it can be altered to
produce particular directional shading effects. The decoration is applied
to the moving pieces, increasing
cycle productivity and, as continuous
acceleration and deceleration does
not occur, dislocation of the glaze is
prevented, thereby reducing processing waste.
Once the design has been transferred to the ceramic item, the transfer roller is cleaned
with a squeegee, and surplus glaze is collected for reuse upstream in the cycle.
The plant is completed by special software for managing the images to transfer, featuring
ng al
ch ‘
he nor
gn and br
eak i
down, depending on the colours used, into three or more monochrome (RGB) images.
These images are
transferred by the
transfer rollers to the
piece being processed, and together
they form the original
image, which appears
normal, regardless of
any peculiar features
the product decorated may have.
About Runway
Runway, a leader in the decoration of ceramics and trim
pieces, began its life in 1991, when the Venturelli brothers
bought up a screen printing firm from Scandiano. Employing
17 members of staff, the business was perfectly located
om t
the importance of renewing their range and the need to offer
customers more appealing and versatile products. They also
realised how this goal could be reached much more efficiently by moving high-cost activities, such as graphics and
materials research, outside their facilities.
At the end of 1995 the current plant opened featuring the
first glazing line for trims; it marked a turning point for ceramics aimed at the building industry thanks to which, by 2000,
Runway had increased its staff to over 90 people.
Those five years were a boom period for decoration on base tiles, which were being produced in red and white pastes and in single-fired and porcelain stoneware versions. As
well, as the more usual shapes such as pencils, bullnoses and the relative links, other more
exclusive, personalised designs were added to offer purchasers lines of co-ordinated products that could be used together with the basic tiles. The scope for different visual and textural effects was increased by the introduction of new glazes (metal-like, crystalline, vitreous), by adopting application techniques rendered possible by evolution in machinery
(airbrushes, flat or cylindrical screens, shot-blasting machines), and by combining ceramics
with other materials (wood, glass, metals).
What’s LIFE
with the contribution of the LIFE
financial instrument
The LIFE Programme, the "financial instrument for the environment" set up in 1992, is one
of the outstanding qualities of EU environmental policy.
LIFE is structured over different phases:
LIFE I (1992-1995)
LIFE II (1996-1999)
LIFE III (1999-2006)
Working towards sustainable development goals, LIFE aimed to contribute to elaborating,
implementing and updating EU policies and legislation on the environment, as well as integrating environmental issues into other EU policies. Its objective was to experiment new
solutions to environmental problems on a communitywide scale, by co-financing actions to
protect the environment within the European Union and certain non-member states.
LIFE was designed to contribute to the implementation, on a practical level, of the community policies established by the 6th Action Programme for the Environment.
LIFE focussed on three thematic components: "Life-Nature", "Life-Environment" and
"Life-Third Countries".
The results obtained encouraged the Commission and European Parliament to follow up
the LIFE experience and so, in June 2007, the Regulation for the new financial instrument
for the environment (Life+) was published. The aim of the new programme is to contribute
to the implementation, updating and development of the
community policies and legislation concerning the environment, including the integration of environmental issue into other policies, thereby contributing to sustainable development.
Life+ will consist of three components: "Nature and
Biodiversity", "Environmental Policy and Governance", "Information and Communication".
For further information please see the Life website: