Sintered stones are expertly engineered with high-performance properties to provide exceptionally strong and stable surfaces. An innovative manmade material that can be used across an array of interior applications—from flooring and wall surfaces to countertops and cabinetry—sintered stone is turned to for its supremely strong performance characteristics and increasingly extensive design options. “Imagine a natural material like stone, marble, or wood but with all the characteristics of a porcelain panel, including stain resistance, durability, low-maintenance, scratch resistance, fire resistance, and recyclability,” says Ramon Heras of Porcelanosa. While the manufacturing methods for sintered stone materials have been expertly refined in recent years, the process of sintering itself is well-established with a long history. The information that follows explores a brief overview of sintered stone, tracing its origins while highlighting its performance properties and aesthetic and environmental advantages.
Origins and Overview
Sintering can be summarized as a system of processing natural materials in powder form and subjecting them to specific levels of heat and pressure in order to produce a desired end result. Tied to the production of ancient pottery and ceramics, the process of sintering first emerged many centuries ago. As far back as approximately 25,000 years, early sintering methods involved expending minerals dug up from the earth to create objects such as ceramics, bricks, porcelain, iron, and precious metals.
The science of sintering has since been extensively employed to engineer components for a broad array of applications across many industrial fields. The process has been refined in recent years to produce even stronger products. Endeavoring to engineer the perfect stone surfaces for design and architectural applications, sintered stones comprise raw minerals and other natural materials that have been compacted with heat, compression, and vibrations. By exposing natural materials to extremely high pressure and heat, the end-product promises unsurpassed strength as well as advantageous physical and mechanical properties in terms of compaction, resistance, and durability.
With superior performance properties, sintered stones can be seen as signifying an evolution in engineered surfacing. Building on the benefits of natural stones such as quartz and granite, sintered stones are resistant to stains, scratches, and chemicals, as well as heat and frost. Since the sintering process is used to create thin, lightweight, and strong stone panels, the distinctions between sintered stones and porcelain tiles are not always apparent. Both traditional porcelain ceramic tile and sintered stone panels are heated just below the melting point of the minerals before being cured into their final format. A comparison of their characteristics and compositions reveals the distinguishing differences between the two.
Since sintered products are made from selected natural minerals, their characteristics can be seen as surpassing those of comparable ceramic products, which do not possess the same stain, scratch, chemical, heat, and frost resistance. Cleverly composed of a combination of powdered minerals and a minimal amount of water, sintered stones are created with applied pressure and heat that allows the powder particles to bond together, which creates a very dense and nonporous end result. Sintered stones typically boast a porosity of less than 0.09 percent, which means they are able to able to stop the absorption of liquids and eliminate the need for sealers.
Aesthetic and Environmental Advantages
Combining advanced performance properties with the elusive elegance of natural materials, sintered surfaces can simulate the look of stone, concrete, marble, tile, and wood, as well other smooth and textured surfaces. Sintered stones are often offered in a variety of through body colors and patterns, and the dense, nonporous surfaces are easy to clean, with an appearance that can be readily maintained over time. Since sintered stones are mineral based in their natural form, they offer an organically appealing aesthetic that is further enhanced by its inherent tactility and textures. Moreover, the material is lauded for being hygienic and well-suited for use across food-handling surfaces. The varied aesthetic attributes of sintered stone have helped to advance its popularity across an array of applications that extend from interior to exterior environments.
Sustainability is also essential to the making of many sintered stone surfaces. Since natural materials are used in their creation, sintered stones can contribute to sustainable design efforts with environmentally responsible practices, while the durability ensures that they will last for long periods of time. Made from a blend of purely natural minerals that are perfectly packed together to form large slabs of varying thicknesses in a range of colors, Porcelanosa’s XTONE sintered stone surfaces are 100-percent natural and recyclable. “The idea is that you can have finishes from nature, but without damaging nature,” says Ramon Heras of Porcelanosa. “There are marbles that almost don’t exist anymore in nature that we can produce, just using clay, water, and fire for example. We mix the best clays for the best performance with water, fire, and glaze in an easy and natural process.” Using high-quality natural minerals that are sintered in a new homogeneous compound, these sintered stones can be completely regenerated after their life cycle. An understanding of the pioneering performance properties that sintered stone possesses serves to suggest its role in the ever-evolving realizations of engineered surfacing.