How are Tiles Made?
Tiles have been with us for many centuries and in time, they have evolved into many things. And over that course in time, the process has also changed in many ways; from being a force of manual labor and into a full on mechanized process that has little to no human intervention. So, here, we explore the modern version of this process of making tiles (How Products are Made).

The first thing that happens is the batching. This is true for many ceramic products where the composition of the end product relies mostly on the type of raw materials used. These materials will determine the color and the strength of the body. By mixing the right calculated amount of ingredients, the manufacturers are then able to control everything from this process onwards.

Next up is mixing and grinding. After everything is weighed, they are now ready to be mixed. First off is the shell mixer, a machine consisting of two cylinders that form a V which then rotates into a tumble thus mixing the materials together. The ribbon mixer uses helical vanes while the intensive mixer utilizes rapidly mixing plows. These steps actually further grind the materials together, creating a finer particle size that really improves the next formation process.

The next process is spray drying. In the case of a wet milling process (a process involving the addition of water to improve the mixing of a batch to achieve fine grinding), the excess water is removed in this process. The way it happens is that the slurry (the result of the wet milling process) is pumped into an atomizer that consists of a rapidly rotating disk. The droplets from this are dried off as they are heated by a heated and rising hot air column, creating small and free flowing granules that will result in a finer powder that is perfect for forming.

Speaking of the next item on the list, forming is the process of pressing together the powder, with a binder, into molds to prepare for the next step in production. The process involved heavy machinery that allows manufacturers to create a form from any shape and size of mold into the resulting product. Most manufacturers are also incorporating the glazing into this line to hit two birds with one stone by spraying the glaze in powder form prior to drying.

Drying is essentially the removal of moisture from the tiles at a slow rate to avoid shrinkage cracks. This process, during the olden days would take several days to complete but is now shortened by using infrared or microwave chambers to speed up the process without the compromise on the quality of output.

In the case that the glazing process is separate from the forming process, manufacturers use a machine that applies the glaze either wet or dry. For the wet glaze, it is done through either waterfall or spray method in liquid form while the dry glaze is applied as a fine powder which melts into a clean glaze over the tile during the firing process.

The firing process, which technically is the last in the production line aside from packaging, involves heating up the glazed tiles to an intense temperature inside a kiln to strengthen and harden the materials together, forming the tiles that we see now in many showrooms and hardware stores.

The process of creating a single tile might be a long tedious one but it sure is very interesting considering the painstaking process of ingredient selection, mixing, and forming one by one. Without the modern age technology that we have now, a single tile would be made in a series of weeks.