Nanotechnology for improved surface structure and added value of raw materials are two possibilities
The branch needs to work on improving material properties of natural stone. That is one of the core statements in „Stone Sector 2018“, IMM Carrara’s yearly market analysis. The demand follows new technology allowing natural stone to adopt some of the desired properties of ceramics and engineered stone, the latter of which have been putting considerable pressure on natural stone’s competitiveness: engineered stone and ceramics are assessed as having „greater resistance and durability“ whereas stone is said to be a „delicate material for interior design and difficult to use“.
A work group brought to life by IMM Carrara has voiced its support for nanotechnology and new surface treatment of natural stone. The recommendations are compiled in the annex of the „Stone Sector Innovation“-market analysis.
Note that these are recommendations for the natural stone geographic focal-points Carrara and Massa. There are, however, other types of stone which already come naturally equipped with the desired properties. But these are not Tuscan marble types.
Six strategic „Roadmaps“ have been compiled by the work group. We enumerate these in the order of publication:
1) Recycling the high percentage of waste by cutting the stone. Technology for dry sawing is called for.
2) Avoiding waste. With the help of special resins, benches in teh quarry could be stabilized at site. Of course, resins must be versatile and usable in the range of temperatures on site.
3) Stone must be implemented in more areas, e.g. household items. These items can be mass-produced. Production must go hand in hand with development of suitable robotic technology.
4) Improvement of physical-mechanical characteristics of stone and surfaces with the help of nanotechnology. Improved protection of stone heritage sites using ecologically friendly treatment such as nanotechnology. Improved protection of stone sculptures.
5) Automation of production.
6) Improved job security in the stone branch with the help of sensors (Brillouin Scattering Technology).
As always, „Stone Sector“ contains a world-wide analysis of the stone branch. Here are some of the key points.
∗ In 2017, trade in natural stone reached 88,1 million t with a value of 23,5 billion €.
∗ Compared to the previous year, world exports by volume increased by (+)14% but with stagnant value (+)1,6%.
∗ China is the big player in the export market what with 34,4% down from last year’s 40%.
* The leading market for import demand is also China 2.378 billion €, +25.4%), followed by the USA (2.211 billion €, -2.95%). However, China imported almost only raw blocks, the USA almost only value-added products.
* With clear distance are following South Korea (761 million €), Japan (467 million), India (344 million), Germany (336 million), Italy (317 million), United Kingdom (236 million), Canada (232 million) and France (215 million).
Italy’s natural stone exports by volume attained 3,878,171 t valued at 1,990,145 €. As was the case last year, the magic 2 billion € mark was barely missed.
Once again, Italy leads the markets in value added products, particularly luxury items. „Italian stone fears no competitors“ writes Manuela Gussoni, author of the Study and until recently chief of the research department at IMM Carrara.
Italy’s exports of raw blocks increased also, which is why the average price fell.
Italy’s stone branch counted some 10,373 companies employing 41,094 members of staff in 2017. Most of them (9,313 companies and 33,629 members of staff) were involved in value added production.
„Stone Sector 2018” (116 pages, Italian and English) can soon be downloaded as pdf (8 €) or ordered as print (10 €) from Carrara Fiere’s webpage.
Tables: Stone Sector 2018
Author: Peter Becker
(23.07.2018, USA: 07.23.2018)