The natural stone branch 50 years from now: digital technology and innovative products

<a href=""target="_blank">„Flux“ stone vault</a> by New Fundamentals Research Group / Giuseppe Fallacara.<a href=""target="_blank">Stone arch „Arcolitico“</a> by designer Raffaello Galiotto / Margraf company.

At the Fortaleza Brazil Stone Fair the world of natural stone as it will be in 2068 was the topic of speculation

The most renowned scientists are those who ask groundbreaking questions. But they were few and far between in the stone branch thus far. The stone branch world was ruled by commerce until now and their players only had business in mind and business was good. But things are slowly changing: new materials such as over-sized ceramic tiles and engineered stone are tough competitors and the ecological aspects such as sustainability are putting pressure on the branch.

Brazil’s Fortaleza Stone Fair 2019 marked the second Forum for questions on the future of the sector: „The Stone Branch in 2068 was a forum for speculation on the shape of the branch half a century from now. This was the second edition.

Carlos Rubens Alencar of the trade Organization Simagran-CE, was the initiator of the event and of the Fair. He dared to ask the seminal question: „How is it that in the case of ceramics and engineered stone, consumers accept and even value copies of the original“ – no other material is treated this way, except if the emulation is far cheaper than the real McCoy. Not so for stone vs. Engineered stone or ceramics.

So, Alencar steered listeners in the right direction: „We must gain a better understanding of what our target group is seeking and what they value.“

One of the invited speakers at the Future Forum was Dr. Pedro Amaral, assistant professor at the Instituto Superior Técnico of the University of Lisbon. He gave a rundown of the direction in which Portugal’s stone branch is navigating: technology is the buzzword and the main theme in the broad field of industry 4.0.

Amaral is convinced that modern technology in the branch will present new openings for products and services. See examples on the photos above: new stone constructions made possible by computer planning and CNC machinery.

This type of theatrics is not new. But for large surface façades they can only be realized if the exact data of each and every slab is saved in the databank and assembly is carried out with the help of a computer.

Other central themes of Amaral’s talk were:
* circular economy;
* optimization of all processes from the quarry to the façade;
* nanotechnology;
* lack of skilled labor: by incorporating high-end digital assistance to facilitates the work, the craft could once again become interesting for young people.

New products as a trend

Peter Becker of also started with new technology – specifically diamond saw cables, CNC, water jets, and continued to project a view of the future in 2068 for a number of natural stone products, never before seen or not able to be produced at affordable prices. The distinguishing factor of these products will be that they are sellable and will find their way into private homes.
In his analysis he established that the natural stone branch „has frighteningly few products“. The branch has a wide variety of stone on offer, but these are not products – merely material.

New ideas for street pavement: Italian <a href=""target="_blank">Animum Ludendo Coles</a> Company made a stone hopscotch for children; ... ... sawn cobblestones are made after classical paving for the modern society; ...... innovative Terrrazzo by Italian <a href=""target="_blank">Cancian Pavimenti</a> was introduced at Marmomac 2019. Photos: Peter Becker

But new products using stone will ensue, e.g. furniture construction, architecture, sculpting and cobblestone paving. Becker showed a myriad of examples.

If natural stone were made visible in households by implementation for household items, the branch would gain an unbeatable marketing tool according to Becker. If marble, granite and other types of stone become highly visible, they will sell.

Becker’s closing thought: stone producers can only be urged to jump on the bandwagon and promote new products. Anyone not able to show his stone to consumers in the next half century, will have trouble marketing them.

A talk of a special kind was held by Xisto Madeiros, a successful engineer and architect in Fortaleza, Madeiros is known to think outside the box. He let his thoughts run free and in the end urged listeners to open up to the unusual even if at first glance it seems impossible or too expensive.

The Future Forum was organized by the Instituto Brasileiro da Rocha Ornamental (IBRO). Carlos Rubens Alencar was its founder and sees it as a think-tank and platform for international exchange of ideas.

Fortaleza Brazil Stone Fair (FBSF)

F.l.t.r: Peter Becker, Carlos Rubens A Alencar, Dr. Pedro Amaral.Xisto Medeiros.

(13.12.2019, USA: 12.13.2019)