Marble in all its dimmensions
   04/29/2023 23:08:21
Marble in all its dimmensions

Processing is an aspect intimately related to marble. Normally we speak of marble when the carbonate stone is cut and sized. Not necessarily just in width and length, but also in thickness. We talk about marble blocks, which already imply a certain cut, even if it is for extraction from the quarry. And marble slabs, when these blocks, still with irregular edges, are sectioned into sheets, usually 2 or 3 cm thick for later use in construction, whether on facades, as coverings or floors, or for their transformation into countertops, tables, and other work surfaces, counters, etc.

Why this thickness of 20 or 30 mm? Well, let's say this has been the traditional limit of the technique. We must be aware that the usual cutting process with saws on large "looms," while fast and effective, requires a lot of energy and wastes about 2 cm in each cut. From a marble block one meter thick (100 cm.), it would be theoretically possible to obtain about 20 slabs of 3 cm (30 mm + 20 mm waste = 50 mm, which multiplied by 20 slabs gives the 1000 mm of the block) or 25 slabs of 20 mm (2 cm). Energy use, water for cooling, and time do not decrease significantly depending on the format, so there is relatively little price difference between 20 or 30 mm thick slabs, and the difference for the end customer is mainly due to the higher cost of handling and transporting the greater thickness.

It is true that other techniques exist, such as cutting with diamond wires, which allow reducing the thickness wasted in each cut. Large multi-wire machines, which allow the simultaneous cutting of many slabs from a large block, are not so widespread in the industry because they require a very large investment that few companies are in a position to face, but mainly because they require constant calibration and maintenance, and because, to achieve profitable cutting speeds, they must resort to wires of great thickness, so the proportional benefit of this system is lower. In any case, using this method, there are companies that offer marble and other dimensioned stones of 1.5 cm (15 mm) thickness. Beware that these thicknesses are usually reserved for small formats, in the form of tiles or plaques, not for full slabs or large-format pieces, because many of these companies have not been able to solve the handling and transport issues of pieces that become more fragile as their thickness decreases. In addition, for certain traditional uses of natural stone, certain resistance is necessary that correlates with thickness. For use on floors or countertops, especially when heavy use is expected, it is perfectly valid to say that a thickness of 3 cm is better than 2 cm, and the latter will be more recommendable than 1.5 cm, as long as the budget and weight allow it.

However, there are many uses of ornamental stones for which obtaining much thinner thicknesses would be wonderful. For use in coverings or to cover surfaces not subjected to heavy work, the thickness of the piece should not be an important factor, except when considering weight. With a density of 2,700 or 2,800 kg/m3, one square meter of 2 cm marble weighs around 55-60 kg, depending on the variety (much more for granites and quartzites, which are the other most commonly used ornamental stones). In other words, a wall 2.5 m high and 3 m long that we would like to cover with common marble would have to support an additional 450 kg, not counting the weight of the adhesive. A marble with a much thinner thickness can even be placed on top of an existing covering, as long as it is firmly attached to the wall. This is a crucial factor to consider when planning facades, where hundreds of square meters will translate into tens of thousands of kilos.

Litomo is a company that has developed a completely new and highly precise cutting method that allows cuts as thin as one millimeter, although for larger formats, their pieces are usually 4.5 mm thick to facilitate handling. We can talk about a true "stone veneer" for the first time in non-laminable materials. This represents a significant reduction not only in weight but also in the energy and water resources required to obtain these cuts. Transporting 4.5 mm thick slabs also results in a substantial reduction in carbon footprint per square meter. But most importantly, it ensures sustainable exploitation of lithic resources and quarries for much longer than traditional formats (in boards or tiles). In addition, the reduced weights allow the use of marble in spheres that were previously unthinkable, such as the manufacture of doors and dividers, bathroom screens, hanging elements from ceilings, lamps, or even false ceilings. Its thickness opens the doors to its use as a furniture covering, on traditional structures, without the need for metal skeletons or losing too much space due to thickness.


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