Travertine is a natural stone, pulled from quarries in various locations all over the globe. Travertine deposits are commonly found in: Iran, Turkey, Mexico, Peru, and China. The tile will have a different appearance depending on the region it comes from, due to the different geological characteristics in those areas. Most of the inexpensive travertine in the United States comes from Mexico because of its close proximity, but it also comes from China because of the cheap labor utilized to create it. Due to decreased lead times and reduced shipping costs, Italy and Turkey are the leading exporters of travertine.
How Travertine Tile is Made
Travertine must first be harvested from a quarry, which is selected based on color, quality, and other factors. There are four main methods of quarry methods used to remove the raw material. These include: channeling machines, wire saw, chain saw, and water-jet cutting.
• Channeling Machines: These machines were developed to help prevent damage to the neighboring stones during removal. They use a large chisel to cut the stone out of the surrounding area, making use of natural joints present in the stones to remove them without damaging adjacent blocks.
• Wire Saw: This involves using strands of wire to cut the stone in the desired areas to remove it from the surrounding stone. The wire moves by electricity or fuel, and is coated with water and abrasive materials to help it make the cuts. As the wire wears against the stone, a substantial amount of wire is required to remove the stone.
• Chain Saw: These are much like the traditional chain saws most people are familiar with. They are used to cut softer stone material. They are much larger and use a carbide or diamond tipped blades for cutting, while using a self propelled track system.
• Water-Jet Cutting: This method uses a high pressure, fine stream of water to cut through the stones and make paths for new ones to be cut.
After the stone has been removed from the quarry, it is sent to a manufacturer where large blocks are sliced into slabs, similar to the way a loaf of bread is sliced. High quality, specialized cutting equipment is used to cut the stones to the appropriate size for tile. The tiles are all sanded down to a uniform thickness to make them easier to install.
Once the manufacturer has sliced the material into smaller slabs, it is polished and finished to make it ready for fabrication. The process the tile goes through at this point will depend on the finish applied to the stone. The fabricator will then customize the tiles for specific installations. Edges will be cut and rounded. A final polishing is applied.
The travertine is then packaged. If it is being sent directly to a construction site, it is usually tightly packed in a pallet, with the pallet as the only packaging. When the tiles are sent to a retail outlet, distribution center, or wholesaler, they are packaged in a wooden crate to make it easier for selling partial pallets and smaller amounts. Other packaging methods include: shrink wrap, cardboard box, and Styrofoam packed. The most cost effective solution is shrink wrap. No matter how they are packaged and shipped, the stones are never placed one on top of the other, in order to protect them from damaging one another.
Once packaged, it is shipped to various retailers and resellers for customers to purchase and install in their homes or businesses.
Travertine Tile Factory in Turkey
A visit to a typical travertine processing factory.
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Travertine Tile Manufacturing – Honing Machine
The honing machine makes each tile very smooth and refined, with abrasives moving over the surface of each tile until it achieves a polished look.
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Travertine Tile Manufacturing – Filling Process Part 1
This is the process which fills the natural holes in travertine to produce a smooth surfaced tile, ready for domestic building projects.
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Travertine Tile Manufacturing – Filling Process Part 2
This is the process where the holes in travertine tile and slabs are filled to produced a smooth-surfaced tile product, later to be shipped for use as premium building materials
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