Production of ceramic tableware is one of those sectors of business where you should not strive for all-Russian scale and total conquest of the market, because it is simply unprofitable. The organization of a large factory will require serious financial investment and labor. In this case, even existing enterprises are not loaded at full capacity, respectively, the beginner will have an even harder time. Meanwhile, a small shop, for example, for the manufacture of designer dishes, with proper positioning can bring decent profit, and the risks involved will be minimal. The main thing – to get into the flow of fashion trends and to ensure high quality products.
Types of ceramic tableware
There are three main materials for the production of ceramic tableware – ceramic proper, porcelain and faience. All three are varieties of ceramics, but have differences in formulation and manufacturing technology.
Ceramic products are made by sintering clay with mineral additives and other compounds of inorganic origin. This is the simplest solution. To make earthenware and porcelain more complex technologies are used.
Porcelain is a thin-walled ceramic made from a mixture of coaline, quartz, feldspar or other aluminosilicates, capable of transmitting light. To achieve this effect, the raw material is finely ground (it is passed through a sieve with 10,000 apertures per square centimeter). The porcelain surface is void of pores, characterized by strength, whiteness, thermal resistance and the ability to sound clean when touched.
A distinction is made between hard and soft porcelain. Due to the high content of kaolin and relatively small feldspar, hard porcelain products are characterized by homogeneity and whiteness of the surface, as well as the characteristic ringing. They are produced by double firing. First at a relatively low temperature (about 1350 ° C), then, after drawing the glaze at a higher (1450 ° C). It is in this way made expensive dinnerware of high quality, figurines, vases and other decoration, insulators and laboratory containers.
Non-glazed or biscuit porcelain (it is used for doll heads, for example) and bone china also belong to hard porcelain. The second material contains ash from bones of cattle, thanks to which it has excellent whiteness and translucency. However, the same component makes the pieces extremely fragile, that is why bone china is more often used for decoration but not for tableware. The same applies to the soft kinds of porcelain. In color and whiteness it does not differ from hard, but it is sensitive to temperature changes and mechanical stress, so it is not suitable for the manufacture of dishes.
Unlike porcelain, earthenware contains up to 85% clay and is fired at a lower temperature of 1050-1280°C. The result is inexpensive, medium-strength dishes, usually white in color. The surface of the products contains pores and, accordingly, absorbs moisture, which leads to the need to cover the surface with a fairly thick layer of glaze. Examples of such products are colored mugs and cups, which are in every home.
Depending on the composition and characteristics, there are alumina, fireclay, lime and feldspar faience. The latter is used for the production of dishes most often, thanks to the homogeneity and high content in the mixture of kaolin and clay.
The assortment of the enterprise
Determine the range of the enterprise must be as early as possible. It is not necessary to make it too big – enough 20-30 positions. Products must be of high quality and in harmony with each other, so the client was easier to make a set.
The best selling ceramic tableware in the medium price range – cups, plates, dishes, sugar bowls, etc. The entrepreneur is advised to constantly work on updating the assortment – taking into account the wishes of customers and fashion trends.
It is also necessary to determine the main category of consumers. Focus can be directed as to work with supermarkets and stores dishes, the main customers are retail buyers, and on the wholesale implementation, for example, institutions, catering. In recent years, the number of newly opened restaurants and cafes in the country is steadily growing and they need large amounts of quality and beautiful tableware, appearance and characteristics corresponding to European requirements.
Another factor to consider the owner of the business of producing ceramic tableware – seasonality. The industry itself is not formally classified as seasonal, but there are some nuances. For example, in a hot season sales may go on the decline. The reason is the vacation period and the reluctance of consumers to stand at the stove. On the other hand, for the same reason, restaurants will buy more dishes. In addition, the manufacturer of ceramics needs to keep in mind the high moisture absorption of the material. Accordingly, in very wet weather, it may be necessary to suspend the shop to avoid an increase in the number of rejects.
For the production of ceramic tableware, clay and non-plastic materials are used. The first include kaolin, refractory, refractory and fusible clays, as well as bentonite (plasticizers). The group of nonplastic materials includes chamotte (an annealing additive required to reduce the firing temperature and increase the strength of the pottery), feldspar, talcum, chalk, dolomite and other melts.
Technology of production of ceramic tableware
The algorithm of production of ceramic tableware will depend on the type of product, which is prescribed in the technological cards. Generally speaking, the process can be represented as a number of successive stages:
- Preparation of raw materials. Almost all clay materials (except for special packaged mixtures) contain impurities when delivered.
- Accordingly, first you need to clean the raw material from unwanted mineral inclusions. Then it is crushed, passed through a sieve, and only then mixed with the remaining components in accordance with the recipe.
- Preparation of the working mass. Depending on the method of further processing, a certain amount of water is added to the dry mix of components. For example, when using for casting complex products, a 35% moisture content slicker is required, and simple dishes (saucers, plates) are molded with the help of plaster forms and steel templates from a plastic mass, the moisture content of which is about 25%.
- Primary solidification. It can occur naturally or in a convector furnace (70-90 ° C). The cost of such equipment is quite high, so in terms of small industries, it is used quite rarely.
- Glazing, drawing and firing. The sequence and number of these operations differs for the different types of ceramics. So, in the case of pottery single firing is enough, while porcelain requires double firing at high temperatures. Dyeing can be overglaze (more often used for porcelain) and underglaze, and the glaze itself – different types.
For the production of ceramic tableware requires equipment, which usually consists of the following elements:
- Alumina raw material and water for kneading the clay
- A rotating potter’s wheel to mold the clay
- Drying racks for drying the clay products
- A kiln to fire the products
- Paints and glazes for decorating products
- Grinding machines for finished product processing.
Additional equipment may vary depending on the type and scale of production. For example, for the production of mass-produced ceramic tableware, automatic lines may be used that include machines for molding, drying, firing, and packaging the products.