A CNC machine has just become a talented craftsman. At least when it comes to carving in customised ceramic tiles. The robot is eight times faster than a human, and in terms of man-hour – or rather robot-hour – is much cheaper. But is it as cool as a handmade product? Well, yes it is.
Michael Hammar, founder of Tilemark – a young company that offers ceramic tiles the machine can carve into any pattern that resembles manual work – explained me in Stockholm why he invested in robots instead of a craftsman.
I interviewed Michael Hammar at Stockholm Furniture Fair 2017. The transcription has been edited for space and clarity. To listen to the original conversation recorded in Sweden, please scroll down and watch the video embedded at the bottom of this page.
TrendNomad.com: What is the story behind Tilemark? How did you start your company?
Michael Hammar: I was traveling around the world, looking for innovations and new products for surface materials for buildings and construction industry. One day in China I stumbled upon a set of hand-carved tiles. I found them very attractive, they looked like a piece of art. At that moment I decided to develop a machine to make the production cost so low that carved tiles could be interesting for a bigger audience.
Tilemark adds the dimension where you can feel the tile. You can feel the structure of the carved area and build your story around it.
What was the second step?
When I come back to Sweden, I met an amazing guy who told me that within a year he can build a machine ready to produce carved tiles.
Did you build the machine from scratches or did you apply a technology that already had been available on the market?
After some analyzing, we decided to use a CNC machine as a base device. We have adjusted the machine with several tools to our needs. We developed the final tool that carves into tiles.
Is the production cost the only reason why you decided to automate the carving process?
I wanted to automate the carving process for several reasons. One of them is that [in our part of the world – ed.] we don’t have the tradition of carving into tiles. The other reason is that I don’t want to be dependent on people or have to educate them to produce carved tiles.
How long does it take to carve a pattern on one square meter of tiles?
For one square meter, it takes around eight hours to handcraft it. Our machine makes the same job approximately in one hour.
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What is the price?
The price is 125 euro per square meter when you order carved tiles, and 50 euro per square meter when you choose a plain version.
What are the limitations of this technology?
The technology works under certain conditions. The machine has to be placed in the factory where biscuits are being produced. Biscuit is the name of a tile prior to firing. It is very fragile. The machine carves into biscuits, and then they go into the kiln. We want to have this machines in factories all around the world.
Tilemark is not only about the product. This is also a service, am I right?
Yes, that’s correct. We developed a tool for designers and architects, so it’s easy to upload free vector images and preview how the set of tiles will look like. It works online, you can use it in your browser.
Tilemark enables a seamless transition from a digital print to a physical product by carving any free vector, pattern or typography onto the durable and hygienic surface of the ceramic tile.
An architect can upload any design he or she wishes for. They can play around with tiles, change the color of the glaze, and preview the effect. The quotation is made automatically. We want to make everything as automated as possible.
What will happen to people who will lose their jobs due to the robotisation?
I believe that we will find jobs in new industries and new sectors. But if we don’t, I think, there should be a political adjustment. From my perspective, we can not avoid this, but at the same time, I understand that people are afraid of it. We need to solve this problem in a political way.
If you have any questions regarding Tilemark brand and its products, you can send an email directly to Michael Hammar at firstname.lastname@example.org. To listen to the video interview recorded in Stockholm, watch the video above.
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