Using water jet cutting system to cut natural or engineered stone may be one of the top listed innovations in stone cutting machinery technology. It started out as a very expensive way for stone cutting, although due a gradual price reduction on machinery and an increase offer of cutting services, it is actually relatively affordable and in many situations may save you money.
Water jet cutting systems, can be used in several ways, one way is to design specific shapes that would be more costly or impossible to do with other machinery, like a CNC for example. The designing capable of being made with this technology is virtually limitless, although in many cases the resistance of the stone is the greatest limitation.
The use of engineered stone in water jet cutting designs is a great asset; it's highly resistant compared to any natural stone. Anyone who has worked with engineered stone knows that the product is really resistant, you can actually cut a 2m rod 2 cm x 2 cm, with a good resistance to shock, in most natural stones, especially marble or limestone, just lifting a piece that long and thin will break it.
The use of water jet cutting in the stone business is seen as a very promising one, although for day to day normal cutting, the diamond disk is more cost effective on straight cuts. Some machinery manufacturers have built hybrid stone cutting machines, with both disk cutting and water jet cutting. Using these hybrid machines can really reduce raw material wastage, and if we are cutting quartz countertops, the savings can be enormous.
When cutting with a diamond disk, most people may not be aware of this, but the bigger the diamond disk the less efficient is the cutting, not in quantity, but in slab optimization. The image you will notice that to make a perfect cut that means the bottom of disk goes right to the end point of our cut to size piece, the disk will need extra cutting distance. In the image the rectangle image you will find a sketch of a cutting procedure for a slab, cutting this slab with a diamond disk requires a bit of experience and time to solve. Point A and B are critical points, using water jet cutting it's really simple to solve. The hybrid machinery available would easily identify these stress points and exchange the disk for the water cutting system, so you would have most of your slab cut with a diamond disk, and the stress points would be perfectly cut with the incorporated water jet cutting system.
What is normally done in this situation, both pieces would have to be separated, giving it a safe distance for cutting. In this case the slabs is big enough for such operation, however in many cases it may not be possible. Although to avoid stress point A, distance will not totally solve the problem, your best option would be flipping the polished end of the slab, cutting on the rough back of the slab, where imperfect cuts may be hidden.
I can also see another way of doing this cut with a diamond disk ... I would need to elevate the cutting area, in this case the slab, the disk would then do the cutting not at the bottom (position T), but at X level.
Using a CNC machine can also solve this problem, however timely.
Water jet cutting systems can also be used for designing purposes. Many floor designs can be perfectly cut using this type of technology. No need for those giant paper templates to do the job anymore.
I have attached some pictures that may give you an idea of the artistic/design capability of this technology.
Cultured marble can provide a unique and durable wall cladding solution. If we consider interior use of cultured marble it can last almost forever, being wall cladding it certainly will be protected against many things, namely traffic. Cultured marble in external environment may have some problems, but it is a durable product.
I've mentioned cultured marble, which makes my scope of products relatively big, although each one will have specific features which we will have a chance to view.
Cultured marble can be divided into two main groups, one that is a cement based product, uses cement bonding. And the second type is a polymer base product, which uses resin as a bonding agent. When we try evaluate quality in these types of product, we have to go much beyond just its physical appearance, we need to see how well it's compacted. A well compacted product means you will have less bonding agent, and more natural marble, there are people who tend to call cultured marble to things that look like marble, but include 0% natural marble in it's making. Many manually made cultured marble wall cladding products are very low quality, with very low compaction levels, basically a product made by artisans. The products made with Breton technology, namely the Breton Block system are the ones I've seen with better quality performances, making it the most perfect cultured marble I've seen. This means it actually has very similar characteristics to natural marble.
Polymer Based Cultured Marble
The use of a polymer base in the cultured marble business brings several advantages to the final product, especially quality wise. For one thing, using polymer based materials, the water absorption of the natural stone reduces significantly. Being made greatly from marble, which in its natural state absorbs water, the same stone used in cultured marble will have a better behavior regarding water absorption.
Another positive thing about polymer base, is that it actually gives the cultured marble better mechanical features (especially when using polyester resin based material). The gloss of the polished cultured marble surface is a very good one, comparable to the natural marble itself.
Current building laws will oblige the use of specific application methods depending on the height and weight of the wall cladding. Currently in most countries, you may apply wall cladding using adhesive glue up to 3 m high. Above 3m you should use mechanical fixing to ensure safety in the application; this especially applies for exterior use.
In exterior use the polymer base material has advantages and disadvantages, being that exterior wall cladding should be fixed with mechanical fixing devices, there are several type of fixing systems to choose from.
In exteriors cultured marble with polymer binding may present some additional problems that you will have to be aware of. Being marble based, acid rain and pollution will gradually affect your exterior wall cladding, although the effect on polish can be relatively quick, the stone itself is quite durable.
The use of light colors that reflect the UV rays will improve your materials durability, dark colors are not advised for several reasons, one of which is that discoloring is very common, due to UV ray action and weathering, its common to see dark colors gradually discolor.
Another negative thing relating to polymer binding, besides the anti-UV additives that the product should have when destined for external use, truth is that UV rays will gradually destroy the polymer, so depending on the exposure of the wall cladding, in 10-20 years time, you’ll see the polymer with severe structural damage.
Polymer base cultured marble has also an elasticity problem, when made with less efficient manufacturing processes it may use more polymer binding, which technically gives it more elasticity. A cultures marble made with technology as I referred earlier will have between 5 and 10% resin in its composition, making it a relatively stable product for exterior use. These products also have high standards for size and thickness tolerances, making them an easier product to apply and very stable in use. Other products will need more attention during application.
Cement Based Cultured Marble
In this group of cement based products we can find several types of cultured marble, from products made through individual molding to big industrial block molding. Nevertheless they all have molding in common.
There are many types of manufacturing systems for these products; one very common is a hydraulic type cultured marble, which commonly uses a two layer system, a rough bottom, with a perfect cultured marble covering. As I said before, Breton does have, in my honest opinion, one of the most advanced technologies, that furnishes top quality to the final product. The base of this technology is the vacuum vibro-compressing system, which really reduces the quantity needed of binding agents.
These cement bonded products have high water absorption indexes and due to its cement base will have lower gloss levels than polymer based material.
The cement based cultured marble also tend to made in very thick pieces to maintain its integrity, while polymer based material are really perfect and stable.
As mentioned before, using adhesive glue with cement based cultured marble depends on the weight per sqm factor and the height of the application. Make sure you obide by the law and make sure the adhesive glue is proper for the type of material you’ll be using.
Exterior use for cement based cultured marble, same applies here, above 3 m, use mechanical fixing for the cultured marble wall cladding.
The cement based cultured marble has some advantages in exterior use, namely that the UV rays do little damage to the product, although some pigments may discolor with extensive UV ray, the problem is minor.
Regarding the acid and pollution damages, if the product is a cultured marble it will have a negative effect on the surface, and will in time suffer minor damages.
The cement based cultured marble will last longer than polymer based material.
Great Ideas for Cultured Marble Wall Cladding
Cultured marble made with high quality technology can provide you with some great products for exterior use. A bush-hammered finish for example will resist relatively well to some problems mentioned before, and will improve the products whiteness, as bush-hammering tends to brighten the base color. Also you may gain a sparkling look, white cultured marble is made with crystallized white marble grains, which have some impure elements like quartz and micas (in relatively small quantities), these are just enough to give your bush-hammered finish a very mild sparkling detail.You may also use unique colors or combination of colours which will absolutely enhance your design. It's easy to find at affordable prices cultured marble, looking at other options it will come out more expensive in many cases.