Ceramic dinnerware makers improve products by enhancing furnaces and clay selection.
Increased durability, safety and visual appeal are directing development efforts in China’s ceramic and porcelain dinnerware line. Toward this end, companies are improving manufacturing equipment and materials.
|This porcelain plate from Jinan Wanxiang has a golden decal.|
In particular, makers concentrate on upgrading kilns, which are key in controlling quality. Zibo Zhongqiang Porcelain Co. Ltd, for example, now runs advanced auto-roller and energy-saving shuttle-type furnaces, shaping machines and independent natural gas supply systems. These help yield products with high gloss and minimal discoloration.
Zibo Huaguang Ceramic Marketing Co. Ltd, one of the largest bone china dinnerware manufacturers in the country, revamped its ovens’ general structure with lightweight refractory frames consisting of 30 metal pieces. The bottom of the chamber takes advantage of natural ventilation and extends the life span of the wheels and axles. Fire-resistant materials such as treated cotton enhance insulation.
Compared with the supplier’s previous equipment, the improved indoor kilns limit variations in working temperature to 3 degrees and consume 25 percent less power. The exhaust’s air blower and combustion system are operated using a frequency converter, which aids in saving energy. The furnaces are mostly automatic, reducing labor outlay.
Zibo Huaguang sourced high-temperature kilns from Italy for in-glaze decaling. These help remove harmful heavy metals from the materials. To keep quality consistent, the company screens material providers, and utilizes ovens devoted to processing bone powder and glaze individually.
With regard to material selection, magnesian porcelain and bone china lead manufacturers’ options besides the usual variants. Zibo Zhongqiang emphasizes the first, yielding superwhite, durable, and microwave- and dishwasher-safe pieces. These models can withstand thermal shock.
Zibo Huaguang, meanwhile, employs its patented bone powder composite consisting of high-grade crude calcium, phosphorus and kaolin. The compound is certified to be free of lead and cadmium. The supplier also adopts anti-bacterial silver and rare-earth ions in the glaze, which undergoes extreme-temperature firing.
Chaozhou Baotai Art Porcelain Fty Co. Ltd utilizes new cow-bone china. It offers durable and high-transmittance versions that are considered among the thinnest available. Besides being smooth and easy to clean, pieces are suitable for microwave ovens and dishwashers, and do not contain cadmium and lead. They meet California Proposition 65 and FDA requirements.
To increase the product’s visual appeal, Zibo Zhongqiang developed a method of coating models in their entirety instead of the typical bottom exclusion. The former technique, however, requires a second firing that necessitates the dinnerware to be suspended for underside exposure.
Zibo Huaguang has shifted from manual glazing and decaling to automatic-machine processing. In addition, the supplier now carries out ironing, dusting, sifting and mixing. To strengthen its factory’s environmental friendliness, the manufacturer has started recycling glaze as well.
To boost competitiveness, enterprises customize designs to match trends in specific target markets. For instance, ceramic and dinnerware sets for Japan come with placemats made of slate. For the US and the EU, makers offer rimmed plates, bowls and cups with gilded patterns. Versions in gold, yellow and red are sent to the Middle East. Plain white porcelain alternatives are for home and restaurant use.
|Anson’s bone china plate is microwave- and dishwasher-safe.|
China suppliers offer assortments of 10, 16, 20 and 40 plates, bowls, cups and saucers, and teapots and -cups. They may include candle holders, condiment sets and ashtrays.
Dolomite and clay, in particular kaolin, are the dominant materials. The last two are purchased in Fujian, Guangdong, Jiangsu, Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi and Yunnan provinces. High-quality kaolin, characterized by low iron and titanium content, is available in Fujian’s Longyan city.
Most companies source talc from Shandong province. Calcined bone ash, one of the key materials of bone china dinnerware, is procured in Tangshan of Hebei province.
The required temperature differs according to the materials. For earthenware, 600 to 800 C is needed, whereas dolomite necessitates 1,050 C. Porcelain and bone china entail 1,250 and 1,350 C, respectively. Pieces baked once in cooler conditions are offered in the low end. Upscale models are processed twice at higher temperatures.
Among the major surface treatment options is white glaze. It is suitable for stoneware and dolomite versions made of khaki clay. Clear polish, meanwhile, is preferred for bone china and porcelain releases for its inherent ivory hue. Colored finishing is best for other materials.
Designs can be incorporated at different stages of production. One alternative is decaling after the models are fired and dried. This underglazing process comes before a transparent polish is applied at 1,200 to 1,400 C. Despite the technique’s color limitation, it is typical in high-end releases. In overglazing, patterns are applied next to coating and baking between 600 and 900 C. Smooth painting is easier to execute. Engraved pieces may result in splitting or uneven tones.
Varying hues entail different working temperatures. With 800 C as the standard, a golden decal is fired up to 780 C only, whereas pink requires 810 C.
Ceramic and porcelain dinnerware from China goes for $0.30 to $3.50 per piece. Low-end releases are made of earthenware baked between 700 and 1,200 C. Available for $0.30 to $0.60, these have minimal and simple overglazed designs, and can be matte or glossy.
Priced at $0.70 to $1.50, midrange models sport a glossy finish with over- or in-glazed patterns. They come in stoneware, hard-paste porcelain or fine bone china, and may undergo gilding, banding and handpainting. Firing is done at 1,200 to 1,300 C. The products are oven- and dishwasher-safe, and chip-resistant.
Upscale versions use magnesian porcelain and bone china. Some contain anti-bacterial nanoparticles. The pieces are baked at 1,300 to 1,350 C. Surfaces are translucent and ivory-white, while decals are underglazed. Releases in this category may feature manually applied decoration with a glossy finish. They withstand chipping and scratching, and have a moisture absorption rate of up to 3 percent. Prices are $1.60 to $3.50.
Note: This article "Ceramic dinnerware line strengthened via better facilities, material options" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.
All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.
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