Following its acquisition last year by the British technology investor Mantec Group, the leading ceramic glaze and slip reclamation specialist Xtract Filtration Systems continues to make great strides and has a number of key Asian ceramic sectors in its sights.
In its 15 years of operation, the Engineering Team at Xtract has succeeded in helping ceramic manufacturers in three critical areas, namely cutting overall production costs, guaranteeing consistent high material quality and enhancing the environment.
The company's design and manufacturing centre is in Stoke-on-Trent, at the heart of the British ceramic industry, and the highly effective reclamation systems manufactured there actually employ reliable, chemically inert ceramic filter elements to deliver a controlled density filtrate. They are also fully automated and require very little ongoing maintenance.
Xtract has for many years been improving process efficiency across Europe in the sanitaryware, tableware and tile sectors and in the next phase of its development is now widening its focus, in particular in the Asian markets. Additionally, the company has consolidated the expansion by appointing a Process Engineering Manager. This is Martin Arthur, who has been with Xtract for just a few months but who will be well known in the industry following a successful 15-year career with Ideal Standard.
The company feels that not only are its systems indispensable in furthering production and operational process management, but that the high level of reclamation on offer cannot fail to be an attractive proposition for all Asian manufacturers as they continue to make strides forward. As part of a wider strategy, Xtract's recent plans involved team members demonstrating how the system works at the Indian Ceramics exhibition in Ahmedabad and Ceramics China in Guangzhou.
"Indian Ceramics was an obvious choice for us at this point and we have just had a great show," said Sales & Marketing Director, Paul Hipkiss. "This is the right time - we know that our advanced engineering capabilities and fully automated systems are just what is required in Gujarat where such high volumes of ceramic ware are produced. Xtract has a proven track record in saving hundreds of thousands of pounds in sanitaryware, tableware, tile, technical ceramics, foundry and fine materials applications.
"I believe that our fully integrated concept and smart use of modern technologies has resulted in a system that is unique in that it can deliver up to 100% raw material recovery and re-use. So, apart from constantly improving on quality, this means very fast payback times and we understand how crucial this is in today's Indian market.
"Sales of all types of ceramic products - and we mustn't forget electrical insulators and special ceramics which are also big markets in India - rely in the end on conforming to international standards in order to be able to attack the more attractive markets and get the best price. Our customers can confirm that employing the Xtract system makes a major contribution to securing ISO 9001 and ISO 14001."
Glazes and slips are by no means the only products to be reclaimed - given that virtually any submicron slurries can be handled. With the Xtract system, there is little operational or technical risk while, at the same time, the technology has been so finely tuned that 100% raw material re-use is regularly feasible.
Quite naturally, questions often arise around the on-costs of dealing with the introduction of filtrated matter back into the process. This is not a concern here - any recovered glaze or slip will exhibit the same physical and ceramic properties as the virgin material. The density of the reclaimed material is suitable for blending with virgin material ready for immediate re-use without the need for any further processing.
"This is a major selling point," confirmed Paul Hipkiss. "No chemicals are used to extract the filtrate, none are added to it afterwards and there is no mechanical intervention required either. Following recovery by the Xtract system, it is simply reintroduced back into the process by the manufacturing personnel.
"It goes without saying, but not only are we converting what otherwise would be a waste stream into a fully reusable material, we therefore also eliminate water wastage and significantly reduce the challenge to the effluent treatment plant. Actually, in some cases, we eliminate it completely.
"You can see from the combination of these elements why we talk about our system extracting profit from loss. I think the message of sophisticated techniques, low risk investment and massively improved bottom line is one that resounded convincingly with potential users across Gujarat - and indeed across the subcontinent."