Innovation paves the way for an increase in customised products and services.

We review some of these innovative technologies. Innovation inevitably results in an increase in customised product and service offerings as the advancements in flooring technology continue to transform the industry. The word ‘transform’ is key, as trends have a tendency to receive overwhelming interest for a period of time, but trends do have a limited lifespan, and once this lifespan comes to an end, new trends emerge. However, certain ‘trends’ have such a profound impact on the flooring industry that they have the ability to transform the industry over time, perhaps even over several years and well into the future.

Going behind the scenes of these industry-transforming products and/or services will most likely reveal an enormity of innovative ideas and technologies, which opens the door for an even greater increase in customised products. The greater the number of customised options on offer to a client, the greater the chances of a product excelling and exceeding all expectations.

The use of colour in various floor types continues to offer the industry an array of customised options, however, these colour options are very often combined with several unique pattern options to further enhance a customised request. The technology used to create these patterns can transform any space, as is the case with digital inkjet technology which is making significant inroads into the floorcovering industry. This unique innovative technology enables an unlimited number of high-quality patterns and decorations to be produced with fewer materials, less waste, less development and production time. The digital printing process can turn photographs, artwork, designs, logos or virtually any image into elaborately decorated floorcoverings.

Digital inkjet technology provides economic and production benefits over previous production processes, namely screen and roller printing, and provides an infinite variety of designs coupled with faster response times and lower breakages. It also offers more effective and efficient customised products in a shorter time period.

A further benefit for manufacturers is that it makes product design and decoration far easier, it is less time-consuming and costly, thereby affording manufacturers the chance to massively increase their range of products and designs while remaining competitive.

Inkjet can also be combined with other printing technologies to create a certain depth and richness in products more intricate than any single technology employed on its own. As the design options are endless, the focus is shifting towards the type of design to use as opposed to finding new ways of decoration. Simply put, this technology has evolved from approximating natural materials to closely matching them, and it has gone one step further in creating hyper-realistic images and textures. It is commonly accepted that digital inkjet technology has changed the way certain floor types are produced, and will be produced in the future.

Another innovative advancement in terms of hyper-realism is undoubtedly the manifestation of high-definition technology that features embossing that is designed to look exactly like the authentic product, which has also introduced significant savings.

Visuals are replicated to such a convincing extent that clients often cannot tell the difference. Besides the realistic visual application, high-definition products are also easy to maintain and don’t require polishing, waxing or buffing.

High definition goes beyond just replicating visuals and offering easy maintenance convenience; it opens up an array of options to specifiers who are able to afford their clients greater variety in terms of colour. Due to their hyper-realistic attributes, high-definition floors can add a feeling of warmth and comfort that other original floor types offer, but clients now have the opportunity to mix and match colours, shades and hyper-realistic textures to create an innovative space that fulfils their every request.

In turn, specifiers benefit as they are able to offer their clients greater options, enhancing their ability to service their clients’ needs and, inevitably, the flooring industry. Even though many still choose the original floor type over an imitation, high-definition floors are challenging the preconception that ‘original is best’, even permitting various floor types to be used in combination with each other. As technology continues to evolve, it can be expected that high definition products will go on infiltrating the flooring industry.

These innovative offerings provide the flooring industry with a vast range of customised options, which will go on evolving and allow this sector to continue making its mark in the built environment.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to http://linkinternational.blogspot.com, http://trendsinflooring.com, Nadine Engelbrecht from Nadine Engelbrecht Architect and www.fcnews.net/‎ (Digital magazine: March 3/10) for the information contained in this article.