As digital inkjet technology continues to infiltrate the flooring industry globally, South Africa can now look forward to its very own inkjet machine purchased by a prominent player in this sector.

Local tile manufacturer Johnson Tiles recently introduced its Fusion range of inkjet ceramic tiles in various sizes. The company has a heritage of over 60 years in South Africa and is known for its glazed ceramic and porcelain floor tiles as well as a select range of imported floor and wall tiles.

In order to remain current and on-trend, stay competitive and continue to introduce quality product, Johnson Tiles invested over R8-million on a new state-of-the-art digital inkjet machine. Digital printing allows for photorealistic patterns and motifs, inspired by natural materials to be applied directly to the tile surface before firing. The latest prints result in very realistic finishes and combine different types of natural stone such as marble, slate and travertine, thus featuring a variety of life-like designs and veining patterns.

“The inkjet printer provides us with the opportunity to offer customers beautiful ceramic inkjet tiles true to the Johnson Tiles quality they came to trust, but critically provides the commercial customer bespoke designs and exclusive products for large commercial projects,” says Richard Nuss, Marketing Manager for Johnson Tiles.

The engineering team made allowance for multiple topcoat applications so that the printed tiles can be finished with matt, gloss or satin finishes, as well as some interesting new textures to suit the market’s demands.

“Our designs come from a range of sources, some from our suppliers in Europe, but we’ve also developed our own-based natural products that we’ve photographed and scanned,” says Tharien Smith, New Product Designer for Johnson Tiles.

She notes that there is a massive trend towards cementitious design, whether raw cement, screed or polished concrete aesthetics. “In South Africa, these tend to be warmer hues of grey and a matt finish rather than some of the extreme gloss finishes seen in Europe,” she says. “A good inkjet design offers the benefit of variability. Ideally there should be between eight and ten different ‘faces’ for each design. This means that there should be no repeated tiles within a two square metre space.”

The Johnson Tiles plant produces various tile sizes including 400 x 400mm and 500 x 500mm and depending on the type of tile and size it can produce up to 15 000m² per day, which equates to about 100 000 tiles per day on average. All its tiles are glazed and, like ceramic traditional tiles, all inkjet tiles are tested against the Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating system.  

Johnson Tiles performs quality checks at every stage of the tile manufacturing process to ensure that it upholds its reputation for product excellence. Once produced, its tiles undergo rigorous tests to ensure technical aspects such as water absorption; irreversible moisture expansion; scratch resistance; stain resistance and rectangularity, among a host of other aspects, comply with or exceed European (EN:177) standards.  

“As a fashion item, tile designs need to evolve with trends and demands and inkjet technology allows us to make smaller production runs with designs exclusive to a single customer if that is what is required, or supply to large commercial projects,” concludes Nuss.