Local manufacturer Vitrex’s vitreous enamel cladding panels are used all over the world. We get down to the details of this material.

A local company situated in Ekurhuleni, Vitrex, is producing and exporting vitreous enamel cladding panels to countries all over the world for a diverse range of applications, including some unusual ones.

The company’s Vitraclad cladding has, for example, been installed in underground railway stations in London, Liverpool, Ireland, Hong Kong and Singapore. It has also been used as cladding for towering “totems” at the King Abdullah Football Stadium in Saudi Arabia, and to create twisting fins around the Air Traffic Control Tower in Muscat, Oman. It has even been specified as table tops for a major global fast-food chain.

How is it made?
Cristian Cottino, sales and marketing director of Vitrex, explains that vitreous (porcelain) enamel is applied as an inorganic, decorative and protective coating to enamelling quality steel and then fired in a furnace at temperatures of about 820°C.

“The chemical and physical bond between these two contrasting materials results in the creation of an indeterminate boundary layer between the coating and the steel which makes the bond virtually inseparable. The absence of a finite boundary layer – and the fact that the steel is effectively encapsulated in glass – ensures structural integrity and prevents damage to the steel,” he says.

The end-result
Vitreous enamel is a low-maintenance product with a working life of well over 35 years, after which it can be recycled. It is self-cleaning without the need for strong chemicals and is impermeable to liquids. Odours and flavours are not absorbed, and it inhibits the proliferation of bacteria and mould. It is also incombustible and does not release toxic gases or smoke.

It is resistant to:
•    High temperatures.
•    Thermal shock.
•    Corrosion.
•    Atmospheric agents.
•    Chemicals.
•    Scratches.
•    Impact and vandalism.
•    Vermin.

Aesthetically speaking
Generally coloured using inorganic pigments or by adding metal oxides during the grinding phase, vitreous enamel can be tinted in a wide range of hues and shades. It exhibits a unique glossy colour brilliance, but matt and semi-matt enamels can be formulated. What’s more, this colour is not affected by light or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, so it does not fade or alter over time.

Graphics and special effects
Enamel surfaces can be decorated or branded using a variety of techniques such as screening or decals, and special effects such as metallic finishes or wood grains are also possible.

Vitrex
Tel: 011 826 6057
Website: www.vitrex.co.za