Launched in January 2013 Enter SaphirKeramik, a new material innovation filed for patent from Swiss manufacturer Laufen that is set to change the bathroom landscape. Where once there was the curve, now there’s the tight edge-radius. Fuller forms have given way to delicate, but robust, filigree walls; A super-strong ceramic material that allows itself to be fashioned along minimal, architectural lines. Historically, vitreous china and fine fireclay have been used to make ceramic sanitary ware. And with good reason: they’re hygienic, hardwearing and recyclable. Laufen itself is renowned for maximising their creative potential, notably by manufacturing the world's largest fine fireclay pieces. Dr. W. Fischer, Research Director of Laufen, states that there is now a whole new range of design possibilities for ceramic, with far greater finesse than in the past while retaining the traditional production process.

Freedom to Reshape With SaphirKeramik – a unique material perfected after five years of intensive research and development – Laufen is introducing a groundbreaking alternative to more traditional ceramics and hugely expanding the possibilities of ceramic design and production. A revolution in the formal language of ceramics: Strong and malleable, SaphirKeramik permits the creation of wafer-thin yet 3-4 mm robust walls and tight-edge radii of just 1 to 2mm. Its slender profile renders it space-saving, lightweight and environmentally friendly. SaphirKeramik derives its exceptional hardness and strength from its component corundum, (AI2O3), a colourless mineral found in eponymous sapphires. Rigorous testing has revealed that its flexural strength is equal to that of steel.

Talking Products The result of lengthy tecno(eco)logical research by Laufen is a twice-as-strong, more ecological and thinner ceramic. The new ceramic is perceptibly sturdier, has greater flexural strength extending the range of material expressions and acquires a bright white colour. Laufen can use a thinner ceramic body and a simpler structure to reduce the weight compared with conventional ceramic. The benefits are manifold: lower raw material costs and energy consumption in production and transportation. Stunning performance, granted; but also necessary in a society aiming at reducing consumption, that loves simplicity, and that is looking for a dynamic relationship with sensual pleasure. The result is clear to see - ceramics with thin, almost live edges: living square bowls designed by Andreas Dimitriardis, the washbasins out of the Kartell by Laufen collection designed by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba, VAL designed by Konstantin Grcic and INO designed by Toan Nguyen.

The SaphirKeramik Project 2014/15 With over two years’ experience of producing SaphirKeramik pieces on an industrial scale, Laufen is now stretching the patent-pending material’s limits by exploiting its super-fine forms not only to create exquisitely detailed textures and patterns but also by engineering the innovative material to increase its maximum size – a 120 cm-long washbasin in SaphirKeramik is the largest to date. Laufen has also applied its impressively efficient, high-pressure casting technology to other, high-volume pieces in SaphirKeramik. Furthermore, Laufen has recently developed a groundbreaking prototyping system that permits models made of SaphirKeramik to serve as concept pieces.

In collaboration with cutting-edge Designers Konstantin Grcic and Toan Nguyen, Laufen unveiled these at such prestigious design events as the Milan Furniture Fair, Art Basel / Design Miami and London Design Festival 2014. Visitors appreciated the wondrous qualities of ceramic – its tactile appeal, luminosity and enduringly spotless surface – and SaphirKeramik’s bewitchingly thin and robust walls. This novel method of launching concepts also proved an invaluable research tool that garnered global feedback. This then helped to perfect the pieces and complete the collections VAL and INO for their launch at ISH 2015

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