Overview of marble processing
Marble is one of the many natural stones found on the surface of the earth. It is quarried and is used extensively in the field of architecture and construction. Marble is always a unique and rare material as nature is in charge of providing it for centuries. From the moment it is quarried, to the point when it is ready for shipping, marble goes through various transformation stages. There are six main stages of marble processing, namely, Marble mining, arrival and unloading of marble blocks, marble cutting, strengthening and polishing, slab storage and loading.
The methodology and technique used for marble mining are determined by the type of quarry being considered. The area’s morphology determines if the marble is cut horizontally or vertically, with the most common method being the latter. The marble is transformed into blocks and is classified according to the quality of the marble. The lesser the streaks and lighter, the colour tone will make the block more expensive.
Arrival and Unloading
Once the marble has been extracted, the blocks are transported to the manufacturers for processing. Here, after unloading from the trucks, these blocks are classified before being sawed. Cranes and different machines are used to move these blocks throughout the facility as they are cumbersome and large. These blocks are then stored in the block yard until the next phase.
Marble is cut through two methods, namely, multiwire or block cutters. Large blocks of marble are cut through the multiwire cutter, whereas the smaller and irregular blocks are cut using block cutters. The main goal of cutting marble is to avoid any waste and to ensure the maximum yield of processed marble. Multiwire cutters will produce slabs of a maximum 1.8 – 2 metres width and thickness of 1.5 centimetres. Block cutters, on the other hand, will produce strips of marble that would be then cut into tiles of a thickness between 0.9 and two centimetres.
Marble strengthening and polishing
Firstly, the marble slab is strengthened by attaching a mesh for added resistance. Then, the marble is processed to change its appearance and produce a variety of different finishes. Some of these finishes include polishing, honing, ageing, bush hammering, sanding and split face. This is usually the last step in the marble preparation process, but some manufacturers subject their marble to further cutting and finishing procedures.
When the marble is ready for storage, it is packaged according to its shipping destination. Marble that has to be shipped abroad will usually be packaged in a series of wooden bundles and will be prepared to be packed inside the shipping containers. If they are being shipped locally, iron frames will be used to keep everything in place. As for tiles, they are usually packed in wooden boxes ready for transportation.
Marble loading and shipping
As mentioned above, marble is shipped and packed according to its shipping destination. Most common means of marble transportation are through lorries, ships and trains.