Monthly Archives: June 2011

Stone+tec ‘11: Smaller is Good

NUREMBERG, Germany – Looking for a theme at this year’s Stone+tec? When it comes to stone-fabrication equipment, there’s one trend that’s easy to spot: Small is beautiful.

While some manufacturers came to the Nurnberg Messe exhibit halls with big, beefy equipment (which we’ll get to later on), several companies went lean-and-mean with downsized machines for fabricators looking for something easier to fit in the shop – and in the budget.

Some of these machines are bound to reach the North American market, although current economics dictate that introducing a new product line across the Atlantic may be later rather than sooner. However, a few deserve mention now.

Gmm S.p.A. of Gravellona Toce, Italy, offered the Tower, a vertical flat-edge polishing machine with a relatively small footprint – one model, the 62 Standard, is slightly more than 9’ in length and 4.5’ wide. (Other models are a bit longer at 11 ¼’ long.) The compact size packs some grinding power, though, with nine to 11 spindles – depending on the model – taking on stone from 1cm-6cm and a minimum width of approximately 2”.

• While the Krea first made its appearance in March at a factory presentation for Gualdicciola, San Marino-based Denver s.a., Stone+tec marked the trade-show debut for the 3-axes mini-CNC. With a nominal working area of 82” X 43”, it’s not going to take on full-slab production, but it’s large enough to handle plenty of countertop, vanity and fixture jobs (including drainboards, with a special 3° pitch for grooving). The 12 HP spindle can operate up to 10,000 rpm, and can make good depth work with an 11.8” X-axis stroke.

• The sharp-eyed at Coverings 2011 in Las Vegas spotted the small-CNC movement with the Co.b.a.l.m. srl IDEA work centers offered by Intermac America. Co.b.a.l.m. also joined the mini-CNC movement with the IDEA Smart Top – a machine in full working order, but without product details, although it’s in the sub-80” working length class.

• With hand tools, Stenheim, Germany-based FLEX-Elektrowerkzeuge GmbH (known to folks stateside as just “FLEX”) aimed for the stone market with the L 12-3 and LE 12-3 wet grinders. Both sport a 1150-watt motor with a maximum no-load speed of 3,700 rpm; they also feature a new design with the water feed and control below the housing for more free space in the tool grip. The LE also lets users vary tool speed from 1,200-3,700 rpm. The maximum tool diameter is 115mm.

Not everyone looks to downsize equipment, though, as several German manufacturers set up some robust equipment in the exhibit halls, including:

Burkhardt GmbH, as it showed variations on its 598 bridge-saw line. The series from the Bayeruth company can be configured a number of ways – including an optional waterjet cutter – but the exhibition piece featured a continuous belt feed that also provides material holddown. For true factory work, the bridge can accommodate up to seven blade spindles.

Löffler Engineering + Service GmbH unveiled its LDZ 2000, a programmable bridge saw with a big 12.3’ X axis and an expandable Y axis from 9.75’ to 21 1/8’, powered by spindles running between 21.4-26.8 HP. The Langenaltheim plant also set up its Powerjet 2011, with a working area of 11.7’ X 5.2’ with accuracy to 0.38mm, powered by a 60.3 HP intensifier pump.

M. Kolb Steinbearbeitungmachinen GmbH of Illertissen is a new incarnation of the Martin Kolb line of stone machinery often available in the United States. For this Stone+tec, the company brought the MKD-HEXA, a 6-axes CNC saw in a monobloc frame. The machine includes a cutting head with full 360° rotation and a production area of 11.3’ X 5.6’ with a standard 14.75 HP spindle.

Stone+tec 2011 wasn’t the new machinery festival of years past, and there’s no guarantee that some – if any – of these products will show up at future U.S. trade shows. However, it shows that manufacturers still count on a continued recovery in the stone market with investments in new products and technology … and that’s a hopeful sign, regardless of size.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.


Stone+tec ’11: The Almost-Naked Truth

NUREMBERG, Germany – In all the years I’ve attended Stone+tec, I thought I’d seen it all when watching a woman play a white violin amid a selection of tombstones. Or, having a couple of carvers finish up a sandstone replica of a Wartburg, the automotive symbol of the German Democratic Republic.

This morning, however, I thought I really did see it all – as in a nude woman attempting to leap out of a slab of marble.

Actually, make that women. And hold that thought while I attend to some business, as did several thousand people at the Nurnberg Messe trade center.

Held in odd-numbered years, Stone+tec offers a trade show in a central European location that draws a good crowd from Germany and neighboring countries. While the event features plenty of German products – mainly in machinery and software – the focus is on international trade, making the show an interesting barometer for stone’s performance.

In that context, Stone+tec showed some definite improvement from a few years ago, with a livelier opening-day crowd. Most of the halls had brisk traffic, with none of the empty, bowling-alley feel of aisles in mid-recession 2009.

The most-intense action seemed to be from the exhibit halls featuring stone technology and tooling. The areas weren’t as massive and machine-strewn as in 2005 or 2007, but you could hear a strong background buzz of noise, which usually indicates that most booths feature more customers than exhibitor staff.

Two areas with a bit less interest than usual seemed to be the monument section – Stone+tec’s always been strong in this – and the mini-hall dedicated to Chinese vendors. Traffic around the booths dedicated to monuments seemed lighter than in years past, and the China aisles looked empty. (Chinese vendors didn’t bring as much large hardware, as in bridge saws and calibrating machines, as in years past, either.)

More and more attendees throughout the day made it a point to wander through Hall 4 to find Antolini Luigi & C. S.p.A.’s spacious stand, which featured the company’s large assortment of exotic and premium stones. The company also likes to make a statement with its trade-show exhibits in the past, including a booth at Coverings designed like a private club (replete with a velvet rope and bouncers) and a fashion show at Verona’s Marmomacc with models clad in bikinis printed to look like featured stone varieties.

The booth for Stone+tec features three large walls of Antolini Luigi’s premium stone … along with one or two models, with intricate body-painting to emulate the particular stone’s veining and movement. The models offer a number of interpretive poses, and the message is all very artistic.

It’s also a real eye-opener after trudging through aisles of the usual trade-show displays.
Antolini Luigi never fails to get attention at trade shows, and they certainly held plenty of European stone guys rapt for a few minutes.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.






Quartz v. Granite Showdown ‘11

The ol’ standby for marking the start of summer is Memorial Day, but a new June tradition can bring out the heat – the countertop ratings from Consumer Reports.

The famed test-and-report folks at Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumers Union began covering countertops a few years ago, and raised the ire of natural-stone advocates by giving quartz surfaces equal (if not con_nav_issue_cover-july-11better) ratings than granite. The group’s product testers also expanded its research to encompass concrete and other non-quarried material

It’s also worth noting, though, that Consumer Reports didn’t find sufficient evidence linking granite countertops and health worries concerning radiation, which helped deflate the radon-scare bubble a few years ago. And, it’s been fair about the need for sealing granite surfaces, using the words “some” and “periodic” instead of “all” and “annual.”

You can see the July 2011 issue’s coverage of countertops here, including videos – look for the “Buying Advice” tab on the webpage – detailing selection and testing. (The 4-lbs slasher is a hit here in the office.) You can also find out which surface failed the lab’s famed hot-pan test.

What you can’t see online, without a subscription, is the actual ratings of the 15 surfaces tested in 2011. The print edition went on sale this week at your local newsstand, but that brings up two problems; the first is that it’s a pricey $6.95 for the issue, and the second is actually finding a local newsstand.

I don’t give away the end of stories; the only time I’ve ever yelled “Shut Up!” is when a loud-voiced woman started to tell her friend the meaning of “Rosebud” while watching Citizen Kane in a theatre. I’m not going to reproduce the entire Consumer Reports countertops ratings chart, either.

At the risk of a visit from the Copyright Flying Squad, however, I’ll offer the highlights that fabricators really want to know:

• Quartz came in first, and granite second – but it’s a close one. On the 0-100 scale, quartz scored 84 and granite followed closely at 81, with test results running dead even. No other surface scored more than 70.

• Recycled glass made a large impression, coming in third with 69 points despite less-than-stellar stain and impact tests.

• Soapstone came in second among quarried stone, but seventh overall at 46 points. 

• Marble finished 12th with 14 points, as the surface performed miserably in tests.

• What finished dead last? Well, marble may be porous, but bamboo countertops just suck.

Emerson Schwartzkopf

You can read up-to-the-minute news on the dimensional-stone trade and search the archives at Stone Business Online.

The advertisements that appear on this page are placed by, and constitute no endorsement of the products or services. And I don’t get a dime from them, either.