An evolving journey

a day in the life of the team

CRAFT STORIES

Join us in a chat with our head of composites industrialization and production engineer, taking us through the creation of the Velvets.

Pedro Martins talks to the team at Sanitana's solid surface factory.

THE CRAFTSMANSHIP

A legacy of innovation

Curiosity. That is what catalysed Sanitana’s work with solid surface. In 1979, Sanitana became the first Portuguese company to work exclusively with sanitary ware. Thirty years later, that same curiosity made our engineers explore the possibilities of solid surface.

Today, the velvety, hard-wearing surface of solid surface has become a common sight at Sanitana’s composites factory. “Solid surface has had an instrumental effect, not just on how our products perform,” says Pedro Martins, the head of composites industrialization, “but also on the design possibilities.”

Pedro knows better than most. Since joining Sanitana in 2011, he has been involved with all things related to solid surface and its manufacturing. Working in the implementation and optimization of processes, Pedro is no stranger to the ins and outs of the material.

Craftsmanship and technology

It took research and experimentation to create the Velvet's effortlessly smooth surfaces. With years of hands-on knowledge, the team has a comprehensive understanding on how to achieve the results needed.

Pedro tell us about how he works on each prototype by hand at the start of a new project. “Technology allows us to shape the processes and the machinery helps us create the flawless surfaces we strive for,” he starts.

"Yet the process is still very much rooted on the importance of the human touch."

PEDRO MARTINS

“Yet the process is still very much rooted on the importance of the human touch.” Still, he explains, our processes have evolved extensively throughout the years. Since Sanitana started producing in solid surface in the past decade, the procedures have changed embrace new technological developments.

He clarified, “In the beginning we were doing things like manually cutting and the machinery was not used to its full capacity. But things have changed. Just last year we introduced two more CNC machines, that have helped us refine the distinctive finish we wanted, while keeping up with the high demand.”

View of the solid surface factory floor where two workers are at work.

Inside the factory

On the the factory floor, aspirators, milling machines and polishers provide the soundtrack. On the ground, yellow lines mark off the work stations in which minerals and resins are transformed with an alchemist touch. We start by heading to the casting section.

Pedro points to the still soft playdoh-like surface of a just demoulded Velvet to illustrate the importance of cure time. To achieve their full mechanical properties, every Velvet is placed on a supporting structure and is left to relax at a controlled room temperature of 25C degrees until solid. Talk about a sweet life!

As we move to the next section, we go past towering steel racks filled with casting moulds for washbasins, bathtubs and other top secret projects. At the end we spot the ingenious indexation structures, which tell the state-of-the-art milling machines where to cut and where to stop.

These are the *magic* behind the custom-made possibilities of solid surface, Pedro tell us. Inside one these high-tech machines, we see the fine edges of a Velvet washbasin taking shape. Dust whirls inside the machine cabinet as a robot’s arm moves around with the precision of a surgeon.

Next to it, on a nearby working station, a worker wears a t-shirt with Sanitana's motto - Improving Simplicity - which seems to give context to the task at hand. Armed with a range of hand-held grinders, polishers and cutters, we watch as each washbasin is carefully prepared to go into the machine.

A Sanitana worker polishes the surface of a solid surface washbasin.

The finishing touch(es)

Like synchronised swimmers, each work station moves to check angles and dimensions, proceeding to check all outlets and overflows, in a carefully choreographed procedure. Next up is polishing.

When a washbasin leaves the milling machines, it is taken to the central hub of the factory: the world-class finishing section. We stand to the side as a series of trolleys move around the work stations, following a meticulous process that starts by assembling every component of the washbasin.

Well stocked with an array of neatly organized sandpaper, each station shifts to check the surface of their washbasin for irregularities, buffing until a smooth surface is achieved.

For the final touch, we see a Velvet washbasin being carefully positioned under the towering arm of the laser. The arm lifts after 5 seconds to reveal a proud 'Sanitana', freshly engraved onto the surface.

The washbasin is taken away by a trolley to be prepared for shipping and just like that we approach the end of our tour. We look around to see the many elements of the team still busy with their own tasks, improving their own craft. And we know that the journey continues.