Dr Yanmeng Xu from the School of Mechanical Engineering, Leeds University, visited Ashurst Lodge recently and lectured on Polishing Processes for Ceramic Tiles.

Yanmeng graduated as a Mechanical Engineer in China and has a Master degree from Korea plus a PhD degree at Southampton University. He worked at Cambridge University and is currently a Research Fellow at Leeds.

His presentation referred to research carried out in an EU Project involving several different countries interested in ceramic tiles.

The polishing process at present is inefficient as it involves many different stages. In addition there is a high consumption of adhesive materials. The project aimed to reduce the cost and achieve better quality control.

The first step in the project was to analyse the current process. A testing machine or tribometer was designed and a series of tests using different types and sizes of abrasives were carried out. The results obtained in this way were also checked against data from industrial processes. It was found that the laboratory rig produced a good simulation of those processes.

Experiments were carried out to develop a mathematical model for the improvement of the surface roughness for each individual abrasive. Similarly an empirical equation was produced to simulate the improvements in the gloss for each adhesive.

The development of these computational models is of fundamental importance to optimise the polishing process for ceramic tiles.

As a consequence, the study determined that not all sizes of grit abrasives currently used in practice are needed to reach a satisfactory gloss. The polishing times were also optimised for each type of abrasive. This approach considerably reduces the costs involved in the whole process.

The audience was most appreciative of the work presented by Yangmeng, which has important practical applications and a lively discussion ensued following the lecture.