15 December 2014

Sapphires Inspire Ceramic Revolution

Talk of product innovation is often focused on form and function but some of the most fundamental innovations can come from the essence of products - what they’re made from. This week we take a look at one of the most significant innovations in bathroom product materials of recent years from Swiss ceramics experts LAUFEN.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but sapphire has led the way in bathroom innovation for this world-leading bathroom brand. As part of their exploration of the limitations that affect product design, LAUFEN spent five years developing SaphirKeramik, a cermamic material inspired by the incredibly precise dimensions found in sapphires and the desire to create new possibilities in bathroom product design.

[LAUFEN’s living square basins]

LAUFEN’s living square basins created from SaphirKeramik

Ceramics meet corundum

While vitreous china and fine fire clay have served bathroom design well to date, highly sought after, thin-edged, streamline designs were reserved to materials such as pressed steel – until now.

LAUFEN developed SaphirKeramik as a minimal, thin material that can be used to create products with razor-sharp lines and forms. It contains a mineral called corundum found in sapphires, which enables the creation of slim line designs without compromising strength. Inclusion of this innovative mineral means a thinner ceramic body - an edge radii of around 1-2 millimetres - and finer contemporary designs can be achieved.

Corundum mixed with clay gives SaphirKeramik its bright white colour and exceptional strength. Stronger than traditional ceramics, SaphirKeramik is comparable with carbon steel and twice as high in flexural strength (resistance to deformation under pressure) as vitreous china. (Fun fact: the only naturally occurring mineral stronger than corundum on the Mohs Hardness Scale is diamond.)

Lighter than traditional ceramics, SaphirKeramik also uses less energy in production and transportation, making it a sustainable, efficient and eco-friendly material.

Designing for new possibilities



SaphirKeramik in the Grcic concept collection previewed at Milan Design Week

SaphirKeramik can be made thinner than any other ceramic on the market, opening opportunities for new design interpretations with the material. Dubbed “revolutionary”, the positive response from the design community has highlighted new possibilities for innovative bathroom design.

Launched at ISH in 2013, SaphirKeramik was first seen in LAUFEN’s living square range of basins and the Kartell by Laufen collaboration. LAUFEN is continuing to explore the possibilities of this new material, most recently working with two designers, Konstantin Grcic and Toan Nguyen, on concept collections previewed at Milan Design Week. More from these ranges is expected at the ISH bathroom fair in 2015.


SaphirKeramik in the Kartell by Laufen collection

Space saving inspiration

Creating products that make the most of smaller spaces is a common challenge for bathroom designers. This very limitation proved to be the inspiration for the creation of SaphirKeramik.

LAUFEN’s Marc Viardot told Dezeen SaphirKeramik directly responded to the fact that highly conceptualised, beautiful spaces in the bathroom were growing in demand, however, bathroom spaces had not grown in proximity and space limitations were still an issue.

“Bathrooms have changed a lot in the last 10 -15 years... the actual bathroom itself has not really changed when we speak about dimensions... [it] means we are facing the same situation to produce functional and practical bathrooms but we can add quality of design that incorporates this need for optimising the space.”

You can see SaphirKeramik in action in LAUFEN’s living square and Kartell by Laufen ranges, available here in Australia at Reece stores around the country and online.

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