Waterjet Technology Allow Complex Flooring Designs
Terrazzo is one of the most time-tested of building materials.
It was used in palaces, courtyards, assembly halls, villas and
bathhouses during the height of the Roman Empire. Many of those
ancient structures are still intact. When the ruins of Pompeii
were unearthed, the forgotten terrazzo floors were virtually undamaged.
Terrazzo is an historic and very strong, enduring -- and endearing
The National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association defines terrazzo
as "a material consisting of marble, granite, onyx or glass
chips in Portland cement, modified Portland cement or resinous
matrix. The terrazzo is poured, cured, ground and polished.
Typically used as a finish for floors, stairs or walls, Terrazzo
can be poured in place or precast."
There has been a renaissance in the usage of terrazzo over
the last decade. According to Jim Belilove, president and CEO
of Fairfield, Iowa's, Creative Edge Corp., "Terrazzo is
now offered with an epoxy matrix. This is stronger than the
cementitious material which was the traditional binder. Epoxy
doesn't crack, can be offered in many more and much brighter
colors, the color does not fade, and curing time is much less.
Terrazzo with an epoxy matrix can also accommodate larger chips
... and the thickness of the material, even for a major industrial
application, can be just 3/8 inches thick.
"Additionally, with computerized waterjet technology,
shapes into which the terrazzo are poured can be cut perfectly
over and over again," Belilove says. "As a result,
designs for stores or malls can be duplicated quickly and without
worrying about the visual differentiation from one hand-formed
shape to another."
A good example of a major retail installation which featured
waterjet technology can be found at the Grand Coastal Mall in
Myrtle Beach, S.C. T.B. Penick & Sons, Inc., the San Diego-based
general contractor with a specialty in the installation of high-end
terrazzo projects, was involved in this creative flooring project,
which included a food court with a multi-colored, highly focal
terrazzo floor design.
This food court had beautiful shapes which were achieved by
pouring the terrazzo into waterjet-cut aluminum forms. This
was a project that included intricate images that had to be
re-created in terrazzo to exactly replicate the artist's original
Retail construction executives should know about waterjet technology.
The process is a computerized, cold cutting technology that
can cut most materials into any two-dimensional shape. Marble,
granite, porcelain, ceramic, linoleum, sports flooring, vinyl,
and all metals are excellent materials for the waterjet process.
Waterjet cutting does not heat, harden or distort metals. Those
are some other reasons why the aluminum forms into which terrazzo
was to be poured at Coastal Grand Mall's food court were best
cut by waterjet.
Anything that can be drawn on a computer can be cut by waterjet.
Many materials like stone, porcelain, and stainless steel cannot
economically be cut into complex shapes in any other way. Terrazzo
is more versatile than most developers or designers can imagine.
For example, it can be poured onto many different substrates,
or right over existing floor materials such as concrete, vinyl
tile, ceramic/porcelain tile or even wood.
It is still ideal for any retail construction project, particularly
those that have heavy foot traffic.
About the author:
Harri Aalto is cofounder and Creative Director of Creative
Edge Master Shop, a leader in the architectural design community.
He designs many of the company's projects, including Terrazzo
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