One of eight brand-new pressure casting cells in the ceramic production in Ekenäs, Finland
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COMPETENCIES - NOVEMBER 2022

HIGH-PRESSURE CERAMIC PRODUCTION FURTHERING AUTOMATION IN EKENÄS

The Geberit ceramics plant in the Finnish town of Ekenäs is one of the flagship locations when it comes to automation. Thanks to investments in state-of-the-art pressure casting technology, a WC ceramic appliance can be made every 20 minutes in the new production cells.

When walking around the production hall in Ekenäs, Managing Director Matts Lundström greets everyone warmly – sometimes in Swedish with a “God morgon” and sometimes in Finnish with a “Hyvää huomenta”. Working in two languages is part of everyday life in the far south of Finland, where the ceramics plant is located directly on the Gulf of Finland.

Investments in pressure casting
Employees at the plant in Ekenäs make ceramic appliances for the Nordic and – increasingly – Central Europe markets. Floor-standing WCs remain predominant in the Nordic markets. However, according to Matts Lundström, a trend seems to be emerging: “Wall-hung WCs are also becoming increasingly popular in Scandinavia.”

In order to ramp up the production, Geberit has made its biggest investment to date at this site. Since 2022, the Ekenäs plant has been home to brand-new production cells equipped with the latest generation of pressure casting machines. Imposing robotic arms reach out from the middle of the cells. These are the tireless assistants when manufacturing wall-hung WCs.

A helping hand
The robotic arm smoothly assembles a WC casting mould, waits a few minutes for the pressure casting process to finish, then removes the appliance from the confines of the mould. It then finishes the seams on the mould halves with a rotating sponge and places the new WC ceramic appliance in the pre-dryer. The robot changes tools automatically, every step of the process is programmed in advance. The machine demonstrates the same care as a surgeon carrying out open-heart surgery. A new wall-hung WC ceramic appliance is created in this way about every 20 minutes.

Sharing knowledge
Despite all this technology, a human hand is still essential. This is where specialists like Johan Pihlström – one of the pressure casting specialists in Ekenäs – come in. He and his teammate have been involved in setting up the new line in Finland from the very beginning. They know every step of the process – and are also on hand to help in the event of technical issues. He shares the knowledge within the company. Johan Pihlström regularly visits the Geberit ceramics plants in Poland and tells them about his latest findings. In this way, he plays his part in furthering automation at Geberit. “Sharing knowledge is an integral part of the Geberit service culture,” explains the Finn, demonstrating the corporate culture in action.

PRESSURE CASTING VERSUS TRADITIONAL CERAMIC PRODUCTION

In traditional ceramic production, the slip is poured into plaster moulds. Up to two hours pass before the slip hardens and the body can be taken out of the mould. In modern pressure casting, porous plastic moulds are filled with slip. Afterwards, the water is extracted from the mass using air pressure. In this way, a lot more pieces can be produced per day. Furthermore, the plastic moulds can be used much longer than plaster moulds. Plastic moulds can also be refilled immediately, which isn’t possible when using plaster moulds as they first have to dry for several hours.

The ceramic plant in Koło is currently building a new pressure casting line with support from Ekenäs. Learn more about the differences between traditional and automated ceramic production in the video from the production in Koło.