A Tale of Stone: From Trash to Treasure

Updated: Mar 20, 2019



This is a story about how we help a company, which used to create tons of waste, figuring out a way to turn those once abandoned materials into something extraordinary…


Big Problem in Stone-Processing Industry


Our story began in 2016, when Stone Lee, the head of the time-honored company of stone processing in Taiwan, EVERLEE Co. Ltd., spotted a troubling issue in the manufacturing process but had absolutely no idea about how to resolve: there is just too much money thrown into water due to the waste produced!


Before we go any further, one must know that the survival of Taiwanese stone manufacturers has long depended on construction projects. There are several features about such projects, and one of them is that stones are typically used in a very large scale. Accordingly, the procedure of stone processing often begins with cutting a huge marble or granite slab, usually around or larger than 120 cm x 240 cm in area and 2-3 cm in thickness, into the size required.


Slabs that are typically used in construction project are mammoth in size.

But it’s very rare that a slab will be exploited 100%. As a result, many “smaller” slabs (like those shown in the pictures below), despite that a lot of them are still huge in common sense, are produced along the way. It thus results in the typical scenery of a stone-processing factory: thousands of pieces lying around the ground, sometimes easily occupying about half of the total workspace.



Unfortunately, in construction, any piece less than 100 x 100 cm2 in size is deemed valueless since it does not have large enough area to meet the scale required for such projects. “How do people deal with these slabs, then?” You may ask. Well, ridiculous enough, these slabs are simply treated as garbage, and a company will have to pay for getting them out of the factory!


Upon knowing this from Stone Lee, I immediately suggested him to grant me access to those materials for creating some splendid products marked with our own brand. And without a second of hesitation, he agreed.


The Path of Transformation


Shortly after decided to develop our own products with waste slabs of marble and granite, we quickly commenced the designing procedure. And soon, piles of sketches were waiting to be realized on my desk. There is just one problem, the one that usually keeps people away from success: the “It’s Impossible!” mindset from, in this case, our factory workers.


To be fair, stones truly are a kind of material that is very hard to work with! The first issue lies in their physical properties. They are heavy, inflexible and extremely delicate. Also, they are highly vulnerable to high temperature since the heat will expand the air within their tiny cavities, causing them to literarily explode if not being cooled down by water during processing.


A block cracked into two pieces during processing.

Second, a stone-made product cannot be shaped by molding as metal or plastic, and therefore it’s difficult to quickly and massively replicate the contour of an existing object. Combining with the fact that stones are hard to handle, the vast error between our design and the actual products made became one of the most common (and frustrating) problems that we faced.


Shapes are difficult to replicate for stone-made objects. The picture on the left shown a chair we once asked our workers to recreate accordingly. The picture on the right shows how the final results from each worker vary in form.

Due to these said characteristics of stones, many of our designs were deemed unrealistic or even absurd in the beginning. But is it really so? It turns out that the answer is a big NO! And it was from our early failures that we revealed a covert path heading to the success of establishing our own brands and product lines.


Turning Trash into Treasure


So, what exactly have our team accomplished after continuously testing and experimenting for nearly two years? The following is a list that summarizes the fruits of our hard works.


  • Ultra-Thin Structure


One of the most visually astonishing tricks that we have in our sleeve is to make a marble- or granite-made structure unbelievably thin, which is only about 1 mm in thickness. Note that such task is extremely difficult to be done on stones considering how fragile they are. However, once achieved, it can significantly diminish the weight of the products.


The petals of this marble flowers are only 1 mm in thickness.

The extremely thin edge of the tea tray makes it extraordinarily lightweight.

  • Modulization


The biggest problems regarding stone-made products lies in their fragility and heaviness. These factors render transporting such products an arduous task. To solve this issue, we adopt the idea of modulization, that is, rendering a single product into several combinable components, which can be put together either through tenon-like structures or magnets. By using such strategy we can greatly simplify the packing (a group of small components are easier to pack than a huge object) and the repairing process (just swap the broken component with a new one). For example, the following is a small marble container consisting of three components:



Besides the said advantages, modulization also increases the playability and flexibility of a product by giving freedom to the customers to redefine it. With a little imagination, anyone can effortlessly turn something into his or her own version that better serves them or matches their sense of beauty.


A conceptual product allowing users to create the shape they want by recombining the components that binds together by magnets.

  • Glowing Stones


When reaching the thickness of circa 3 mm (depending on the kind of stone we are using), some marbles become light-permeable. Such property allows us to turn stones, usually giving people the impression of blunt and cold, into some shining wonders that project colors and warm.


The marble-made "Doll Li" is a branded product created by us, and the brand has been registered in Europe and Asia.

Furthermore, in order to fit the glowing feature discussed here into our module-based design, I came up with a new technique that permits electricity to pass through two magnet-jointed components to create a closed circuit, and such technique enables us to make a playable marble lamp with exceptional plasticity in its configuration (P.S., We took out the patent on this idea in October 2018).


A demonstration of how our magnetic marble lamp works.


  • Extreme Quality


From doing constructional projects to making products, the shift of our workers’ minds are overtly perceivable. And as soon as the barrier of resistance collapses, what they can achieve are truly astounding! The following is a gallery of the products we’ve made in recent years, and through the pictures you should be able to feel the hard work they put in every artifact made:


The Autumn Leaf – marble / granite coasters


The Sweet Series – cake-shaped containers

Napkin rings made of serpentine, a kind of beautiful marble found only in Taiwan.

A marble-made necklace.


The Rose Garden – marble bookends (the product won the silver awards of the 6th Cross-Strait Award of Artware Boutique)

The Goal of the Future: Moving Closer to the No-Waste Processing


Ever since we started creating stone-made objects out of the remaining slabs and blocks from construction projects, not only can the financial burden of running a stone factory be cut down, but also does we become more ecofriendly by reducing the waste produced conspicuously. However, I went further by asking myself: is this the best we can do? And to me, the answer is a resounding no. In fact, to realize a truly no-waste processing of stone, there is still one thing left to be dealt with, and that is the marble or granite dust inevitably produced during grinding.


A typical work day in a stone factory. Notice the powders generated while our worker shaping the block of marble (Caution: turndown the volume).


The workshop is constantly covered by marble or granite dust.

Luckily, we’ve already had clues about how to resolve such problem! With the help of 3D printing, we can easily transform these stone powders into something useful, such as a sample, a component or even a marketable product. Most importantly, we are absolutely certain that this technique is feasible because it has already existed (the pictures below shown some items made by the 3D printing using marble dust; the credit of this technology goes to the Stone & Resource Industry R&D Center headquartered in Taiwan)! The only obstacle that we have right now is that such technique is for now too immature to join the actual manufacturing process. Nevertheless, if given enough time, there’s no doubt that such technology will go into practical use, thus rendering us ever closer to the ideal of being a true-green manufacturer (P.S., if you wish to learn more about the true-green manufacturing we proposed, please go to another article of mine: Ultimate Solution for Protecting our Planet)!



Epilog


The one thing that separates those who make history from those who achieve nothing lies in the fact that the former dare breaking the mindset of impossible while the later are bound by it. Such point has been proven by the past events over and over: Einstein’s special relativity, McClintock’s jumping genes and the first aircraft built by the Wright brothers are all good testimonies. By presenting our story with this brief introduction, we hope encouraging you to give the ideas you've deemed impossible a second chance. Once the “Can’t Wall” is down, you may find that something marvelous is waiting ahead!


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