The Swiss art of sustainable innovation – Part One// Ceramics


As a small country in the heart of Europe, Switzerland learnt quickly during the industrialisation era that innovation plays a decisive role in economic success, with the country synonymous with inventions such as the Swiss army knife and Velcro. This inventive nature has fuelled the most significant developments in the bathroom industry.

Today the country is considered to be a world champion innovator, because the country registers the most patents per head in the world. Inventions from Switzerland include such things as the eponymous Swiss army knife, the rotary clothes dryer, the Velcro fastener, aluminium foil, the LCD screen and naturally numerous inventions in the fields of watch making and medicine. What is less well-known is that Switzerland has also been the source of many innovations in the bathroom field which have been successful all over the world – and Laufen is one of the driving forces for innovations in this respect.



With the introduction of SaphirKeramik in the year 2013 Laufen, initiated an extremely successful trend in ceramic bathroom design. Thanks to the revolutionary material, real ceramic washbasins can be produced which have thin, robust walls that are only 3-5mm thick, that have defined corner radii of 1-2mm, and pleasant haptic surfaces, thus enormously enriching the design language in the bathroom.



The company which was founded in 1892 under the name ‘Tonwarenfabrik Laufen’ has however always been extremely specialised in ceramics, because ceramic expertise is handed down from generation to generation in the original location of Laufen and in the Austrian and Czech production facilities. This led, for example, in 2002 to the rediscovery of fine fire clay, with the help of which Laufen was able to realise large and cuttable ceramic washbasins. With SaphirKeramik, the fine fire clay, and the traditional Vitreous China, Laufen has become an expert in working with three types of ceramics, all of which have different bathroom applications.

The great treasure trove of experience which the company enjoys in the field of ceramic production was also made possible by the development and introduction of high pressure casting in the year 1980. With this Laufen revolutionised the production technology for sanitary ceramics, laying the foundation for high production performance and for serial production of high-quality design bathrooms. Today many companies in the sanitary industry use high pressure casting. Laufen is today capable of not only producing conventional ceramics using this efficient process, but also products made of SaphirKeramik, which can be produced in large quantities.

Although bathroom ceramics are already easy to clean and hygienic, for the Swiss bathroom specialist this does not mean that something good cannot also be improved even further. The highest standard of ease-of-cleaning and hygiene were therefore the principles of the development of Laufen Clean Coat (LCC). LCC is a hygienically clean, particularly easy-to-clean surface treatment for ceramics such as washbasins, toilets and bidets because it is practically free of pores, extremely smooth, robust and durable, and certified as antibacterial in accordance with ISO 22196.



The Swiss toilet contribution

It is also hardly known that the first wall-mounted toilet, which today ensures high standards of hygiene and ease of cleaning in most Central European bathrooms and guest toilets, was in fact developed by Laufen in 1964. The development of the toilet naturally did not stand still after this, because Laufen is today still permanently researching and developing new solutions: These include water-saving flushing, because numerous toilets from Laufen flush with 4.5 or 3 litres in the dual flush system, instead of six or three litres in conventional toilets. Especially innovative, in this respect, is the HiJet toilet by Laufen that can even flush powerfully with less than 3 litres, and is thus prepared for future standards.



However, Laufen also develops especially hygienic rimless toilets, for example, a compact and barrier-free toilet without a flushing rim, which was in 2014 one of the first of its kind, and extended the range of standard rimless toilets at Laufen.



A further current innovation by Laufen is a water-saving ceramic vacuum toilet, which simplifies the planning of the piping system in every building, can be easily and quickly cleaned, is extremely quiet, and flushes safely even if the central station has a fault.

More on the innovations of Laufen in the next issue.

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