Welcome to the More Than Materials podcast. I’m Dallas Gabriel, President at Willis.
And I’m John Topic, Director of Marketing.
Each episode we’ll be joined by special guests and dive into material design trends and solutions.
We’ll discuss exciting design ideas, inspirational concepts, technical aspects, and so much more so let’s explore.
Hello everyone. And thanks for joining us for this month’s podcast. Today. We have Mike Castro, the North American Sales Manager for Lapitec. We’re going to talk to Mike about this emerging design material category for the design industry. Hi Mike, thanks for joining us today.
Hi Dallas. Thank you for having me.
That’s great. Hey everybody. I am super excited about talking to Mike today about Lapitec sintered stone. It’s a relatively new material that we brought into the fold of our curated design portfolio about less than a year ago. And we’ve seen some great, great reception in the design industry. So for those who don’t know about Lapitec and sintered stone, Mike, why don’t you just explain to our listeners on what is Lapitec?
So, yeah, I’d love to do that. Lapitec is a new material category in the marketplace, or should I say the sintered stone category and really what it offers is a design capability in which designers and architects have a free range to really go after aesthetics and projects that don’t limit them to just interior applications. The material is specifically designed for exterior applications. So let me kind of bring that in a little bit. The material was designed and created to go for exterior applications in which it’s not affected by UV light. It’s not affected by staining. The materials is practically impervious and it gives you the ability to have a material that can be fabricated to whatever suitable application is met. So we’re taking and combining two worlds, we’re taking pretty much the porcelain category if you will, which is a high-impact porcelain and all of those durabilities, and then combining that with all the workability factors of a natural stone. When you put those two together, we create a hybrid and that’s sintered stone, and that is a product in which can be fabricated just like natural stone at all levels and yet has all the durability factors of let’s say a high-impact porcelain.
Thanks, Mike. That really does outline it well for our listeners. Wondering too, if you can talk a little bit about the history of Lapitec, you know, who makes Lapitec, where it’s made, maybe a little bit too about the green story that goes along with this great design material.
Sure. And that’s really important to understand. In order to understand Lapitec, you have to understand where we started from and who created us. So that’s a great question. And first and foremost, it really comes to Breton, The Breton Group, and in fabrication arena, that is what would be classified as some fabricators would say is like the Ferrari of the fabrication industry. So we are as a whole, where manufacturers, so we create machinery to produce or should I say we produce the machines that create the fabrication. So we do CNC machines, bridge saws, anything that has to do with stone fabrication or engineered material fabrication. Alongside of that, our company The Breton Group also has several divisions and just two divisions just to name out would be like the formula one division and NASA. So we work with high-level sectors of the industry, which combining a lot of engineering and intuitive, innovative product offerings in a manufacturing world. So Breton is the inventors and creators of the engineered countertops as we know them today. So when you think about engineering quartz, they invented that technology at all levels. Lapitec is now the, you know, innovation to that process. So they’ve now created and started this venture back in the eighties, and they really wanted to prove the technology. They wanted to prove that they can create a product that can go for exterior application without having the worry of what happens with natural stone or most of engineered quartz for exterior applications. So they created Lapitec and Lapitec really hit the market say about 10 years ago in the marketplace in north America. And it’s really has taken off.
That’s one of the things that really excited us here at Willis was you know, as curators, we look for those new materials that are coming into the marketplace and for really two reasons. One of the reasons was it filled a void for us here at Willis, where we really didn’t have a material that could go outside. So when we were introduced to Lapitec and really started understanding the performance and the attributes it could bring to designers who were really excited about that exterior application, and then number two, with Breton behind them you know, they are a force in the industry when it comes to engineering and creating products like Mike had mentioned. But being the innovators of quartz, as we all know how large the quartz industry is, to bring a new material to the marketplace with that history behind them, we just felt really, really comfortable that we had a great partner to lean on.
Yeah. So Mike, maybe you can tell us a little bit about some of the different applications that you can use Lapitec for, you know, one of the reasons that we as Willis decided to bring on Lapitec into our curated collection was because it could offer different applications that you couldn’t do with some of our other product lines. You know, you can use it for exterior cladding. You can use it for you know, pool coping. You can use it for outdoor barbecues, I mean, and flooring as well. So there’s really just so many applications. So maybe you can talk about some of the more popular applications that you see.
I’d love to. I think what’s really surprising to most is the fact that this material can be used in multiple applications, especially when speaking to architects and designers that have limitations for exterior applications. So especially when you look at landscape architects, they have a very limited library, if you will, of products that they can have as a go-to. And when we walk in, we discuss Lapitec and all its capabilities, it’s almost like they don’t believe it. So when we think about outdoor paving, when we think about pool surrounds, pool coping, you know, these are typically products in which you all would just simulate to natural stone, you know, because of the fabrication capabilities. So Lapitec can be submerged pools, it’s not affected by chemicals, it’s not affected by chlorines or salt waters. The fact that we can take our products that have different textures, you can go from a home finish from the interior of the home and then extend outside with a texture that has the resistance required for exterior application, especially around a pool surround. So we have also different textures that fit the needs for the application, you know, with natural stone, for exterior, you need a certain thickness because of the expansion and contraction ratios. When you think about up in, you know, in Canada, the cold climate area, or you go down to Florida, very hot climate area, Lapitec, same material, same color, any color for that matter, any texture reacts the same, it has no thermal expansion. So whether it be a cold climate or a warm climate, the material is going to sustain it’s same specifications or durability factors. In a hot climate we also find it very interesting that you can literally put your hand to the material on a 90-degree day, and you’re not pulling your hand away because it’s overly hot. It’s actually, it holds heat, but it’s not hot to the touch, which natural stone you have issues in that factor as well. So the fact that the material can be used for exterior application, it can be used for outdoor paving, pools surrounds, pool coping, facades, the material because of its low thermal expansion ratio really gives you tight joints or ventilated facade applications. So it extremely well, and again, it was designed for exterior, but to think that anything that goes outside should be able to come inside. So we have really our staple is interior kitchen countertops. And the fact that we’re not limited to just mitered edges, you know, our designers and architects are just excited that they can take a product like Lapitec and do an ogee edge or a bulnose edge. You know, this is not the case when you talk about porcelain materials, our product is a true through body. So that means that whatever, you know, color on top of the vein, it goes all the way through, there’s no digital technology to it. So you’re not limited to the applications in which you can use Lapitec or the fabrication means as a whole – really giving architects and designers, you know, a clean sheet of paper, if you will, a blank piece of paper and we let them design it and then we implement it. So we’re excited to have a product like this to offer to the architectural community.
Yeah. The one thing that gets me really excited about Lapitec is, you know, you can use the color palette that you choose for your interior space and then extend that to the exterior. And I think a lot of designers are looking for that and now with Lapitec, they can actually take that color palette and take it outside to have that monolithic look or even just some tone of the exterior and interior. So it kind of matches. So we’ve really heard a lot of excited architects and designers now that we brought this into the marketplace, they’re pretty excited on utilizing that
Let’s switch gears for one quick second, and talk about silica-free material that Lapitec is inherent to. Lapitec is made without any silica in the material and as distributors and manufacturers that’s becoming more and more important as far as fabrication safety. Mike, can you tell us a little bit about the history of silica in Lapitec or the lack of?
I think that it’s really important for the fabrication network, or the fabricator network, if you will, that they always seek to find a material that’s environmentally friendly and healthy, right? So in the engineered quartz, there’s a tremendous amount of silica that resides in the product and there’s a lot of silica in natural stone, of course, and throughout. So we’ve developed a very special process that eliminates the silica from our materials. Just to note that our pure white materials are Bianco Assoluto as well as our Musa collection, which is all through body vein. That’s our second generation veining that’s bookmatched I should point that out as well. That material is silica-free. So all of our pure whites are silica-free. Our other color palettes do have a low amount or some of the lowest amounts of silica that resides in the product – it’s anywhere between 9 and 10%. So when we look at products that we want to continue to go and in the future and be innovative to take out the silica content and really give a healthier product to our fabricator, network this is the course that we’re taking. Our goal is that in the end of 2022, all of our colors will be silica-free. And that really goes into our, you know, green vision and our sustainability factors with Lapitec. If I can kind of switch gears and go right into the, the green part of it, I know Dallas had asked about that before, and I just wanted to touch base and just say that, Lapitec, it’s through body technology, we can really calculate and formulate the lifecycle and all the stages of the product. So from the production processing to the use and end of life of the product, and then through our approach, you know, that really is inspired by cradle to cradle philosophy. Lapitec does not contain any raw materials obtained through petroleum processing. So Lapitec is completely inner and does not release any substances into the environment. So when scrapped or it could be milled and be recycled as an aggregate, or it can be simply disposed in a normal waste treatment plants for treating inner waste products. The product is literally healthy for the environment because it is 100% natural minerals. There’s nothing in this product that’s hazardous to the environment for all intents and purposes.
Well, that’s a fantastic story, Mike. And one that I know that our fabricators and our architects and designers will take really well to. The green story is so important from a design perspective, but then just knowing too on the fabricator side that Lapitec does have some silica-free colors plus moving toward that for the entire collection is just a real testament to what Lapitec doing for the fabrication segment as well for the business. Speaking of fabricators and growing our network of fabricators, can you just talk a little bit about what that process is like and why there is a need for certification?
Definitely. I think there’s such a perception out there about being certified. You know, it’s almost like the hands go up and they’re like, ah, we got to go through a certification process. It’s so funny. As soon as we introduce Lapitec to them and they say, oh, this is pretty much like a porcelain. And as soon as we show them the fabrication capabilities, they’re hooked, they want to learn more because they want to be innovative and they want to be in the times they want to, they want to be that fabricator that’s doing what most are not. So when we introduced Lapitec to them and say to them, we want to certify you, we’re not training them to become fabricators. We’re showing them a guideline, a baseline to say, Hey, if you follow these simple steps, you’re never going to have an issue. And I think that we’ve been very successful in the past several years to really, you know, sustain and obtain the confidence level with the fabricator network. So literally it’ll take about an hour’s worth of a conversation and then there’s certain tooling, especially the blade, you know, Breton designed a specific blade for a Lapitec because the material is extremely dense. You can’t just take a regular granite blade or you can’t take an engineered quartz blade and cut Lapitec with it, you know, your first go-around might be okay, but I’ve been telling you that’s about it. Because the material’s so dense you need a specific technology in order to cut the product. And with that, the blade is as far as a cost, there’s really no cost value to the blade. And the fabricators are starting to understand that more and more so by using the blade, they see that you can cut more material with Lapitec using a specific blade than changing the blade and having issues. So not to go off track, but the certification process really should only take anywhere between an hour to three hours contingent if they want to fabricate the vanity there with us, because we kind of go through that, we send them a free slab, we do the testing on that slab, and we want them to produce a vanity for us. That gives them a good indicator to how to work the product, and it shows us that they’re comfortable with fabricating the material as well. So they’re embracing it more and more with us coming in and just reviewing a product and explaining to know exactly what Lapitec is, what is sintered stone and showing them the differentiation between a porcelain and a true sintered stone product.
Yeah. You’re really setting them up for success.
Absolutely. And once they, once they gravitate and understand our manuals, I mean, Breton has really written the manuals in a lot of categories. So once they see our format and how we put a description in on how to fabricate the material, it’s really a no-brainer. They love it because all the answers are right there to all their questions.
And I think the value of certification brings really not so much for us, although we do want good partners that can process the material properly. But when you are starting to deal with GCs, architects, homeowners, we know that the material is going to be processed properly. And at the end of it, the end-user is going to get what they expect, and there’s not going to be any issues and the material’s not going to fail. And it’s going to be installed properly for years and years to come without any failure. So I think the certification process is very important throughout the whole, you know, call it the lifecycle of getting a Lapitec top made for a certain application.
And John, you know, just to add to that, we’ve been seeing a lot more of the architectural community asking that question. Who is your certified fabricator? For us, it’s exciting that we do have a list of certified fabricators throughout North America. So very easy for us to see an area and say these are our top X amount of fabricators in your territory in which you can contact. So it’s really a good and innovative process that we have in place.
So we are going to need to wrap up in just a minute here, but maybe before we go Mike, can you tell us a little bit about the new relationship with Danver? Danver specializes in outdoor kitchens. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that partnership.
Yeah, that’s really exciting for us. It’s really exciting for Danver. Across North America, Danver is one of the most prominent outdoor cabinet manufacturers in North America, and we’re really excited to be a part of the team with them and partner with them and really collaborating with Lapitec and Danver and all the salespeople, the designers for exterior cabinet applications. I mean, they love the fact that now they have a product in which they can provide different types of edge details, different types of fabrication needs. And they’re not limited. So, you know, our color palette is extremely modern and really fits into Danver’s repertoire of offerings. So I think that it’s a really good collaboration and I see us really doing a lot more work with them in the future and coming up with new and innovative product offerings and ideas, that’s going to take this category into a different level, especially with the outdoor barbecue arena.
Absolutely. Mike couldn’t agree more. I think from a Willis standpoint, we get to talk to architects and designers and, you know, have those conversations around outdoor barbecue areas. Albeit residential or commercial. So we get to offer and bring to the designer a full solution, not only a Lapitec top, but also the Danver barbecue steel cabinets. So it really makes for a good solution that we can bring to the market.
Outdoor living spaces are really becoming more prominent now than ever before everybody wants to be outside. So this is, yeah, this is phenomenal for us to have this partnership with Danver. We’re very excited.
I think it’s really important. Yeah. Mike, we’ve run out of time today. I just want to really thank you for spending a bit of time with us, chit-chatting about Lapitec sintered stone and what it is. I hope all of you enjoyed our conversation today. If you want any more information, you can certainly go on our website, www.4willis.com or go on to the Lapitec website, which is www.lapitec.com and get all the information that you need. So again, thanks, Mike. Thanks, Dallas. We’ll talk to you all soon.
Thank you very much.
Thanks, Mike, appreciate the time today.
Thank you so much for joining us for this conversation for listeners who are unfamiliar with Willis, we are curators of premium design materials. Our portfolio includes Corian Solid Surface, Corian Quartz, Corian Endura, Lapitec sintered stone, ARPA high-pressure laminate, Fenix, and Kohler branded sinks and faucets.
Find out more about who we are and how we can assist you in your next project. Visit us at 4willis.com.