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INDUSTRY PROFILE #11
Victor R. Palmeri
Dwight R. Brown
Wallace C. Higgins
VOLUNTEERS IN TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
1600 Wilson Boulevard,
Suite 500, Arlington, Virginia 22209 USA
Telephone: (703) 276-1800, Fax: (703) 243-1865
Telex 440192 VITAUI, Cable: VITAINC
firstname.lastname@example.org, Bitnet vita@gmuvax
Small Ceramics Plant
[C]1988, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This Industry Profile is one of a series briefly describing
small or medium-sized industries. The
Profiles provide basic information for starting
manufacturing plants in developing nations.
Specifically, they provide general plant descriptions,
financial, and technical factors for their
operation, and sources of information and expertise. The
series is intended to be useful in
determining whether the industries described warrant further
inquiry either to rule out or to
decide upon investment. The underlying assumption of these
Profiles is that the individual
making use of them already has some knowledge and experience
in industrial development.
Dollar values are listed only for machinery and equipment
costs, and are primarily based on
equipment in the United States. The price does not include
shipping costs or import-export taxes,
which must be considered and will vary greatly from country
to country. No other investment
costs are included (such as land value, building rental,
labor, etc.) as those prices also vary.
These items are mentioned to provide the investor with a
general checklist of considerations for
setting up a business.
These profiles should not be substituted for feasibility
studies. Before an investment is made in
a plant, a feasibility study should be conducted. This may
require skilled economic and
engineering expertise. The following illustrates the range
of questions to which answers must
What is the extent of the present demand for
the product, and how is it now being
Will the estimated price and quality of the
product make it competitive?
What is the marketing and distribution plan
and to whom will the product be
How will the plant be financed?
Has a realistic time schedule for
construction, equipment, delivery, obtaining
and supplies, training of personnel, and the start-up time for the plant
How are needed materials and supplies to be
procured and machinery and
be maintained and repaired?
Are trained personnel available?
Do adequate transportation, storage, power,
communication, fuel, water, and
What management controls for design,
production, quality control, and other
Will the industry complement or interfere
with development plans for the area?
What social, cultural, environmental, and
technological considerations must be
regarding manufacture and use of this product?
Fully documented information responding to these and many
other questions should be
determined before proceeding with implementation of an
Equipment Suppliers, Engineering Companies
The services of professional engineers are desirable in the
design of industrial plants even though
the proposed plant may be small. A correct design is one
that provides the greatest economy in
the investment of funds and establishes the basis of
operation that will be most profitable in the
beginning and will also be capable of expansion without
Professional engineers who specialize in industrial design
can be found be referring to the
published cards in various engineering magazines. They may
also be reached through their
Manufacturers of industrial equipment employ engineers
familiar with the design and installation
of their specialized products. These manufacturers are
usually willing to give prospective
customers the benefit of technical advice by those engineers
in determining the suitability of their
equipment in any proposed project.
Volunteers in Technical Assistance (VITA) is a private,
non-profit, volunteer organization
engaged in international development. Through its varied
activities and services, VITA fosters
self-sufficiency by promoting increased economic
productivity. Supported by a volunteer roster
of over 5,000 experts in a wide variety of fields, VITA is
able to provide high quality technical
information to requesters. This information is increasingly
conveyed through low-cost advanced
communication technologies, including terrestrial packet
radio and low-earth-orbiting satellite.
VITA also implements both long- and short-term projects to
promote enterprise development and
SMALL CERAMICS PLANT
PREPARED BY: Victor
REVIEWED BY: Dwight
1. The Product
The products are small ceramic wares such as ashtrays,
cigarette boxes, dishes, bowls, water containers, cups, etc.
2. The Facility
This profile describes a small plant operating with one
producing 16,000 pieces a year. It also describes a
plant running a single shift producing about 80,000 units a
The investment and labor force required for this plant are
small. The objects are decorated with the application of
colors, engobes, and stains, all of which can be purchased
in the United States, England, France, or Germany, and
later fabricated by the potter. The local market in less
areas will be limited because of the low average income of
the people. The market among tourists will depend to a large
extent on the degree to which the products have preserved
native characteristics in the process of factory production.
distinctive style is preserved and an export market
through direct shipments abroad (not only through tourist
factory production may be economically feasible.
Like all handicrafts, the economics will depend on the
and originality of the product.
A person who has talent as an artist or inventor should have
serious problems in making ceramics. It will require some
persistence, however, and the availability of a small kiln
fire samples prior to production runs.
The basic element of any ceramics shop is the kiln, which
purchased new or used, or made by the potter following
consultation. The kiln may be heated by firewood, which may
its cost to only labor, refractories, and a steel grate. Or
may be heated electrically, which will require heat
wiring, temperature controls, and automatic switches. Heat
metals and the talent of the ceramist are also critical.
Adequate ventilation of the kilns is necessary to help
hazardous dust particles from the atmosphere, and masks
worn by those in continuous contact with dust. If the
are food containers, facility for conducting safety tests
With some additional equipment, the product line could be
expanded to include building materials such as floor and
tiles or sanitary ware suce as sinks, toilets, etc.
3. Knowledge Base
Talent is born, and aquiring ceramic knowledge will take
But for the beginner, a few trial firings will be enough to
a basic idea of the process, particularly drying and firing
specific types of clay.
4. Quality Control
The purchaser of an artwork or other original ceramic piece
tolerate small cracks and imperfections. Not so with dishes,
cups, and other goods for everyday use. These must be hard,
durable, and well glazed. Moreover, the products are
and care needs to be taken in packaging them for shipping.
5. Constraints and
Uniform raw materials - this is absolutely
Reliable fuel supply
Ceramic compositions to prevent food
Individuals, households, restaurants, and ceramic parts
The potter must find a good local supply of ceramic clays.
mixed ceramic bodies are expensive. To learn about the
available clays of a particular area, it is advisable to
the geology or mining departments or ministries of the
to ask local potters about the availability of ceramic
follow the rivers or streams and dig until strata of rather
uniform clay is found. Sometimes good clay deposits are
away from rivers. Test for plasticity, shrinkage during
In addition to clays, the potter will need the following
in order to fabricate ceramic glazes and colors: feldspar,
(sand, flint or quartz), borax, lead silicate, bentonite,
nepheline syenite, whiting (calcite), antimony oxide,
carbonate, sodium carbonate, iron oxides, chromium oxide,
oxide, tin oxide, copper oxide, and cobalt oxide. The latter
oxides are used as coloring agents in very small quantities
can be prepared following VITA reports on the subject. The
should make sure that suppliers provide a material data
that describes the hazard potential of their products.
supplies could be a problem in a small town or rural area.
3. Sales Channels
Plant would sell to jewelry and departmental stores, gift
supermarkets, and also to exporters for shipment abroad.
to be sold to jewelry stores must be of exceptional quality.
4. Geographic Extent
Distribution will depend on transportation facilities.
Domestic - Imported mass-produced products will often be
Inexpensive locally-made handicraft items may also compete.
Export - The success of articles of this type in the export
market, particularly when not bought by tourists but
directly, depends largely upon the quality of the products,
the extent to which they have preserved their native
in the process of factory production.
6. Market Capacity
No specific population figure is necessary to support this
Level of income would be the major limitation on domestic
consumption. The plant would depend partly upon exports,
direct and indirect. Volume of tourist traffic, and their
relative price level will determine export demand. If the
quality, and design are right, they can create their own
market, replacing or supplmenting articles currently in use.
PRODUCTION AND PLANT REQUIREMENTS
Utilities Small Plant
500 sq. ft
20' x 30'
50 ft x 60 ft
2. Major Equipment
& Machinery Small Plant
fire brick kilns
stilts for kilns,
2 spray 1
spray guns for
(liquid, 55 gal) 2
Support equipment & parts
benches & bins
*TOTAL ESTIMATED COSTS
of equipment & machinery only
*Based on $US 1987 prices. The costs provided are estimates
are given only to provide a general idea for machinery costs.
They are not intended to be used as absolute prices. Costs
need to be determined on a case by case basis.
3. Materials &
Supplies Small Plant
units/yr 300 units/yr
glaze stains &
All the machines and equipment needed for this plant can be
fabricated in a small machine shop by an experienced
including the kiln shell or frame. The ceramist can easily
install the brickwork in it, but must have some expertise in
electrical work in order to do the wiring. <see work
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Usually ball clays and China clays can be dried and crushed
walnut size or finer. When mixed with water, the clays will
down to a very fine particle size (minus 325 mesh). All
materials (silica, feldspar, limestone, talc, etc.) should
ground to 200 mesh or finer. A ball mill can be used for
Once the raw materials are in a useable size (200 mesh),
the ceramic body ingredients by either of two methods:
on a scale, or using specific volumes for each ingredient.
For slip casting, the raw materials are mixed with water in
Sodium silicate and soda ash are added to the
materials in the blunger to control specific gravity and
scrap can be recycled in the clay blungers
along with new raw materials.
Ceramic body for the potter's wheel is made by using the
Dry raw materials are added to the muller. Water is added
stiff workable mass is developed.
After the ware is removed from the plaster mold and the
wheel, it must be dried sufficiently to allow handling. The
cleaned greenware must be dried before decorating and
the glazed ware must be dried before firing. Any moisture
the glazed ware will cause the ware to crack and fall apart
the kiln firing process.
Unless otherwise stated, these addresses are in the United
1. Technical Manuals
Pitman Publishing Ltd., 39 Parker St., London WC2B 5PB
publishes a series of books on ceramics under Ceramic
Kiln Building, Glazes, oriental Glazes, Pottery Science,
with Porcelain, Saltglaze, clays, etc.
Green, D., Pottery, Materials, and Techniques: A Handbook of
Pottery Glazes, Watson Guptill Publications, 1515 Broadway,
York, New York 10036.
Kingery, W.D., Introduction to Ceramics, John Wiley &
Newlson, G. C., Ceramics: A Potter's Handbook, Holt Rinehart
Winston Publishers, 383 Madison Ave., New York, New York
Elements of Ceramics, Norton. Addison Wesley Press,
Rhodes, D., Clays and Glazes for the Potter, Chilton Book
Bulletin American Ceramic Society
275 Washington St.
65 Ceramic Drive
Newton, Massachusetts 02158
Columbus, Ohio 43214 USA
Ceramica Y Cristal Argentina
London & Sheffield Publishing Co.
215 Buenos Aires 1426
Stamford House 65-66 Turnmill St.
London EC1M 5RA England
PO Box 6466
Glendale, California 92105 USA
Tile Council of America, Inc.
P. O. Box 326
Princeton, New Jersey 08542 USA
Suppliers, Engineering Companies
Ceramic Glazes, Colors, etc.:
FERRO Corp., 4150 56th St., Cleveland, Ohio 44101 USA, plus
offices and plants in many other
28/8 Garight Rd.
Carnegie, Pennsylvania 15105 USA
Duncan Ceramic Products,
Blythe Mathey, Ltd.
PO Box 7827
195 Heart Lake Rd.
Fresno, California 93727 USA
South Brampton, Ontario
Harper, Inc., W. Drullar Sreet, Lancaster, New York 14086
Alpine, Inc., 3051 Fujita St., Torrance, California 90505
Aten, Inc., 5721 Odana Rd., Madison, Wisconsin 53719 USA
Ceramic Source 1986
Ceramic Industry Buyers Guide
American Ceramic Society
6. VITA Resources
Understanding the Small-Scale Clay Products Enterprise, by
Volunteers in Technical Assistance, Arlington,
Understanding Clay Recognition and Processing, by Miska
Volunteers in Technical Asistance, Arlington, Virginia,
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