Peck was also thrilled—after her girls dripped red nail polish onto her Cambria
bathroom countertop—that she could wipe it right off with no staining. “We use
Cambria in kids’ bathrooms, in commercial interiors, and in health care applications because of its green and sustainable attributes,” Peck adds.
Cambria got its start in 2000, when the Davis family—which started small in the
local dairy and cheese-making business (that company is now known as Davisco Foods
International, and the Davis family also owns Sun Country Airlines)—bought a failed
quartz-countertop business in northern Minnesota called Technimar Industries.
The deal included the processes of Italian inventor Marcello Toncelli, who had
developed a method to mass-produce engineered stone out of quartz, in whatever amount was required with the same color and with the same structure, at the
touch of a button. Toncelli made the quartz surfaces using machines he invented,
including vibro-compression under vacuum, a patented technology used today
by most engineered-stone manufacturers, including Cambria.
Marty Davis named the company Cambria in honor of the family’s Welsh heritage (Cambria is the medieval Latin name for Wales). Davis purchased land in
Le Sueur for offices, a showroom, and a plant for manufacturing quartz slabs. He
also purchased a former Excelsior-Henderson
motorcycle factory in Belle Plaine (about 15
minutes away) for offices, a service center, and a
fabrication facility for transforming the quartz
slabs into countertops and other uses.
To keep up with demand, the plant runs
24/7. The manufacturing process begins when
pure quartz is delivered in large bags from quar-ries throughout North America. Each bag is
inspected and samples are sent to the lab upstairs
for testing. In this lab, technicians also experiment with colors and patterns, and test random
samples of finished slabs for abrasion, strength
on impact, and breakage.
After the lab approves a bag of quartz, the bag
is ticketed for use in production. Cambria uses
quartz in different sizes, explains Bob Braun,
business manager, so “the particles fit together
perfectly when the quartz is compacted, the slabs are free of voids, and the
finished material is nonporous.” The finest grade of quartz, which is almost
flour-like in consistency, arrives in bulk tanks and is transferred into large steel
silos in an enclosed room.
Over the years, Cambria’s research and development team has refined
Toncelli’s touch-of-a button process to ensure consistency in color, pattern,
and quality in each of the designs. After the recipe for a batch of Cambria
(which produces about 10 slabs) is entered into a computer, a 93-percent quartz
mixture—weighed and drawn from various-size hoppers—is poured into an enormous mixer with a liquid binder that comprises the final 7 percent. Next, the
colorant is added. Once mixed, the dry, pliable material—now the consistency
of cookie dough—is dumped onto a conveyer, which dribbles the material onto
a large black rubber mat with turned-up edges.
The machine places a similar rubber mat on top and the slab goes into the
press, where it’s subjected to “compaction vibration under vacuum,” Braun
says. “It’s like vacuum sealing food. The compaction and vibration pull out all
the air voids and compress the mixture. That’s how we create a perfect slab.”
Workers monitor the automated process on multiple computer screens, remove
the slab’s top cover when compaction is done, and check each slab by touching its surface to ensure the correct consistency. They then heave the slab onto
one of the shelves in a massive oven for curing.
Once cured, the slab is transferred from the make line to a booth on a polish I M
“I often steer my
clients away from
marble, because it
requires so much
engineered quartz “is
a terrific alternative …
because of its beauty
LISA PECK, LILU INTERIORS
3. Using tools that check for glare
and imperfections, Cambria
workers examine and inspect
the quartz slabs several times
4. Stacks of quartz slabs are ready
for shipping to one of Cambria’s
5. Cambria-certified installers
measure, specify, and install
the profiles or parts fabricated
in Cambria facilities.