Advanced computerised engineering systems used to process stone offer incredible design possibilities.

Marble is an ancient material that has been used to write human history.  For millennia man has, over and above the planet’s geological history inherent in the material itself, overwritten the peculiarities of stone to record culture, style and technique.

Today, the advanced computerised engineering systems used to process stone offer incredible design possibilities.  The use of these tools, which may be considered as digital chisels, opens up new creative possibilities and could spark a far-reaching re-appraisal of the creative use of stone.

The Digital Lithic Design exhibition, curated by Raffaello Galiotto at last year’s Marmomacc exhibition, sought to highlight – through the creation of a collection of 13 experimental works in marble – the potential of modern technology to transform stone through both conventional and digital design.

Machinery suppliers, software houses, tool producers, marble workers and quarries all took up the challenge to stretch their skills to the limit to highlight the new opportunities that this technology has to offer the industry.

The Digital Lithic Design exhibition formed part of the Italian Stone Theatre project implemented by Marmomacc, with support of the Ministry for Economic Development, the Italian Foreign Trade Agency and Confindustria Marmomacchine.

The event’s curator, Raffaello Galiotto, was born in Chiampo, Vicenza, in 1967.  After studying Fine Arts in Venice, he founded his own design studio in 1993.  He specialised in designing injection moulded plastic products, and his interest in manufacturing processes and technology later led him to experiment with new solutions and exhibition formats, especially in the field of marble and natural materials.

Galiotto has designed many products and collections with major companies in the industry, exploring the main features of stone, such as surface, gravity, translucency and colour.  He currently teaches design at the University of Ferrara, while his projects have been widely published and exhibited in museums and international events.

The design pieces


This is a kind of armour sprinkled with pointed, slanted elements.  This piece was produced using diamond disc cuts on a five-axis milling machine following precise 3D machining paths. The delicacy of the tips is preserved by the precision of the device that cuts and polishes the surfaces simultaneously to avoid the need for subsequent finishing operations.

Produced by Gruppo Tosco Marmi in Palissandro Oniciato.


Animal morphology provided the pretext to investigate and play with the numerical rules behind natural forms.  These are interpreted and translated in this piece using  numerical controlled milling passes with a spherical tool.  The automatic “graphics” of the machine, usually eliminated by manual polishing, are a key characteristic of this work.

Produced by Intermac in Bianco Carrara.


Marble polishing following 3D milling-cutting operations is usually performed by hand. This work experiments with the possibility of polishing the surface directly on the machine using dedicated tools and processing paths without any manual input. The complex and sinuous shape is closely related to that of the processing disc.

Produced by Omag, Henraux and Adi in Versilys.


The challenge faced by this project was the 3D milling of a complex surface with a continuous tool pass.  As in a ball of wool comprising a single, continuous thread, in this work the tool rests on the rough surface and takes a long, winding uninterrupted path to process the surface in one pass.

Produced by Helios Automazioni in Bronzetto chiaro di Apricena.


In this piece, enveloping, triangular-section spires have been created on a single marble block using a five-axis milling machine with diamond blade.  Each V-shaped passage was obtained by running a blade set at opposite angles on the same path twice.  The resulting cut surface did not require any further sanding. The changing slope of the spires and their peculiar arrangement make the final object particularly dynamic and slightly asymmetric.

Produced by Donatoni in Bianco Lasa.


The singular character of this double spaced permeable wall lies in the difficulties of implementing the “undercut” area, i.e. the portions not normally accessible to processing tools.  After developing the contoured double-sided surface, undercutting operations were performed using a special tool with a broader head which entered every single opening in a diagonal direction with a rotating movement that made it possible to process apparently inaccessible gaps.

Produced by Odone Angelo and Gruppo Tosco Marmi in Palissandro Reale.


In this, the conventional diamond cutting disc is re-interpreted with curved cutting paths distributed over an undulating surface. The disc makes two cuts over each path with opposite slants to produce V-shaped grooves that intersect with the rear surface to create a grooved network allowing light to pass through it with a strong 3D character.

Produced by Lithos Design in Travertine.


Due to careful design and use of five-axis waterjet cutting technology, it was possible – starting from a workpiece of only 600mm in height – to develop a grooved, sinuous, twisted and hollow cone 6,000mm high comprising 100 superimposed monolithic rings.

Produced by Antolini in Bianco Lasa, Covelano “Macchia Vecchia”.


This project was achieved using a diamond wire mounted like a bow on an articulated robotic arm. The device’s rotation and tilting features made it possible to achieve an undulating, deformed-spiral cut.  The surface finish is achieved directly during the cutting without requiring subsequent manual finishing.

Produced by T&D Robotics in Bardiglio Imperiale.


The long, perforated double-trumpet element of this piece was created by diamond wire cutting on a ten-axis device. The binary path of the cutting wire automatically generated the curved, cross-slotted surface and the perforation arising from internal cuts. The interior was created by inserting the wire into a previously drilled hole.

Produced by Pellegrini Meccanica and Margraf in Crema Nuova.


This highly complex work was generated by diamond wire cutting repeated four times on a monolithic block. The design and cutting paths were developed using 3D software that controlled and optimised the paths to limit waste.

Produced by Decormarmi in Bianco Carrara.

Collection curated and designed by Raffaello Galiotto.

Article by International Correspondent, Joe Simpson.

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