The grain size of raw materials influences their behaviour during the technological process and affects many properties of building clay products. Over the last few years, brickworks have been technologically updated and grain size requirements have been modified to ensure good behaviour during shaping and drying. Therefore, the reference schemes used to assess the suitability of clays, such as the classic Winkler diagram, should be updated.
For this purpose, the grain-size distribution of 350 clays currently used in ~240 Italian plants was determined by X-ray monitoring of gravity sedimentation. Raw materials are basically represented by silty clays and clayey silts, while bodies present a narrower grain-size range. With reference to the Winkler diagram, most of the Italian bodies fall within the field of ‘thin-walled hollow bricks’, with no significant differentiation among the various product types.
In order to improve the grain-size characterization of bodies, a new classification scheme for Italian raw materials is proposed, based on three ranges: >10 µm, 2-10 µm and <2 µm, respectively. It allows distinction of specific grain-size features of bodies for (a) facing bricks; (b) roofing tiles; and (c) lightweight blocks, paving bricks and hollow slabs.