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Ceramics Promise New-Look Memorials

World-leading ceramics developed in Marton and advances in computer technology are set to transform the way we remember our loved ones. Marton company Promarc International has created a new ceramic product for memorials that is tougher than granite and marble, can be any colour and won't fade. Computer innovations now mean any kind of photo or message can be inserted into the memorials digitally, rather than simply etched on them.

Photographs, backgrounds, family trees - anything is possible as long as it can be produced on a computer. Even the Internet can be used to provide a template for people wishing to design their own memorials, including photographs.

Promarc co-owners Peter Cousins and his wife, Darryl, say the material, called Permanite, is similar to what is used for power insulators. Recent changes in funeral services have spurred the development.

"Funerals are now very personally tailored to individual needs and have moved away from the traditional church base," Peter Cousins says. People's attitudes about memorials and headstones are also changing. For example, research has shown that black is not the preferred colour.

"People are wanting to celebrate the lives of their loved ones," Darryl Cousins says. "Colour and the personal pictures it paints certainly create a living memorial."

Also spurring the new product was the Cousins' own experience when their son died. They felt that black granite was out of character for his memorial. Bill Wallace, a Christchurch photo-ceramist and now business partner with the Cousins, was also looking for something different. He wanted a memorial for his daughter, but was not satisfied with what was available. This led him into photo ceramics.

Mr Wallace says the total process is digital, making unique "one-off" images possible. These are then fired into the surface and protected with a toughened clear layer of glaze.

With the Cousins' Permanite and Mr Wallace's photographic technology, the memorials can be factory-produced.

Darryl Cousins says Promarc is working on developing a website to offer templates for people to add their personal touches, such as inscriptions and photographs. "The whole design and ordering process can then be done on the web."

Peter Cousins says he expects to deal with all established businesses in the memorials industry. New markets are possible with Permanite, such as providing smaller copies of the cemetery memorial for families to have at home.

Technology New Zealand - through its Technology for Business Growth scheme - helped Promarc engage Industrial Research Ltd's ceramics team to assist in development of the product.

-ends-

Contact: * Peter Cousins, chief executive and marketing director, Promarc International/Permanite Memorials, 61 Station Road Marton. Ph: (06) 327-7019. Fax (06) 327-7018. Cell (025) 514 515. Email: peter.cousins@promarc.co.nz * Nigel Metge, Technology New Zealand at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (Auckland Office), (09) 912-6730, or 021 454-095. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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