By Abhijit Phadke
In this article are are going to take a look at the various types of decorative laminates, and the different ways in which these laminates are usually classified.
But for starters here's a brief word first about what laminates are.
Decorative Laminates (a blend of paper and plastic resins) are hard and brittle sheets having a thickness of around 1 mm, and are widely used as an overlay over wood, such as in the case of laminated table tops, wood panels, or other wooden furniture. The sheets have a decorative surface (made using decorative printed paper) and are manufactured in a wide variety of colours, design patterns and textures.
Classification of Laminates based on Manufacturing Process
HPL and LPL
The decorative laminate manufacturing process involves soaking brown paper, decorative paper, and translucent paper in plastic based resins. The brown paper which forms the base is soaked in phenol formaldehyde, while the other two papers are soaked in melamine resin. The soaked papers after drying become hard and brittle. These papers are then pressed and bonded together under high pressure and temperature. Depending on the amount of pressure used in the bonding process, laminates can be classified as HPL (High Pressure Laminates) or LPL (Low Pressure Laminates).
High pressure laminates (HPL) such as those manufactured under the brand names of Sunmica or Formica, are hard decorative sheets that are commonly fixed by carpenters over plywood while making the furniture. In the case of Low Pressure Laminates (LPL) only the decorative paper is soaked in Melamine resin, and the laminated paper is then directly bonded to Particle Boards or Fiber Boards (MDF and HDF).
Regular Laminate sheets and Compact Laminates
The regular laminate sheets usually have a thickness that ranges from 0.6 mm to 1.5 mm, and these sheets are glued by carpenters to substrate materials such as plywood using common adhesives like Fevicol. There are also other thicker types of laminates manufactured called Compact Laminates which have a thickness ranging from 3 mm to 30 mm. These Compact Laminates are self-supporting and hence do not need to be glued to woods or any other material. Both the top and bottom sides of compact laminates have decorative surfaces.
Types based on usage
Based on the final or intended use of the product, the laminates are of two types viz. Decorative and Industrial. For decorative laminates the look and feel are the important aspects as they are commonly used to decorate and protect wooden furniture, while for industrial laminates the focus is more on having a surface that has higher strength, higher resistance to scratches and wear and tear, and which is very durable. Industrial use products such as circuit boards are made using industrial laminate materials.
Classification of Laminates based on Surface Finish
Since Decorative Laminates are artificially created surfaces, they have a large variety in colours, patterns and textures. Based on the surface finishing of the sheets, decorative laminates can be classified as solid colour, floral patterns, gloss finished, matt finish laminates, wooden finish laminates (which has designs that look like wood).