The manufacture of solid surface products has grown dramatically in recent years. It has gone from being an exclusive and novel product used only by the most innovative designers to enter massively in thousands of homes. To its infinite aesthetic possibilities the great features are combined in comparison with other products of similar use. We show you in this post everything there is to know about solid surface both from the user perspective and if you are thinking about starting to produce this type of products.
Solid Surface Concept
Since there by 1967 Dupont began producing the first polymer composites under the name Corian, solid surfaces have evolved substantially. The application of the so-called “solid surface” has gone from the initial kitchen worktops to other products such as bathrooms, indoor furniture, floor walls and even cladding of facades.
We can technically define solid surfaces as: “A mixture formed by the polymerization of thermostable resins with mineral fillers, pigments and additives, in the form of plates or three-dimensional pieces”.
Based on the very standard that defines the concept of solid surface (ISO 19712:2003), this will be characterized by:
- A homogeneous composition along the entire surface. It has no “skin” on the outside (gel coat), or fibers inside. It is a homogeneous piece made based on the same material.
- repairable. Possibility to recover the original finish at all times.
- non-porous material
The development of new technologies in the last three years is leading to this concept of solid surface becoming obsolete. The improvement of the properties in front of the fire, the optimization of the production parameters, the introduction of bio resins and nanoparticles, as well as the use of graphene derivatives, lead us to a new generation of polymeric composites.
Advantages of using solid surface products
Solid surface products offer a large number of advantages compared to other products of similar use that make them very attractive:
- Because it is an inert material, they are resistant to the proliferation of both bacteria and fungi.
- By not having pores and producing limiting the number of joints, it is a totally hygienic material. Stain-Resistant.
- Highly impact-resistant. They are compact, non-porous polymer composites. This ensures a very high durability.
- As they are a homogeneous material which can be repaired. We can at any time recover the original finish of the product.
- It is a mass-pigmented material that offers infinite design possibilities. Both at the level of colors, textures and shapes.
Composition of solid surface and other polymeric composites materials
For the production of solid surface products the following raw materials are required:
Solid surface parts are usually produced with polyester resins. Our experience in the field of polymeric composites, leads us to recommend for this type of production the use OF ISO NPG resins. If you want to know the reasons why we recommend this type of polyester resins, we recommend you to read our post about and to click here.
It is also possible to produce solid surface parts by using acrylic resin. It should be remembered that polymer composites made of acrylic resins offer a higher degree of thermoformability, which allows to obtain certain shapes from plates.
The use of mineral fillers in the production of solid surfaces has basically two objectives:
- Provide the physical-mechanical properties required for the final product
- lower the cost of the mixture as fillers are in most cases cheaper than the resin itself
The mineral filler most used in the production of solid surface parts are the alumina trihydrates (ATH). However, with the proliferation of new polymer composites for multiple applications, the possibilities and combinations of mineral fillers has become a science.
If you want to know more about the choice of mineral fillers for a particular project, We recommend you to read this post.
As we wrote above, the solid surface is defined as a homogeneous mass. Before being injected into the mold, the mixture is pigmented during the mixing process. Pigment pastes are essential for achieving a high quality solid surface. It is very important that they easily integrate into the mixture to ensure a perfect color homogeneity.
If you want to know more about how to choose the most appropriate pigment paste for your project, we highly recommend you reading here.
Catalysts and promoters
We always recommend the use of high quality catalysts. The curing reaction of unsaturated polyester is very complex. We must try to standardize the productive processes and therefore, the catalyzation times. In this way we ensure high quality solid surface pieces by avoiding stresses during the curing process. In this sense, we recommend the analysis of the batches supplied by the suppliers before their use in the production.
The most commonly used catalyst (hardener) is MEKP (methyl ethyl ketone peroxide).
As for the promoters or accelerators, these are usually used to provoke the chemical decomposition of the initiator at low temperatures. The most widely used are the organic salts of cobalt and tertiary amines.
We see an increasing use of additives in polymeric composites formulations. These are additives used for multiple purposes. To improve UV properties, better aerated mixtures, improve bactericidal properties, etc… Our recommendation is always to avoid as much as possible the use of them since they tend to have side effects that end up affecting the formulation.
Solid surface parts manufacturing process
The increase in the offer of polymeric composites is largely due to the proliferation of new producers. It is a technology that does not require a large initial investment. This fact has attracted many companies that have seen the potential of the sector and, on the other hand, has seen the rapid growth of the consolidated producers.
The production process of polymeric composites is based on the mixture of resins, mineral fillers and pigment pastes to obtain a properly pigmented homogeneous mass. After the correct mixing of these components, we proceed to the degassing of the mixture in order to avoid the appearance of pores on the molded part surface. At the end of the process, we will proceed to the injection of the mixture into the mold and the corresponding application of the catalyst responsible for curing the final material.
If you want to know much more about the equipment necessary for the manufacture of polymer composites as solid surface, we recommend you reading here. We also explain on that post all the aspects to be taken into account when producing solid surfaces.
CONCLUSION ON SOLID SURFACE
Solid surface products are based on homogeneous pigmented masses without gel coat or fibers inside. Because it is an inert material, they are very hygienic products, resistant and easy to maintain. They offer endless design possibilities. The process of producing solid surface-type polymer composites does not require a large investment. Basically we will need to make the mixture of resin, mineral fillers and pigment pastes in a mixing tank and ensure proper degassing before injection into the mold.
Thanks to our close cooperation with CLAM DESARROLLO we can offer our clients technical advice and assistance for the implementation and development of SOLID SURFACE and last generation COMPOSITES projects. We have participated together with CLAM DESARROLLO in numerous projects of this type. If you have any specific needs in this field, do not hesitate to contact us.