The 3D Forum hosted by Black Bros. Co. at  its headquarters in Mendota, Ill., drew a wide variety of those interested in laminates.

Ed Strahota reviewed Black Bros. new press design and improvements to the Almex press designs. He specifically talked about the 3-D SmartPress, which was designed to be versatile and upgradable, and automated with SmartPin technology. Almex 3-D presses have been a division of Black Bros. since the purchase of Shaw-Almex in 2011.

The 3-D SmartPress was also demonstrated on the Black Bros. plant floor, running several different cabinet door films. A Rapha equipment demonstration was also done, and participants received a plant tour of the Mendota plant. Black Bros. is partners with Rapha Systems.

A TB-60 laminator system was also demonstrated with MDF panels and polyester materials.

Eric Johnson of Omnova Solutions spoke on the features and applications of 3D laminates and the changing role of HPL and TFM laminates. Johnson said one important design trend to be aware of was the desire for design consistency, meaning fixtures, furniture and components use the same laminate design. More markets are requesting design consistency. 3D laminates offer eamless edges, no need for edgebanding and more chipping and cracking resistance. Applications include wall protection, furniture components, countertops and many others.

Jim Barnett of American Renolit described the European 3D market, and its more common use of high gloss, textures and Super Matte Solids. PVC is accepted in Europe, while facing environmental challenges in the United States. The 3D Forum audience contributed their opinions on the state of high gloss (increasing, especially in store fixture), textured laminates (established a niche), and darker woodgrains (still dominant).

Quality product and quality process was the subject of a presentation by Bill Formella, who was unable to attend the forum. Richard Utley of Helmitin and Dennis Leberecht of SSI North America led an audience discussion of quality issues. They believe that laminate users must ask questions about whether the design is right for 3D materials, and that more quality control is needed where presses are used. Designers should see the part they want to laminate run on another press before buying a vacuum press themselves. People aren't asking the right questions, or any questions, about their potential use of the process.

The meeting was a genuine forum and conversation among laminate, adhesives producers and laminate users.

For more information go to www.blackbros.com or contact Ed Strahota at estrahota@blackbros.com.

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