Though it was almost 20 years ago, so many memories surrounding my early days involved with 3D laminating are still fresh in my mind. I remember the excitement of my first IWF in 1994. I was involved in introducing a new membrane press at a price point that made positive pressure membrane presses available to a whole new market. Our booth was full from start to finish. Those were great days.
However, one remaining memory is not so positive. I remember how tired I would get of the colors that were available for our demonstrations. Oh, how I came to loathe being limited to white, almond, a cheap looking oak, and…..I don’t even want to say it…..Sanibel maple. To be totally honest, the printed wood patterns were awful in those days. It is easy to see how so many came to view thermofoil as “cheap plastic.”
Thankfully, those days are now long gone. A few weeks ago I posted a few photos showing five-piece thermofoil doors that had a very beautiful real wood look to them. One reader asked, “Can the average home owner distinguish between the new version doors and real wood from 10 feet?” Answering that question requires more than a simple yes or no.
3D laminate is just one of many laminate options available today. Using it in residential cabinetry and commercial casework may require matching available HPL, TFM and edgebanding patterns. Depending on how committed the 3DL manufacturer is to an exact match, the quality of the print is at the mercy of the original. Since the 3DL is on the front of the cabinet, some manufacturers will take the liberty to enhance the quality and fidelity of the print, but that is not always the case.
The shape of the panel can also have an impact on how realistic the print looks. In some cases, the larger the panel the more beautiful its appearance. Not long ago one of my clients in the healthcare field told me of an interesting experience the company had at a recent trade exhibition. They were exhibiting hospital room headwalls and footwalls like the ones in today’s photos. An experienced architect walked up and said, “Come on! You know you can’t use real wood on a headwall and keep your UL listing!”
Is it real or is it 3D laminate? It may not be nice to fool Mother Nature, but everyone else is fair game.
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