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North America taking a shine to high-gloss surfaces: new surfacing options deliver lower costs, higher durability, and exact matches in complementary materials.

High-gloss, done right, evokes fine craftsmanship and refined design. It also conjures up doubts though about durability, and the labor involved in constantly cleaning fingerprints and smudges.


Nevertheless, demand for high-gloss is growing, driven by globalization of design tastes and the availability of less expensive, more durable high-sheen materials from many 3-D laminate and acrylic-capped ABS suppliers. It's interesting to note that the growing collection of PET (polyester) 3-D laminates--considered more environmentally acceptable to some markets than PVC--are also excellent carriers of high-gloss finishes.

Material Intelligence conducted an extensive survey in mid-2010, asking manufacturers from across the U.S. and Canada about high gloss in their markets--where it's used, who's buying it and how they see it trending in the future.

Not surprisingly, it's most popular along the coasts and around large metropolitan areas. Manufacturers say these areas are the most heavily influenced by European design trends, where high gloss-mania has been in full swing for several years. Architects and designers, in particular, are strong proponents of high gloss, influencing specification of commercial and residential projects and products.

Fans of high-gloss furniture aren't limited to high-income consumers and tony retail stores, however. The survey indicated that even on the lower end of the income scale, certain ethnic groups, especially the Latino community, love furniture and cabinetry with a higher sheen. New condo buyers, both young professionals and empty-nested baby boomers, are also opting more often for glossier kitchens, bathrooms, and even entertainment and system closet surfaces.

That said, retail fixtures and interiors and high-end commercial projects are currently major users of high-gloss materials, and several manufacturers believe projects in the healthcare markets will be using more as well.


"The subject of high gloss comes up in every conversation with every customer," according to one survey respondent. "Everybody's talking about it and asking for samples. Most often though, high-gloss is used as an accent, or as an attention-getter in a showroom."

Growing specifications of sculpted architectural panels are also driving use of high-gloss surfaces, again because of the greater durability and value offered by materials like 3-D laminates. These materials are also seen as a better option than traditional gloss finishes for most manufacturers.

"In a few years, spray finishing, particularly high-gloss finishes, which are problematic from a cost and application standpoint, will be non-existent, except for the smaller manufacturers of custom products," says another survey respondent. "That's why high quality overlays, including high-gloss products, will be the trend,"

The difficulties facing furniture and components producers with lacquer and paint lines are many: increasing environmental regulations, what some still consider inferior results with water-based finishes, and the logistics and costs of maintaining a large, sterile manufacturing environment. Major manufacturers of finishing equipment say they are bracing for a significant reduction in orders from furniture producers in North America.

Several well-known components suppliers specialize in 3-D and ABS materials, making it convenient for cabinet, furniture and millwork manufacturers of all sizes to bring high-gloss into their lines without having to invest in the equipment, expertise and personnel to produce the pieces in-house. These components suppliers are also an excellent resource for TFM, HPL and other materials in exact matches to high-gloss colors and patterns.

Here's a telling anecdote. A major manufacturer of high-quality, traditional kitchens, was told by several of its largest distributors: "We're losing business because more and more of our customers are asking for something that looks more modern. Put some high-gloss designs in your collection, or we'll be forced to drop your line."

The manufacturer responded by promptly adding high-gloss fronts and panels from one of the top components suppliers. The company satisfied its dealers and updated its image without having to invest in any new production technology or cut any products from its existing catalog.


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For Helmstown, a maker of high-end cabinetry for bathrooms and kitchens, expansion of its product line and entry into new markets--especially outdoor kitchen and grill displays--proved key to new sales and success.

"In a tough economic market, we found our biggest growth area by developing a strategic partnership with Sub-Zero and Wolf, manufacturing kitchen and luxury product displays," says John Evans, vice president of sales and marketing for the Arab, AL, -based company.

Helmstown also sells outdoor grill cabinets for personal use. Evans says this has provided the company with additional market and retail opportunities. The designs include outdoor grill surrounds made of ipe and are featured in both Sub-Zero and Wolf's showrooms and brochures.


While Helmstown uses a wide range of wood species, the unique properties of ipe make it ideal for outdoor applications. "It is particularly well suited as a material for grill surrounds because it has a Class A fire rating, meaning it has the same rating as concrete or steel. "

Ipe, which is also known as iron-wood, is one of many commercial names used for the Lapacho group of trees from various species of Tabebuia. Ipe trees typically reach heights of 140 to 150 feet, but some grow to 200 feet. The trees have trunk diameters of 6 feet with boles clear to 60 feet or more. The wood is stable, durable and strong with a natural resistance to insects, decay and wet conditions.



A common challenge when using a membrane press is eliminating surface contamination on 3-D laminate products. Outlined here are some guidelines for reducing contamination in and around the pressing area, thus reducing the amount of rejected parts.

* Cutting or routing of the parts using high-quality diamond tooling is the first step in producing clean parts. Routing speeds no faster than 500 inches per minute is optimum. Using worn or low-quality tools can lead to excessive loose fiber from the MDF. Also, ensure that there is adequate dust collection at the CNC router.

* To keep airborne dirt particles from adhering to parts, put the press and spray booth in a separate room with positive pressure. A positive pressure room has greater pressure inside than outside, making it difficult for airborne contaminates to enter.

It is also helpful to route and spray parts as soon as possible. Spray parts and the press after the glue dries to, again, keep debris from settling onto the parts.

* When unwinding the foil to run in the membrane press, use an anti-static device to avoid static clinging from the dust particles in the air. Contamination does occur with some materials more than others.

* Lastly, lightly rub each part with a brush or fine sandpaper to remove the burrs left from the glue. This is a quick process and can substantially decrease the number of rejected parts.

Membrane pressing can add unique and impressive design qualities to finished products. Make certain to maintain the quality of these parts by taking these simple precautions.

Ken McFadden, Product Manager--Laminating and Material Handling, Stiles Machinery Inc. For more information visit, call (616) 698-7500 or email

Below is a listing of the most common problems, causes and
recommendations when cold pressing.

Problem Possible Recommendation

Total * Pre-cure (no * Increase glue spread
delamination glue
with little or transfer)
no substrate

 * Low pressure * Decrease assembly time

 * Short press * Increase pressure and/or increase
 time press time

 * Uneven * Calibrate cores to uniform thickness
 surfaces and/or increase pressure

Spotty bond * Worn * Replace or regroove rolls

 * Pre-cure (no * Increase glue spread

 * Decrease assembly time

 * Excessive * Reduce glue spread
 glue spread

Glue bleeds * Excessive * Reduce pressure
through face pressure

 * Wrong * Contact your account manager
 adhesive type

 * Excessive * Reduce pressure

Telegraphing * Uneven or * Re-sand core, pre-clean core
of core variable
defects or thickness

 * Foreign * Reduce glue spread
 material on

 * Excessive or * Equal spread on both sides

Warpage of * Unbalanced * Check grain orientation & number of
panels construction plies

 * Excessive * 6%-8% moisture content recommended

Brilliant * Chalking * Raise temperature of plant, wood and
white on glue caused by low adhesive above minimum use temperature
squeeze-out temperatures of adhesive
and/or glue

Kenn Busch publishes the web site, material, a practical resource for architects and interior designers.
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Title Annotation:Gluing & Pressing
Comment:North America taking a shine to high-gloss surfaces: new surfacing options deliver lower costs, higher durability, and exact matches in complementary materials.(Gluing & Pressing)
Author:Busch, Kenn
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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