A Look at What's New in Solid Surface Products
By Russ Lee
What could be more fun than glow-in-the-dark solid surface? Not much at least that's what the folks at Fountainhead seem to be thinking these days. Dubbed "Midnight Vision," the newly minted, phosphorus-free material is appropriate for use in hospitals, airplanes, movie theaters, children's bedrooms and other applications where soft illumination is desired when the lights are turned off.
Traditional resin formulations for solid surface are changing as well. Schock Co. of Germany has developed an acrylic product that is manufactured under a new process, which the company claims relieves the stress and surface tension factors normally built into solid surface through conventional manufacturing techniques.
Avonite has developed a polyester resin "alloy" solid surface
that company officials claim delivers enhanced physical properties,
such as higher heat resistance, less brittleness and improved
machining capability. Called "Soladium," the new material delivers
its own unique look when it is broken up into "crunchies" and
re-mixed into fresh sheets. It is also the primary ingredient in a
new translucent solid surface material, which the company says is
ideal for room dividers, as well as for traditional
The trouble with this is, many of the granite patterns usually
offered by solid surface in the past tended to look much more like
sand than granite. But that is changing, too.
Karadon, of Vancouver, British Columbia, has developed a line of solid surface that closely resembles the appearance of stone. Its latest offering looks so much like black galaxy granite, in fact, that the only way a casual observer can tell the difference between the two materials is by touch. The cold, hard feel of granite is contrasted by the luxurious warmth of solid surface.
Fountainhead has also introduced a new product line featuring metallic particles suspended in a solid surface matrix. Available in gold, silver and bronze, the material produces a directional, shimmering effect that appears to change as the viewer shifts position. This "Metallics" line of solid surface is produced using the same technology as Fountainhead's Artifacts, which features multi-colored slivers of polyester crunchies embedded directionally in a solid surface matrix.
What could be more custom than an exotic mother of pearl inlay
in your countertop? Or, how about including an abalone shell
decorative stripe along the front edge? Both of these natural
materials are now offered for use in solid surface by Avonite,
which manufactures the material in varying widths coated with a
clear resin, ready for seaming into the countertop.
Company officials hint that these initial shell offerings are just the beginning of a wide array of natural and man-made solid surface compositions slated to be unveiled in the near future.
DuPont Corian continues to lead the way with its latest crop of sink offerings for both the kitchen and the bath. Perhaps the most striking of these recent introductions is a new vanity bowl cast in the shape of a modified oval, which features a soap dish shelf built right into the sink. This extra deep bowl, when used together with Corian's new modified octagon lavatory sink, makes for an optimal "his and her" combination in the bathroom.
When you want to add a splash of color and the simple elegance of European design to the kitchen, Pfeiffer and Sons' new MIXA sink offers an alternative to what is considered the normal fare. Consisting of a thermoformed Corian bowl and optional drainboard, this kitchen sink line features a stainless steel or brass bottom and seams directly into the solid surface deck. Distribution of the line in the U.S. is handled through XXL Innovations.
Speaking of thermoformed sinks, TFI Corporation has just released its new line of molded vanity bowls, which the company hopes will entice the end-user with a smorgasbord of color and contemporary design options. If you're looking for a scalloped solid surface lavatory sink, or one of those free-standing oval or round models so popular in contemporary design, TFI probably has what you're looking for in both granite and solid colors.
And how about a solid surface bathtub? Centura Solid Surfacing
in Westfield, IN makes a line of tubs in both solid and granite
colors. The company also casts solid surface shower pans in its
manufacturing facility, and offers the option of custom colors for
all of its products.
Ask your fabricator
Can you see an application for any of these new products in an upcoming job? Talk to your fabricator for more information. If your fabricator attended Solid Surface 2000, he or she can bring you up to date on the availability and color options for the products you're interested in, as well as provide suggestions for other applications not listed above.